Not getting that promotion can feel like the end of the world, but the people on this list show that devastating failures are just another stop on the road to success.
We’ve put together some of the world’s greatest success stories, from movie stars to scientists, who just happen to have experienced massive failure that could have easily made them give-up.
But they didn’t and now they’re the monumental successes that they are remembered for, a good source of encouragement when it feels like you will never make it to the top.
Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. He was defeated in every public office role he ran for.
Then he became the British prime minister at the age of 62.
Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything.”
Edison also famously invented 1,000 light bulbs before creating one that worked.
Harland David Sanders, the famous KFC “Colonel,” couldn’t sell his chicken. More than 1,000 restaurants rejected him.
But then one did, and today there are KFC restaurants bearing his image all over the world.
R.H. Macy had a history failing businesses, including a dud Macy’s in NYC.
Steven Spielberg was rejected from his dream school, the University of Southern California, three times.
Charlie Chaplin’s act was rejected by executives because they thought it was too obscure for people to understand.
Marilyn Monroe’s first contract with Columbia Pictures expired because they told her she wasn’t pretty or talented enough to be an actress.
Monroe kept plugging away and is one of the most iconic actresses and sex symbols of all time.
Soichiro Honda was passed over for an engineering job at Toyota and left unemployed.
But then he began making motorcycles, started a business and became a billionaire.
Vera Wang failed to make the U.S. Olympic figure-skating team. Then she became an editor at Vogue and was passed over for the editor-in-chief position.
Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
Albert Einstein didn’t speak until age four and didn’t read until age seven. His teachers labeled him “slow” and “mentally handicapped.”
But Einstein just had a different way of thinking. He later won the Nobel prize in physics.
Charles Darwin was considered an average student. He gave up on a career in medicine and was going to school to become a parson.
Sir Isaac Newton was tasked with running the family farm but was a miserable failure.
Newton was sent off to Cambridge University and became a physics scholar.
Dick Cheney flunked out of Yale twice.
The first time Jerry Seinfeld went onstage, he was booed away by the jeering crowd.
Eventually, he became a famous comic with one of the most-loved sitcoms ever.
In Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the judges wrote: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.”
After Sidney Poitier’s first audition, the casting director instructed him to just stop wasting everyone’s time and “go be a dishwasher or something.”
He went on to win an Academy Award and is admired by actors everywhere.
Oprah Winfrey was fired from her television reporting job because they told her she wasn’t fit to be on screen.
But Winfrey rebounded and became the undisputed queen of television talk shows. She’s also a billionaire.
Lucille Ball spent many years on the B-list and her agent told her to pursue a new career.
After his first film, Harrison Ford underwhelmed the producer and was told he would probably never succeed.
But today Ford is the third highest-grossing actor of all time.
Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his entire life, to a friend.
Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected by 27 different publishers.
Henry Ford’s first auto company went out of business
While developing his vacuum, Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 failed prototypes and his savings over 15 years.
J.K. Rowling was unemployed, divorced and raising a daughter on social security while writing the first Harry Potter novel.
J.K. Rowling is now internationally renowned for her 7 book Harry Potter series and is the first person to become a billionaire from writing.