Famous People Who Failed At First – II

Public Figures
From politicians to talk show hosts, these figures had a few failures before they came out on top.

Winston Churchill: imagesCAL5A729This Nobel Prize-winning, twice-elected Prime Minster of the United Kingdom wasn't always as well regarded as he is today. Churchill struggled in school and failed the sixth grade. After school he faced many years of political failures, as he was defeated in every election for public office until he finally became the Prime Minister at the ripe old age of 62.

Abraham Lincoln: While today he is remembered as one of the greatest leaders of our nation, Lincoln’s life wasn’t so easy. In his youth he went to war a captain and returned a private (if you’re not familiar with military ranks, just know that private is as low as it goes.) Lincoln didn’t stop failing there, however. He started numerous failed business and was defeated in numerous runs he made for public office.

Oprah Winfrey: imagesCACNS3E5 Most people know Oprah as one of the most iconic faces on TV as well as one of the richest and most successful women in the world. Oprah faced a hard road to get to that position, however, enduring a rough and often abusive childhood as well as numerous career setbacks including being fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for tv.”

Hollywood Types

These faces ought to be familiar from the big screen, but these actors, actresses and directors saw their fair share of rejection and failure before they made it big.

Charlie Chaplin: It’s hard to imagine film without the iconic Charlie Chaplin, but his act was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because they felt it was a little too nonsensical to ever sell.

Lucille Ball: During her career, Ball had thirteen Emmy nominations and four wins, also earning the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors. Before starring in I Love Lucy, Ball was widely regarded as a failed actress and a B movie star. Even her drama instructors didn’t feel she could make it, telling her to try another profession. She, of course, proved them all wrong.

Marilyn Monroe: imagesCAJTG3JHWhile Monroe’s star burned out early, she did have a period of great success in her life. Despite a rough upbringing and being told by modeling agents that she should instead consider being a secretary, Monroe became a pin-up, model and actress that still strikes a chord with people today.

Writers and Artists

We’ve all heard about starving artists and struggling writers, but these stories show that sometimes all that work really does pay off with success in the long run.

Vincent Van Gogh: During his lifetime, Van Gogh sold only one painting, and this was to a friend and only for a very small amount of money. While Van Gogh was never a success during his life, he plugged on with painting, sometimes starving to complete his over 800 known works. Today, they bring in hundreds of millions.

Emily Dickinson: Recluse and poet Emily Dickinson is a commonly read and loved writer. Yet in her lifetime she was all but ignored, having fewer than a dozen poems published out of her almost 1,800 completed works.

Steven Spielberg: untitledWhile today Spielberg’s name is synonymous with big budget, he was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television three times. He eventually attended school at another location, only to drop out to become a director before finishing. Thirty-five years after starting his degree, Spielberg returned to school in 2002 to finally complete his work and earn his BA.

Stephen King: The first book by this author, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections, finally causing King to give up and throw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the rest is history, with King now having hundreds of books published the distinction of being one of the best-selling authors of all time.

J. K. Rowling: jkRowling may be rolling in a lot of Harry Potter dough today, but before she published the series of novels she was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, trying to raise a child on her own while attending school and writing a novel. Rowling went from depending on welfare to survive to being one of the richest women in the world in a span of only five years through her hard work and determination.


While their music is some of the best selling, best loved and most popular around the world today, these musicians show that it takes a whole lot of determination to achieve success.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Mozart began composing at the age of five, writing over 600 pieces of music that today are lauded as some of the best ever created. Yet during his lifetime, Mozart didn’t have such an easy time, and was often restless, leading to his dismissal from a position as a court musician in Salzberg. He struggled to keep the support of the aristocracy and died with little to his name.

Elvis Presley: As one of the best-selling artists of all time, Elvis has become a household name even years after his death. But back in 1954, Elvis was still a nobody, and Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired Elvis Presley after just one performance telling him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

The Beatles: Few people can deny the lasting power of this super group, still popular with listeners around the world today. Yet when they were just starting out, a recording company told them no. The were told “we don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,” two things the rest of the world couldn’t have disagreed with more.

Ludwig van Beethoven: In his formative years, young Beethoven was incredibly awkward on the violin and was often so busy working on his own compositions that he neglected to practice. Despite his love of composing, his teachers felt he was hopeless at it and would never succeed with the violin or in composing. Beethoven kept plugging along, however, and composed some of the best-loved symphonies of all time–five of them while he was completely deaf.


While some athletes rocket to fame, others endure a path fraught with a little more adversity, like those listed here.

