Since 2020

39 Famous “Failures” To Inspire Success

A list worth putting in your pocket.

  1. Oprah was fired from her first job as a television news anchor.
  2. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985.
  3. Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because the editor felt he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
  4. Marie Condo struggled to find clients early in her career because her methods were unconventional and untested.
  5. Colonel Sanders was rejected by over 1,000 restaurants before establishing KFC.
  6. Coco Chanel was rejected by several apprenticeships and struggled to secure funding for her early ventures.
  7. Soichiro Honda was fired from his first job as a mechanic before founding the automotive giant, Honda.
  8. Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, experienced numerous rejections from manufacturers and retailers.
  9. Henry Ford’s first 2 automotive companies failed.
  10. “Star Wars” was rejected by several film studios for being too unconventional and risky.
  11. “The Lord of the Rings” was rejected by multiple publishers for being too long and complex.
  12. “Harry Potter” was rejected by 12 publishers.
  13. “The Matrix” was initially rejected by many studios for being too strange and confusing.
  14. Beyoncé was rejected by several record labels and faced financial difficulties early in her career.
  15. Eminem went through years of rejection before he eventually caught the attention of Dr. Dre.
  16. Warren Buffett made several unsuccessful investments and lost significant amounts of money early in his career.
  17. James Dyson’s innovative vacuum cleaner design was rejected by numerous manufacturers and investors.
  18. Mark Cuban experienced numerous business failures before becoming a billionaire.
  19. Thomas Edison failed in 1,000 experiments before perfecting the light bulb.
  20. Stephen King’s first novel “Carrie” was rejected by around 30 publishers.
  21. Apple came close to bankruptcy in the 1990s.
  22. Amazon barely survived bankruptcy 2001.
  23. Twitter struggled during its early days and nearly ran out of financing.
  24. Mary Kay Ash started her own company after being repeatedly passed over for promotions and raises.
  25. Einstein was turned down by many universities and even expelled from his first school.
  26. Marie Curie was prevented from attending university in home of Poland and had to move to France.
  27. Abraham Lincoln failed in many business ventures and political campaigns over his life.
  28. Emily Dickinson did not achieve success as a poet during her lifetime.
  29. Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” was initially a commercial failure.
  30. “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville was not initially a publishing success and was given many harsh reviews by critics.
  31. Franz Kafka was not a widely renowned writer during his lifetime and told a friend to burn all of his unpublished works after his death, but luckily the friend ignored the request.
  32. Amelia Earhart struggled to make a living as a pilot and had to work many odd jobs to support herself.
  33. Vincent van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime and died penniless in 1890.
  34. Monet only achieved recognition as a painter after his death.
  35. Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts multiple times before eventually being accepted.
  36. Vera Wang failed to make the U.S. Olympic team as a competitive figure skater before becoming one of the most successful designers in the world.
  37. Roger Bannister was told running a mile in under 4 minutes in 1929 was physically impossible and doctors warned his heart would explode.
  38. The Wright brothers were told that it was impossible to create a flying machine by the experts of the day.
  39. Michael Jordan was cut from the high school basketball team.


The sharp edges of defeat have initially been felt by many of history’s most wildly successful products and people.


The next time you are struggling to make progress as an entrepreneur, artist, or athlete, about to make a sales pitch for an unconventional idea, sweating over a job offer, discover another rejection letter in the mail, or find yourself lying awake at 3am wondering if you have a modicum of talent, take heart and remember …


“Failure feelings” have considerable precedent.



Broden and the Yakk team