When Sarah Mahoney was fired from the job of a lifetime, she received amazing advice from a friend. “Now that everyone has seen you flat on your ass, you won’t ever be afraid of failing again.”
Sometimes, failing can be the best thing that happened — there’s nowhere to go but up! When my husband lost his job two years ago, we used the opportunity to launch our own web development business. It was a scary time, but now we are living our dream, working together from home.
It isn’t just about being successful after a failure — the failure itself my be the very thing that pushes you to succeed. In fact, my friend Robby Slaughter wrote a book on the premise that failure is actually the key to success. And, judging from the history of some highly successful people, he may be right.
Here are 10 famous people who started their careers with failure — and 10 great lessons we should all keep in mind.
Is failure the key to success? 1 of 11
Some of the most successful people in America are also our most famous failures. Click through for 10 such celebrities!
Walt Disney 2 of 11
Before Snow White, before the theme parks, and long before Disney's Babble.com, Walt Disney was fired because he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."
Lesson: Not everyone will share your vision. If you have a big idea, ignore the naysayers and go for it.
Source: Yahoo Voices/public domain photo
Babe Ruth 3 of 11
Babe Ruth is best known for setting numerous batting and home run records, but he also led the league in strikeouts for 5 straight seasons. He was quoted as saying, "Every strike brings me closer to the next home run."
Lesson: You have to put yourself out there — win or lose — if you want to have a chance.
Source: Baseball Almanac/public domain photo
Ben & Jerry 4 of 11
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield started making their famous ice cream after Ben dropped out of college, and Jerry wasn't able to make it into medical school. Their chunky, flavorful ice cream was designed to compensate for Ben's ageusia, a loss of taste functions.
Lesson: A weakness doesn't have to limit you — turn it into a strength, or use your other strengths to compensate.
Elvis Presley 5 of 11
After just one concert at Grand Ole Opry, the manager told the singer to give up and return to Memphis. Elvis continued to book shows in Nashville, eventually landing a touring gig and became the king of rock 'n roll.
Lesson: Believe in your talents, even when others don't like your style.
Source: Business Insider/public domain photo
Henry Ford 6 of 11
Henry Ford's first automobile company went bankrupt. He was quoted as saying, "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." Ford turned each setback into a new opportunity, eventually leading to the assembly line as we know it and the modern Ford Motor Company.
Lesson: Focusing on the reason for your failures allows you to make improvements that lead to success.
Source: The Henry Ford/public domain photo
Jay-Z 7 of 11
When Jay-Z was turned away by several labels, he founded Roc-a-Fella Records to launch his first album. He has since sold over 75 million records and received 17 Grammy awards, among many other successful business ventures.
Lesson: Sometimes you just have to carve your own way.
Steve Jobs 8 of 11
After epic failures of early inventions, Steve Jobs was fired from his own company. He returned to Apple years later, vowing to refocus on innovation over profits. The results live in the palm of our hand and increased Apple's profits exponentially.
Lesson: Follow your passion, not profits. If you're only in it for the money, creativity suffers.
Michael Jordan 9 of 11
Cut from his high school varsity team, Michael Jordan became determined to prove himself. He trained heavily and became a starter on the junior varsity team, was recruited by several college teams and went on to become one of the greatest NBA players of all time (says the die-hard Pacers fan, begrudgingly).
Lesson: Work hard, improve your skills, and never give up.
Jerry Seinfeld 10 of 11
Jerry Seinfeld was booed off the stage in his early, open-mic career and abruptly fired from his small role on Benson over "creative differences." He continued in standup, landing a spot on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and later starring in the popular sitcom Seinfeld, which he co-created with Larry David.
Lesson: There will be plenty of people who won't like you, but don't let them shake your confidence.
Oprah Winfrey 11 of 11
Oprah was told she was "unfit for television news" when she got too emotionally invested in the evening stories. She was demoted to a daytime talk show, where she basically became queen.
Lesson: Find a job that will be the right fit for your personality.
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