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Failure IS an option – 10 Hugely successful failures


There is a famous saying ‘failure is not an option’, but it isn’t always true. In fact there is a mass of evidence to support that without failure many of the worlds most successful people wouldn’t have gone on to be successful at all. A recent example of this would be WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton who was rejected by both Twitter and Facebook in 2009 before going onto building WhatsApp which Facebook later bought for $19B. What if Acton had been hired by either Twitter or Facebook? It’s unlikely he’d have gone on to create WhatsApp!

I’ve picked out 10 of my favourite failures below with a brief description of their failure. I’d love to hear your favourite failures in the comments section below.

1. Walt Disney: Today Disney rakes in billions from merchandise, movies and theme parks around the world, but Walt Disney himself almost didn’t get started at all. He was fired by a newspaper editor because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” After that, Disney started a number of businesses that didn’t last too long and ended with bankruptcy and failure. He kept plugging along, however, and eventually started the company today known as Disney, despite people telling him along the way that a cartoon around a mouse would never work.

failure is not an option

“The difference in winning and losing is most often not quitting.”

2. Steven Spielberg: Spielberg 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.

failure is not an option

“All good ideas start as bad ideas. That’s why it takes so long.”

3. Colonel Harland David Sanders: Perhaps better known as Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) fame, Sanders had a hard time selling his chicken at first. In fact, his famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it.

failure is not an option

“One has to remember that every failure can be a stepping stone to something better.”

4. Vincent Van Gogh: When alive Vincent Van Gogh completed over 800 paintings but only sold one, and that was to a friend and only for a very small amount of money.  Today, Van Gogh is one of the worlds most famous artists and his artworks bring in hundreds of millions.

failure is not an option

“As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed.”

5. Henry Ford: Whilst the name Ford is today synonymous with a successful car manufacturer it wasn’t always plain sailing. Henry Ford found himself  broke  a total of 5 times before going on to found the successful Ford Motor Company. Fortunately his innovative assembly line and belief that motorcars should be for everyone shone through.

failure is not an option

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

6. J.K. Rowling: The worlds first ever $ billionaire author was living off of income support when she wrote her mega successful 7 book series of Harry Potter. The books went onto become hugely successful movies. J.K. Rowling is no longer a billionaire however as she gave away so much of her fortune to charities.

failure is not an option

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case you fail by default.”

7. Soichiro Honda: Before he built his company and brand, Honda was turned down by Toyota Motor Corporation for an engineering job and stayed unemployed for some time before starting Honda and going on to being Toyota’s most direct rival.

failure is an option

“Never let your failures go to your heart or your successes go to your head.”

8. Sir James Dyson: While developing his vacuum, Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 failed prototypes and his life savings over 15 years. Luckily his 5,127th prototype worked, and the Dyson brand became the best-selling bagless vacuum brand in the United States. He is now worth an estimated $4.5 billion, according to Forbes.

failure is not an option

“Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success.”

9. Bill Gates: Gates dropped out of Harvard and started a failed first business with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen called Traf-O-Data that was supposed to create traffic reports from traffic counters, it never worked and the business failed. Gates’ later created the global empire that is Microsoft and that needs no further explanation.

failure is not an option

“I failed in some subjects in exam, but my friend passed in all. Now he is an engineer in Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft.”

10. Michael Jordan: The man often lauded as the best basketball player of all time was actually cut from his high school basketball team. Fortunately, Jordan didn’t let this stop him from playing the game and he went on to be the most successful and famous basketball player on the planet.

failure is not an option

“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.”

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