9 Successful People Who Failed Before They Made It

9 Successful People Who Failed Before They Made It

Successful people that failed before they made it

If there is anything that I’ve pounded over and over again on this site – it’s that you shouldn’t be afraid to fail! I went almost a full year of trying things that didn’t work on M$M before I started to make any real income.

Like a lot of you, I get inspired by stories of ultra-successful people. A lot of people that are interested in starting their own blog or making money online ask me how I was able to get to the point that I have in a relatively short amount of time.

I think the important thing to remember when looking at someone’s success is that you’re looking at a snapshot of years of work. There isn’t anybody on the list below (or that you’ll meet in life) that “made it” instantly. Whether you’re needing some inspiration for paying off your student loans or working on advancing in your career, you’ll love this list!

Here are nine ultra successful people who failed along the way:

Steven SpielbergSuccessful people who failed before they made it

You would think that such a massive success in the film industry would have been a great student, but that’s definitely not the case. Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California THREE TIMES. He ended up attending Cal State Long Beach only to drop out before he finished his degree!

After all of the Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes, (and five honorary doctorates), he eventually returned to Cal State Long Beach and completed his bachelor of the arts degree.

The Lesson?

Sometimes you have to take an alternate path to success.

Dr. Seuss

Successful people who failed before they made it

Also known as Theodore Seuss Giesel, Dr. Seuss inspired all of us with his simple and fantastic stories. His first book was also rejected 27 freaking times before eventually becoming published. There’s a reason that his stories have so much wisdom.

The Lesson?

 “And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed).”  – Dr. Seuss

Steven King

Successful people who failed before they made it

Similar to Dr. Seuss (but with WAY different stories), Steven King failed over and over with his book titled “Carrie”. 30 rejections later and completely frustrated, he threw the book in the trash. Luckily, his wife pulled it out and convinced him to submit it again!

Steven is now a bestselling machine and one of the most successful authors to ever live.

The lesson?

Guys – listen to your wives. They’re smarter than us.

JK Rowling

Successful people who failed before they made it

At one point before she became one of the wealthiest women alive, Rowling had a failed marriage, lived on welfare in Great Britain, and had her books rejected multiple times by various publishers.

She was estimated to have a net worth of $1 billion before donating almost $160 million to charities. Not bad, right?

The lesson?

No matter how bad things are, there’s still a way to the top.

Michael Jordan

Successful people who failed before they made it

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

As if that doesn’t say it all, Jordan didn’t make his high school varsity basketball team his sophomore year. He had a major growth spurt the next year and then…well, you know what happened after that.

The lesson?

You never know what will happen in life to make you grow into a better person.

Henry Ford

Successful people who failed before they made it

Many people don’t realize this, but Ford Motors was actually the second automobile business that was founded by Henry Ford. The first was named “Detroit Automobile Company”, which went out of business in 1901 because of numerous consumer complaints about the quality and price of the vehicles.

He started Henry Ford Motors the next year, which brought in $149.5 billion of revenue in 2015.

The lesson?

Learn from your mistakes and try again.

Steve Jobs

As one of the most successful entrepreneurs ever, Jobs had many stumbles along the way. He was a college dropout, dumped by the company that he founded, and had numerous failed products and ideas as well.

While we remember him for his massively successful projects like Apple and Pixar, there were also failures like his computer company “neXT” (which you’ve probably never heard of).

The lesson?

College may not be for everyone, and that’s OK.

The Beatles

Successful people who failed before they made it

You have to wonder who would take a pass on what would become the best-selling band of all time, but someone absolutely did. In an audition for a recording contract with Decca Records in 1962, the Beatles were told that their sound wasn’t right and guitar music was on the way out.

The lesson?

Take what haters have to say with a grain of salt.

Dave Ramsey

Successful people who failed before they made it

If you’re into personal finance at all (obviously you are if you’re on this site), you probably know how Dave’s story goes. In his twenties he created a real-estate empire, but changes brought by the Tax Reform Act of 1986 caused him to lose it all.

He rebounded by sharing his message of living a debt-free life, and now has an estimated net worth of $55 million dollars!

The lesson?

Life is long. Reinvent yourself as needed.

Question for you:

What has been your biggest failure so far?


Live differently. Your bank accounts will thank me later. ~M$M

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29 comments… add one
  • Mrs. Picky Pincher Dec 19, 2016, 8:58 am

    I think it’s always important to recognize that failure is a natural part of growing and becoming a better person. I make stupid, stupid mistakes all the time, but that doesn’t mean I let myself feel like a failure. It’s all about having tenacity, motivation, and confidence.

    As far as my biggest mistake, ahh it’s hard to pinpoint that. I feel like I make so many it’s hard to choose the biggest one! Probably getting a tattoo fresh out of high school (ugh), recently destroying my phone, taking out a car loan during college, etc.

    • Millennial Money Man Dec 19, 2016, 9:05 am

      I’ve destroyed my phone, a GoPro, and who knows how many other things in the last year or so. My wife doesn’t trust me with anything expensive anymore 🙁

  • J.M. Dec 19, 2016, 8:59 am

    i love these rags to riches stories. I’m surprised that the Beatles were ever rejected by anyone. Interesting stuff.

    • Millennial Money Man Dec 19, 2016, 9:04 am

      Isn’t that crazy? Just goes to show that some people have no idea what they are talking about haha

  • Kathryn @ MYMM Dec 19, 2016, 9:13 am

    I do love a good failure to success story! I seem to take the route of “oh, that’s how NOT to do that” a little too often it seems. Persistence is certainly a trait of the wealthy!

  • Holmgang Dec 19, 2016, 9:38 am

    It’s always inspiring to see lists like this one, to know that some of the biggest names in each industry have had to stumble and fall down a few (or many) times, and then pick themselves back up to try again to get the success they are working towards.