Michael Jordan: imagesCABIL7R4Most people wouldn’t believe that a man often lauded as the best basketball player of all time was actually cut from his high school basketball team. Luckily, Jordan didn’t let this setback stop him from playing the game and he has stated, “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Stan Smith: This tennis player was rejected from even being a lowly ball boy for a Davis Cup tennis match because event organizers felt he was too clumsy and uncoordinated. Smith went on to prove them wrong, showcasing his not-so-clumsy skills by winning Wimbledon, U. S. Open and eight Davis Cups.


Inspiring interview with Larry Page, Founder of Google

Larry Page, what is responsible for your early progress in life? How did you get to where you are so quickly?

Larry Page: I think I was really lucky to have the environment I did when I was growing up.

My dad was a professor, he happened to be a professor of computer science, and we had computers lying around the house from a really early age. I think I was the first kid in my elementary school to turn in a word-processed document. I just enjoyed using the stuff. It was sort of lying around, and I got to play with it. I had an older brother who was interested in it as well. So I think I had kind of a unique environment, that most people didn’t have, because my dad was willing to spend all his available income on buying a computer or whatever. It was like 1978, when I was six. I don’t think there’s many people my age who’ve had that experience, or anyone in general. From a very early age, I also realized I wanted to invent things. So I became really interested in technology and also then, soon after, in business, because I figured that inventing things wasn’t any good; you really had to get them out into the world and have people use them to have any effect. So probably from when I was 12, I knew I was going to start a company eventually

How do you think you knew at such an early age that you wanted to be an inventor?

Larry Page: I just sort of kept having ideas. We had a lot of magazines lying around our house. It was kind of messy. So you kind of read stuff all the time, and I would read Popular Science and things like that. I just got interested in stuff, I guess, technology and how devices work. My brother taught me how to take things apart, and I took apart everything in the house. So I just became interested in it, for whatever reason, and so I had lots of ideas about what things could be built and how to build them and all these kinds of things. I built like an electric go-cart at a pretty early age.

page1It’s as if computers were the toys of your childhood.

Larry Page: Yeah, basically, and electronics too.

You mentioned reading magazines like Popular Mechanics. What else did you read that might have influenced or inspired you in some way?

Larry Page: I read all the computer magazines and things like that, and I was sort of interested in how these things really work — anything having to do with the mechanics behind things, either the mechanics or the electronics. I wanted to be able to build things. Actually, in college I built an inkjet printer out of Legos, because I wanted to be able to print really big images. I figured you could print really big posters really cheaply using inkjet cartridges. So I reverse-engineered the cartridge, and I built all the electronics and mechanics to drive it. Just sort of fun projects. I like to be able to do those kinds of things.

You certainly have an aptitude for it. Is this because of your early education or your parents? How do you explain that?

Larry Page: Actually, my brother was nine years older than me, and he went to Michigan as well. He brought home some of his labs for electronics and things like that, and sort of gave them to me. I learned how to do the stuff. I think there were a lot of lucky things like that.

You seem to have had no fear of any of this. Where does this self-confidence come from?

Larry Page: I think that’s true of kids today as well. If you have access to these things at a really young age, you just become used to it all, and it is natural to you. Kids certainly don’t have fear of using computers now. It’s the same kind of thing. If you grow up in environments where you have ICs (integrated circuits) lying around, you don’t have fear of that either.

And here you are now, a CEO at what age?

Larry Page: I’m 27.

Why is it that you perceived the need for Google before anyone else did?

Larry Page: Well, it’s actually a great argument for pure research because… So anyway… Search engines didn’t really understand the notion of which pages were more important. If you typed “Stanford,” you got random pages that mentioned Stanford. This obviously wasn’t going to work.

Larry, you’re a CEO at 27. What challenges or frustrations have you experienced at reaching this station at such a young age?

Larry Page: I think the age is a real issue. It’s certainly a handicap in the sense of being able to manage people and to hire people and all these kinds of things, maybe more so than it should be. Certainly, I think, the things that I’m missing are more things that you acquire with time. If you manage people for 20 years, or something like that, you pick up things. So I certainly lack experience there, and that’s an issue. But I sort of make up for that, I think, in terms of understanding where things are going to go, having a vision about the future, and really understanding the industry I am in, and what the company does, and also sort of the unique position of starting a company and working on it for three years before starting the company. Then working on it pretty hard, whatever, 24 hours a day. So I understand a lot of the aspects pretty well. I guess that compensates a little bit for lack of skills in other areas.

