23 Famous Failures To Inspire You by Brad Aronson
Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, failures often lead to success. Take inspiration from both the famous failures and the lesser known failures below. All of these failures were followed by perseverance and enormous successes.
I originally compiled this list of famous failures for my entrepreneurship class. The class curriculum consists of each student starting a businesses. These famous failures were meant to give the class some comfort about failures related to their businesses and the challenges they faced as teenagers.
I hope you also find these famous failures helpful.
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Famous Failures: Jack Andraka
When he was 15, Jack Andraka had a crazy idea. He would create a diagnostic test for Pancreatic Cancer that was better than the tests developed by scientists, research labs and billion dollar pharmaceutical companies.
Jack wrote a proposal to develop a better test. 199 research labs rejected him. I’ll repeat that — 199 labs REJECTED him. Good thing he didn’t give up. The 200th research lab — at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore — accepted him. At the lab Jack Andraka developed a Pancreatic Cancer test 100 times better and 26,000 times less expensive than the current test. Jack’s invention will save tens of thousands of lives.
Famous Failures: Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan, considered by many to be the greatest basketball player of all time, was devastated when he was cut from his high school varsity basketball team sophomore year. Good thing failure only inspired him to work harder.
Here’s what he said about failure:
“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.”
Famous Failures: Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded – Apple. He also failed with NeXT computer company and the Lisa computer. When Jobs returned to Apple, he led the business to become the most profitable company in the US.
Famous Failures: Elizabeth Blackwell
Elizabeth Blackwell was rejected from 29 medical schools. So, she went to visit the schools in person. She was told she should pretend to be a man, because women weren’t fit to receive medical schooling.
Blackwell was accepted by mistake by Hobart College (then Geneva Medical College), and she matriculated. Many MD’s refused to work with her, but she persevered and graduated.
Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S. (1849). She then built a medical practice, created a place where women could have medical internships (since many healthcare facilities didn’t welcome women), served impoverished families, and established the first medical college for women.
Famous Failures: Walt Disney
No one wanted to hire Walt Disney as an artist. In fact, he couldn’t get hired elsewhere either. So, his brother got him a temporary job. Walt’s first animation studio went bankrupt. He went on to co-found The Walt Disney Company, which had over $40 billion in 2012 revenue.
Famous Failures: Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, wasn’t supposed to be leaning, but if it were straight it probably wouldn’t be such a popular tourist attraction.
Famous Failures: Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg was rejected both times he applied to attend film school at University of Southern California (USC). That didn’t stop him. Spielberg has grossed $8.5 billion from films he directed.
Oh, and after Spielberg became famous, USC awarded him an honorary degree, and Spielberg later became a trustee of the university.
Famous Failures: Charles Schultz
Charles Schultz’s drawings were rejected by his high school yearbook. Schultz went on to create Peanuts (featuring Snoopy and Charlie Brown). The cartoon and licensing/product revenue from Peanuts generated over $1 billion a year. The high school eventually put a statue of snoopy in the main office.
Famous Failures: The Beatles
The Beatles were rejected by numerous record labels including Decca Records, which said, “guitar groups are on the way out” and “the Beatles have no future in show business.” The Beatles did wind up getting signed by a record label. The Beatles sold more singles in the UK than anyone else, and the Beatles have moved more units in the US (more than 177 million) than any other group.
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