    One of the most inspiring ones for me is probably the one of KFC’s Colonel Sanders. The story goes, The Colonel was trying to live of Social Security but wasn’t bringing in enough money for him to live off of comfortably so he decided he would try to sell his Fried Chicken recipe to other restaurants and get a small amount of the profits in return. Colonel Sanders was told “No” 1,009 times before finally getting a “Yes”. And he did that at the age of 65.

  • Jim Dec 19, 2016, 12:06 pm

    Everyone has failed at something, and everyone has success at something.
    The trick is to LEARN form both, and have more success than failures.
    It’s the people that don’t learn from their mistakes that are doomed to make the same mistake again and again…

    • Millennial Money Man Dec 19, 2016, 12:47 pm

      Very true!

    • PeterB Dec 20, 2016, 2:42 am

      It is important to learn from them, but the ratio… well think of Edison and the light bulb. He had to take hundreds of experiments, but only needed one successful one 🙂

  • Ms. Montana Dec 19, 2016, 12:48 pm

    I’ve easily learned twice as much from my failures than I ever had from a success. I think finding a tolerance for failure is critical building anything great. Even in any “win” there are dozens of small failures. The more comfortable I get with small failure, the more wins start to come in.

    • Millennial Money Man Dec 19, 2016, 1:08 pm

      I totally agree! My affiliate income is looking a little like a failure this month unfortunately 🙁

      • Ms. Montana Dec 19, 2016, 1:12 pm

        Such a good example. We have to be able to roll with those small disappointments. Every day/month can’t be growth on growth on growth. If that is the benchmark, we are doomed for failure. Plus, I think our failures are more interesting than the wins anyways. =)

  • PeterB Dec 20, 2016, 2:37 am

    Interesting post, some were familiar, some were surprise, thanks for sharing. It seems most of the successful people fail at some point, maybe that is the source of their desperation. Failure is bad thing only if you do not learn anything from it. Maybe some of you have seen the movie One Good Year with Gerard Butler (for couples a must see 😉 ). While I was reading the post the wise words of Uncle Henry Skinner came to my mind when he teaches the young Max:

    “You’ll come to see that a man learns nothing from winning. The act of losing, however, can elicit great wisdom. Not least of which is, uh… how much more enjoyable it is to win. It’s inevitable to lose now and again. The trick is not to make a habit of it.”

  • Mrs. COD Dec 20, 2016, 1:25 pm

    What a fun list of failures! I know too many of us expect to be good at things right off the bat, but that rarely happens (if ever). Teaching high school showed me how much teens hate failing; if they don’t “get” something instantly, they give up trying. I know I need to be more willing to fail; after all, how else can I learn?

    • Millennial Money Man Dec 20, 2016, 2:13 pm

      Haha that reminds me of teaching band – kids definitely don’t handle failure too well! 🙂

  • Nick Dec 22, 2016, 7:58 am

    Biggest failure? Good grief. Lots of them.
    I actually have been trying to get more and more okay with failure here lately. After listening to Gary Vee talk about why he loves to lose and how it makes him stronger, I decided I needed something similar… So I recently created a spreadsheet on my google drive called “I love losing” and I keep track of all my failures. I know it sounds super weird, but it’s actually helped me realize that failure is just part of the game and it helps me have strength to just keep pushing forward.
    Love this article M$M!

    • Millennial Money Man Dec 22, 2016, 9:02 am

      Haha hey man, do what you have to do! I definitely think that shift in thinking has been helpful for me so far with M$M. Glad you liked the article!

  • Go Finance Yourself! Jan 5, 2017, 7:06 am

    I love reading success stories. I think we have a tendency to think talented/successful people were just made that way. The truth is, almost everyone who has achieved a lot of success financially, or otherwise, has put in a ton of work and has failed numerous times along the way.

    Very interesting list you put together. I had no idea that Henry Ford had a failed auto company before he started Ford. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kraken Jan 12, 2017, 10:11 am

    Some of these I’ve heard but a lot of them I haven’t. I especially liked the one about Henry Ford, I had never heard it before and I can only imagine what it would be like to fail at an automobile company. Sometimes the only way to figure out what works is to try everything that doesn’t. This is definitely an article I will be revisiting when I need a pick-me -up.
    My greatest failure so far is probably buying a sports car right out of college. But I think it’s being contested by me quitting my first job less than 9 months into it. Thanks for compiling this inspirational list!

  • Xyz from Our Financial Path Jan 19, 2017, 9:45 am

    ”Life is long. Reinvent yourself as needed”
    This is a great quote, not only career-wise but also in all aspect of life in general. Accepting failures and learning from them is a great learning tool and will bring you to success.

    • Millennial Money Man Jan 19, 2017, 10:30 am

      Ha I honestly had forgot that I wrote that until I saw your comment pop up. That’s pretty good if I do say so myself!

  • Helaina Berry Jan 23, 2017, 10:59 pm

    Thanks for this wonderful insight. Everyone made a mistake and eventually it goes to a failure. Failure means try and try, don’t loose hope when trying and forget the negative side. Failure is a necessary stepping stone to building our dreams and it will never overtake us, if everyone’s determination to succeed is strong enough. Learning from your failure is great stepping stone to have a better goal or consistent to become a successful.

  • Jaymee @ Smart Woman Jan 25, 2017, 6:50 am

    This made me think about my stint with MLM companies – I tried a handful to see if I can get behind the products. Ultimately, I decided MLM wasn’t for me. But had I not jumped in, I may not have been introduced to the idea of personal development or financial freedom (I learned both from Amway). I took those concepts instead and I’m expanding on them further now. I remember at the time I was a rigid student who didn’t think there was any other way to succeed besides getting the education and the right job.

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