It appears that it’s people of your generation who have really introduced the so-called “24/7 mentality.” Are you aware of that? Do you think that accounts for your success?


Larry Page: I think it definitely helps to be really focused on what you are doing. You can only work so many hours, and I try to have some balance in my life and so on. I think a lot of people go through this in school. They work really hard. You can do that for part of your life, but you can’t do that indefinitely. At some point, you want to have a family. You want to have more time to do other things. I would say that it is an advantage being young. You don’t have as many other responsibilities.

What else are you doing these days?

Larry Page: I think I am really lucky. Being in the Bay Area, a lot of my friends have started companies that have been quite successful at different stages. So I go up to San Francisco and I hang out with my friends, and we talk about their companies and all sorts of different things. It is fun, but it is also work in some sense. I think within Silicon Valley there is really a mix of recreation and work a lot of times.

Where do you go from here? What do you see yourself doing in ten or 20 years?

Larry Page: Artificial intelligence would be the ultimate version of Google. So we have the ultimate search engine that would understand everything on the Web. It would understand exactly what you wanted, and it would give you the right thing. That’s obviously artificial intelligence, to be able to answer any question, basically, because almost everything is on the Web, right? We’re nowhere near doing that now. However, we can get incrementally closer to that, and that is basically what we work on. And that’s tremendously interesting from an intellectual standpoint.

We have all this data. If you printed out the index, it would be 70 miles high now. We have all this computation. We have about 6,000 computers. So we have a lot of resources available. We have enough space to store like 100 copies of the whole Web. So you have a really interesting sort of confluence of a lot of different things: a lot of computation, a lot of data that didn’t used to be available. From an engineering and scientific standpoint, building things to make use of this is a really interesting intellectual exercise. So I expect to be doing that for a while. On the other hand, I do have a lot of other interests as well. I am really interested in transportation and sustainable energy. For fun, I invent things on the side, but I don’t really have time to follow up on them.

What do they think of people like you at Stanford and Michigan? You are extraordinary people they’re sending out into the world.


Larry Page: Well, thank you. It was kind of strange for me. I went back to Michigan and there was all this faculty who wanted to meet with me. It was just very strange, going from a student to that. At Google, especially, we are really lucky. Everybody is our product! Or it’s starting to be everybody. No matter who you talk to, they’re like, “Oh, Google today was great. I found exactly what I needed.” Somehow we’ve done a really good job. People are really happy with our company, and we have provided pretty good service. So that sort of transfers onto how people interact with me as well, which is really nice.

It used to be that a Ph.D. candidate hoped to have his or her dissertation published in some obscure academic journal. Your dissertation started a company and launched you on a career.

Larry Page: There are a lot of students at Stanford who have started companies based on their research work. I think Stanford does a pretty good job with that. There is obviously a lot of infrastructure, but also there is an acceptance of it, which I think is good.

Is there an expectation?

Larry Page: There is sort of a joke that faculty members have to start a company before they get tenure. I don’t think that’s quite true. The faculty are very focused on what is going on in the world, which I think is a good thing. The danger is if you’re not doing research because you are pushed into things that are just practical.

Larry Page, what do you see as the responsibilities that go along with success and the accumulation of wealth that we are seeing in Silicon Valley today?

Larry Page: I think there is tremendous responsibility. If I was not in this situation, my biggest concern would be the concentration of wealth and power in a very small number of people. On the other hand, it is nice to be rewarded for what you do. There are a lot of things I would like to do in the world that having a lot of resources would really help with.

What do you want to do?

Larry Page: I have been really interested in applying technology to transportation. I don’t think that has really been done. Making cars better. There are a lot of interesting systems people have designed that basically are small monorails that run along sidewalks, and that route you exactly where you want to go. Some of these things are actually quite practical. As a side interest, I have kind of followed this stuff. When I was in Michigan, I tried to get them to build a monorail between central and north campus, because it is only a two-mile trip, and they have 40 full-sized diesel buses that run back and forth. Two miles! So that’s a prime candidate for new transportation.

Is there any reason for you to go back to Stanford and finish your degree? You have taken leave of absence from Stanford to be a CEO. Why bother to go back at all?

Larry Page: Well, I think Stanford is a really great place. There’s really, really smart people around, and it’s really a fun place to be. Some people from other startups have gone back when things sort of calmed down. So it does happen. There are things I want to work on that are very speculative, and Stanford is a great place to do things like that. I didn’t start out building a search engine. I just said, “Oh, the links on the Web are probably interesting. Why don’t we try doing something with that?” I was pretty lucky that it was a useful thing to do. If you’re doing something you’re not sure is going to work at all, a company probably isn’t the right place to be doing it. Having incredibly bright people around to work with is a really nice thing. I could see going back for that purpose.



