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.



How a candle-seller became a multi-millionaire?

His is an amazing story. He learnt invaluable lessons of entrepreneurship from each of his failed endeavours.

As a teenager, Naresh Gulati was labelled as a failure by his family and relatives for he spent time selling candles and cloth in the streets of Chandigarh. Later, he was even duped by unscrupulous travel agents who promised him a lucrative career in Australia.

At 15, when boys of his age were playing around, Naresh Gulati had to really struggle to make money. After he failed the tenth standard examination, the pressure only mounted on him to work harder.

“My family members were not so highly educated. So they wanted to me to study hard and do well. But I was not interested in anything they taught at school. My father wanted me to study in an English-medium school. I did not know the language neither did I want to learn it. When I failed the tenth standard exam, I got thrashed by my father and was locked up in a room. It was really humiliating,” Gulati recounts.

Everyone thought he had ruined his life but he never thought he was a failure. He did what he thought he was good at: business. So what if it meant selling candles or cloth on the streets?

“My father had a cloth business that suffered a huge loss at that time. Since I was the eldest, I had the responsibility to look after the house along with my father. Even as a young boy, I wanted to do something different. I started by selling fancy candles. When others sold ordinary candles, I sold fancy ones, and made more money. This way I could earn pocket money and help my family as well,” he says.

For him, this unfortunate turn of events, was a stepping stone to future success. Little did anyone realize that this young boy would one day become rich and famous.

Naresh was compelled to join school again. His father wanted him to become at least a graduate, and he obliged. Later, he went on to do a computer course. “My first job was at Aptech as a lecturer. The rest like they say is history,” Naresh says. Naresh now heads a group of companies in India and abroad. The OCA Group he founded is a holding company for three businesses: Oceanic Consultants, BPO Intelligence and Object Next Software.

Naresh Gulati shares the joy of being a true winner despite all odds..
How was the experience of working as the street vendor? Were you happy doing it?

I enjoyed working. There was nothing else I could think of doing to be independent. I advised my father that the way he was doing business was wrong. I did everything myself, instead of sourcing cloth from vendors, I went and selected the cloth I wanted to sell and made sure it worked. It was a tough life. I had started the business by borrowing Rs. 5,000 from my uncle during Diwali. At the end of the first year, I could pay off the debt and still had Rs.10,000 with me. I continued to do the business even when as I started studying again. After classes in the evening, I used to turn into a vendor. Once during my college days, one of the girls in my class passed by and I felt very embarrassed.

Why did you decide to start studying again?

There was a lot of pressure from my parents that I should have a degree. So I went back to school. I passed the tenth standard but I failed again in the 11th standard. My family had given up all hopes on me. They thought I was useless and was wasting time. However, I tried again and cleared the exam. Finally, I graduated in political science. Then I got selected to do a course in electronic data processing from the Regional Computer Centre. After this, I joined Aptech as a lecturer.

But I always wanted to start a business of my own. So I started a computer centre in Chandigarh, followed by a cosmetics company. But the business was not doing very well. Then I came to know from an agent that Australia offers a great opportunity for professionals. The agent painted a rosy picture of things. He misled me to believe that everything will be taken care of while I pursue my further studies. My parents took a loan of Rs.2 lakh to send me abroad.

When I reached there, I realized that I had been duped. There was no way I could afford to live there and study. I even slept outside on benches many nights not knowing what to do. But I was not ready to give up.

I knew I should not let my parents know about my suffering. I studied during the day and spend the evening working hard, washing dishes at restaurants, doing all kinds of odd jobs. I soon met many people who were duped by such unscrupulous agents. This actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It struck me that a good service to guide the Indian students to join the universities abroad would be an excellent business opportunity.

After the post-graduate course in information systems from RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, I got a job as an analyst programmer. I worked for one year and came back to India. I had saved enough to pay off my parents’ debt. I wanted to start the overseas education consultancy business.

How difficult was it to start the company?

It was a tough decision. There were many things against me. I just had 143,000 with me after I cleared the debt. I was entering the market when there were about 100 companies offering similar service in Chandigarh. When I began there were many people with expertise in this field. I had limited number of institutes in my list. I did not have enough funds. But I never feared anything. I started Oceanic Consultants all by myself. It was a one-man show. It was really difficult to manage things myself. I could not afford to advertise or hire more people. Luckily, business started picking after people realized that I was honest. My aim was to see my clients happy. So word spread about us and things started looking up.


Let us Inspire Minds to Change Lives

Dear Friends,

This blog consists of real life stories of people who have  achieved great success in life after a great struggle. My idea is to inspire youth of this country ‘to do something’.    I wish to make available inspiring stories of success of people at one place so that they can be accessed easily by youth.

 Let us get inspired from their deeds. We must inspire our minds so as to change this World.