Like it or not, success doesn’t always happen overnight. In fact, some of the world’s most famous high achievers heard “no” at least once (and often quite a few times) before getting that all-important “yes.”
Whether you’re powering through midterms or revamping your business model, here are a few of our favorite comeback kids, who prove that the best way to face failure is to just keep going.
Five years before publishing one of the most influential books of the 21st century, J.K. Rowling was living on welfare and struggling as a single mother.
Rowling wrote the first book in the Harry Potter series while working during the night as a teacher, but the manuscript was rejected 12 times by publishers.
When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone eventually did get published, Rowling was advised not to quit her day job since her chance of success was slim. And, of course, with over 450 million Harry Potter books sold worldwide, we all know how that really turned out!
Rowland Hussey Macy began his career as an entrepreneur in 1843, opening four failed retail stores in Massachusetts. Even his first Macy’s store was forced to close due to lack of demand and low sales. It wasn’t until Macy tried again fifteen years later in New York that he found success — modestly at first, with just $85,000 in sales that year, before eventually becoming the large chain of department stores across the United States that we’re familiar with today.
Now one of the Hollywood’s most respected directors, Steven Spielberg was rejected by his school of choice for film three different times. But he didn’t let that stop him.
Spielberg eventually secured an internship at Universal Studios after enrolling in a different college. During that internship, he was asked to direct a small film, with his work impressing Universal executives so much that they offered him a seven-year contract. He became the youngest director ever hired by the studio and now has an IMDB profile several miles long.
Before launching an empire that includes resorts, theme parks, film and television studios, retail and so much more, Walt Disney launched his first animation company in 1921.
He had relative success but was forced to go bankrupt after acquiring too much debt. It took Disney several other failures to finally become successful, including losing the rights to one of his most popular cartoon characters, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
Even Mickey Mouse and Snow White were first dismissed by critics — until Disney proved them wrong.
Ariana Huffington is now known as founder and president of The Huffington Post, but she began her career as a writer.
Huffington’s second book was rejected 36 times, and when she decided to create an online magazine, several friends and critics doubted the idea would take off.
But Huffington persisted, building The Huffington Post into a global organization that was acquired by AOL in 2011 for $315 million.
Pro tip from Huffington: “Perseverance is everything. Everybody has failures, but successful people keep on going.”
Ever heard of Traf-O-Data? Bill Gates is most famously known as the founder of Microsoft, but his first foray into business was an idea intended to provide traffic reports for traffic engineers.
The company was mildly successful but failed to gain wide recognition after problems with the prototype. Gates eventually moved on to create Microsoft and become one of the youngest self-made billionaires in history.
Before becoming one of the best players in the history of basketball, Michael Jordan was a 5’11” aspiring high school sophomore rejected by his varsity team for being too short.
But according to Jordan, failure is just part of eventual success — take it from the man who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, won the Most Valuable Player award five times and starred in Space Jam (one of the best movies of all time, if you ask us).
“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career,” Jordan has said. “I have lost almost 300 games. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
By Priscilla Aceves