Failures are Never Fatal – Learn from Life of Great People.


A candidate for news broadcaster’s post was rejected because of his voice. He was also told that with his obnoxiously long name, he would never be famous.
– He is Amitabh Bachchan.

A small boy – the fifth among seven siblings of a poor father, was selling newspapers in a small village to earn his living. He was not exceptionally smart at school but was fascinated by religion and rockets. The first rocket he built crashed. A missile that he built crashed multiple times and he was made a butt of ridicule. He is the person to have scripted the space Odyssey of India single handedly.
 – He is Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the former President of India.


In 1962 for nervous musicians played their first record audition for the executives of the Decca Recording Company. The executives were not impressed. While turning down this group of musicians, one executive said “We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out”.

– The group was called The Beatles.


In 1944, Emmeline Snivley, Director of the Blue Book modeling agency told modeling hopeful Norman Jean Baker, “ You’d better learn Secretarial work or else get married”.

 – She went on to become Marilyn Monroe.


In 1954 Jimmy Denny, Manager of the Grand Ole Opry fired a singer after one performance. He told him, “You aren’t going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck”.

   He went on to become Elvis Presley.

When this gentleman invented a communications machine in 1876, it did not ring off the hook with calls from potential backers. After making a demonstration call, President Rutherford Hayes said, “That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to see one of them ?”.

– He said this to Alexander Graham Bell.

 In the 1940s another young inventor named Chester Carlson took his idea to 20 corporations, including some of the biggest in the country. They all turned him down. In 1947, after seven longs years of rejection, he finally got a tiny company in New York , the Haloid Company to purchase the rights to his invention – an electrostatic paper copying process.  

– Haloid became the XEROX Corporation.

A 4 year old girl, 20th among 22 children, contracted double pneumonia and scarlet fever at a very early age, which paralyzed her left leg. Thereafter at 9 years of age, she removed her leg braces and started walking without them. At 13 she decided to become a runner – but kept failing miserably in all races that she entered in. She kept trying in spite of several detractors and finally started winning every race she entered.

 She is Wilma Rudolph, who went on to win three Olympic Gold Medals.

A school teacher scolded a boy for not paying attention to his
mathematics and for not being able to solve simple problems. She told him that he would not become anybody in life. His mother, however, believed him and coached him in math.
– The boy went on to become Albert Einstein.


Published in: on September 28, 2008 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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From TN hut to New Jersey assembly

   He spent his adolescent years in a hut in Chennai. Today, he is deputy speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly. Upendra J Chivukula is, in his own words, “an example of the adage — education is the greatest equaliser.” The first Indian to be elected to this body, his rise has been powered by hard work and positive thinking.

   Born in Nellore, Chivukula came to Chennai in 1952 as a two-year-old, when his father moved in search of work. Chivukula’s mother Sathyanarayanamma and his sister D Jyothi, still remember the hardships. “We sold our Nellore house to buy land in Chromepet,” says Jyothi. “But we lived in a hut since there was no money to build a house.”

   There were six children and never enough money. “There were nine of us, including our grandmother,” says Jyothi. “He had to share a tiny room but would study late into the night by the light of a small lamp.”

   His schooling was in Telugu but in college he made the difficult switch to English. If that was hard, getting into engineering college was harder. “My father was unemployed and didn’t have money,” says Chivukula. “But I had many dreams even though they were quite out of my reach.”

   He got a merit-cum-means scholarship to attend Guindy Engineering College.

   The money pressures hadn’t eased but Chivukula coped. Jyothi says their father wanted him to start earning so that he could marry off his sisters, but he managed to complete his education. It was the pressure to earn that made Chivukula go to the US. After getting a master’s in electrical engineering from City University of New York in 1976, he joined CBS as an engineering aide.

   His political career took off in the mid-1980s when Indian Americans were the target of hate crimes perpetrated by Dotbusters, a street gang in Jersey City. “I wanted to educate the Indian American community about the importance of political involvement,” says Chivukula. “It was difficult to organise them to fight back in a court of law.” He joined the Indian American Political Forum for Political Education and plunged into politics, rising slowly from the grassroots to the top.


  He believes that if you are determined, success will follow. “Don’t look for short cuts. Hard work and focus will yield great results.”





Published in: on August 3, 2008 at 11:31 am  Comments (1)  
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