“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward,” said the man who revolutionized the 20th century with the invention of the light bulb as well as the phonograph and the motion picture camera.
But what if Thomas Edison had given up on his tenth attempt to perfect the light bulb? Or even the 9,999th time?
The ability to withstand failure is a quality inherent not only to inventors but also to most scientists, artists, celebrities, entrepreneurs and public figures.
Here are some game-changers who faced failure or rejection before finally succeeding:
1. J.K Rowling
The author of the Harry Potter series didn’t magically become wealthier than the Queen of England. Impoverished and divorced, she wrote the first book in the series on an old typewriter only to encounter rejection by more than ten publishers. A year later, a publisher named Barry Cunningham agreed to publish her book, but suggested she get another job because children’s books typically produce meager profits.
2. Walt Disney
The man who gave us the Disney empire navigated a very rocky road before becoming a legend. His first cartoon series in Kansas City left him bankrupt. An editor fired Walt because he believed Walt was unimaginative. He even lost his rights to his first commercially successful character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, before Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were born and Disneyland was created.
3. Albert Einstein
Although we use the name Einstein to dub someone a genius, the future scientist’s teachers believed that Einstein was mentally challenged. In fact, he was unable to speak fluently until age 12 and was expelled from high school at age 16 for failing several subjects.
It wasn’t until he reached 18 that he pursued his interest in calculus and physics and used his unconventional mind to formulate the ground-breaking theory of relativity and change the face of modern physics.
4. David Sanders
Better known as Colonel Sanders and the founder of KFC, this entrepreneur was already 65 when he started his franchise.
In his early years, he worked many odd and low-paying jobs from farm-hand to streetcar conductor and steamboat operator. After creating a secret chicken receipe, Sanders started a small restaurant. But in 1955, this restaurant failed after a new highway cut off customer access.
Instead of giving up, Sanders drove around America trying to sell his restaurant concept only to hear “no” countless times before he raked in millions from a Kentucky businessman who was willing to buy his recipe.
5. Steve Jobs
Even if you now consider your iPhone, mac, or iPad indispensable, a decade ago you probably would have dismissed Apple products altogether. Jobs’ Apple III computer, the early model of the Mac, was so poorly designed that the computer earned a reputation as an unreliable machine that invariably crashed because of poor ventilation.
After Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he co-founded, he designed the NeXT hardware, which sold poorly at first but later became the foundation for future Apple products. And the rest is history.
In order to claim fame, these people were faced with obstacles that required them to embrace their mistakes and show great determination. If you have a goal in mind, remember that failure — or even many failures — may precede success.
But if you treat each failure as an opportunity to learn, you’ll be more likely to succeed in the end.
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