Famous Failures Who Didn’t Give Up

Failure is an inseparable and unavoidable part of life, but many people might be irrevocably discouraged by it. In fact, failure came before the success of many now-famous individual and companies. The most successful people have often had some extremely debilitating failures, but they mustered through them.

Below are just a few examples of famous, successful people that didn’t give up. They’re now renowned names in their chosen field.


We may hence take inspiration from them when our own projects to be failing again and again:

Albert Einstein

Today, we’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the developed world who doesn’t know the name of Albert Einstein. Hailed as being among the greatest thinkers and geniuses till date, Einstein was actually quite a slow starter. As a child, he didn’t start speaking until the age of 4. This is usually a sign of slow brain development and would be considered a red flag for autism today.

Einstein also saw more than his share of failures later in life, failing an entrance exam when he was 16. Even his father passed away believing that his son was probably a colossal failure and would never succeed. While Einstein did manage to graduate from college, he had an unimpressive career in selling insurance. Since he was a failure at that as well, he fortunately quit and pursued what he was really interested in.

Bill Gates

This is also a well-known name, especially among the tech-inclined generation. He’s now worth more than $80 billion and known as the father of computing software in the modern day. Microsoft DOS, Windows, and Windows Office Suite are all his doing, even though he might not have done all the work himself.

His current success might make it hard to believe that he once had a failed software company. At the age of 17, Gates ran Traf-O-Data, offering the service of analyzing raw traffic logs. The failure might have held him back, especially in the realm of software services. However, he plowed on and was eventually rewarded.

Charlie Chaplin

Moving on to the realm of movies, Charlie Chaplin is now hailed as a legend in comedy. Few people would know that he was brought up in abject poverty, with his father abandoning the family when Chaplin was just two. The silent film actor lived in a workhouse under horrible conditions until he was seven years old.

When Chaplin was nine, his mother was put in an insane asylum. Even when the boy became an adult, he faced several failures at the beginning of his career. Again, though, he persisted in doing what he loved. His iconic appearance and actions are a testament to his success today.

J.K. Rowling

The world of Harry Potter is still going strong, with a huge loyal fan base and successful movies bolstering up the earnings. At one point, J.K Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, was richer than the Queen of England.

Rowling might seem like the epitome of success now, but she wrote her bestsellers when struggling through a deep depression. This was the point in her life when she was divorced, a single mother, and hardly had enough money to pay her electric bill. She wrote in coffee shops to save money. Even when the first book was completed, a slim volume for seven years, no less than a dozen publishing houses sent her rejection slips before Bloomsbury took it on.

Henry Ford

Ford is known as the maker of the Model T Ford, the car that was actually affordable to the masses. Using factory assembly methods, Ford managed to bring transportation to the whole world.

Like Gates, though, Ford’s first company was also a failure due to bankruptcy. He did start a second company but was sent away after disputing with the other partners. All he had was the rights to his own name, with which he started all over again.

Stephen King

King’s books have made waves all over the world, with everyone clamoring to buy the latest work. There have also been several movies based on his works, which should be a measure of great success for any author. While his work is celebrated now, he actually threw his very first horror book, Carrie, in the trash.

The book was luckily retrieved by King’s wife. After the author confessed that he was having trouble with it, she helped him out until he finished it. Still, the book was rejected left and right, by no less than 30 publishers. Doubleday finally accepted Carrie and the rest is history.

Colonel Harland Sanders

KFC is now one of the most well-known fast food giants with franchises in many countries. The main item on its menu is chicken, made with Colonel Harland Sanders’ recipe. While the Colonel’s face might now be familiar all over the world, he initially failed in almost every venture he tried.

At the advanced age of 65, the Colonel has only his recipe and a social security check for $105. He made a model for a franchise of fried chicken restaurants. More than a thousand rejections later, Kentucky Fried Chicken was finally born.

Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss is probably the most-quoted children’s author to date, but he’s also among some famous failures. He went to get a Ph.D. in Literature at Lincoln College in Oxford but failed that. After dropping out, he wrote And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, one of his most popular works now. He received 28 rejections before an acceptance came in.

By the time he passed away Dr. Seuss (a pseudonym) had managed to see the fruits of his efforts. He sold around 600 million copies and his books were translated into more than 20 languages.

Sylvester Stallone

The story of Sylvester Stallone is probably well-known to those who’ve read the background of his famous movie Rocky. The young Stallone was homeless for more than three weeks and had to live in a bus station. Later on, when he was working on the Rocky script, the electricity was cut off due to his inability to pay the bill. In order to get the electricity back, Stallone had to sell his beloved dog for 25 dollars.

Even after these sacrifices, Stallone had to face rejection around 1,500 times. Luckily, he did manage to sell his script. The movie franchise for Rocky is still ongoing now, with Creed 2 being the latest installment. He was also able to buy his dog back at a much higher price.

The Beatles

The Beatles are probably among the most famous bands in musical history. They’ve had crazed fans, sold more than 1.6 billion albums, and are basically the stuff of legend. However, their earlier efforts were routinely dismissed, with one scout even saying that ‘groups of guitars are on their way out’. After just one big break, the band was soaring to unforeseen heights with their guitars.


Any sort of failure shouldn’t prevent us from trying to achieve our ambitions or moving forward. The examples above should make us even surer of this. While not giving up may not guarantee huge successes like the ones we’ve mentioned here, there’s at least the chance of making it to a certain extent. Giving up, on the other hand, will reduce the chances of success to zero.