October 25, 2017

From Failure to Fame: 7 Celebrities who Survived and Thrived after Setbacks

What would have happened if Walt Disney gave up animation after being fired from one of his first jobs? What if J.K. Rowling let depression keep her from picking up a pen? What if Steven Spielberg let self-doubt stop him from making Jaws? While we’ve all heard the expression “overnight success,” but stories of instant fame and wealth are the exception, not the rule. More often than not, the most successful celebrities and entrepreneurs in the world endured at least one, if not a string, of setbacks, failures, and blows to their egos before hitting it big. Remarkably, they all kept at it, and went from failure to fame, achieving success beyond anyone’s expectations, even their own. Had they let those temporary roadblocks hold them back, however, they might have allowed those failures to define them. Most of us will fail at some point in our lives, and we’ll probably do it more than once. But, letting the occasional defeat stop you from pursuing your passion could mean denying yourself the opportunity to achieve more than you ever dreamed possible. Each of these, now famous, celebrities started out just like you.


More often than not, the most successful celebrities in the world endured major setbacks before hitting it big. Share on X


These seven celebrities faced major setbacks and kept going:


Bill Gates Portrait
Seven Celebrities who Survived and Thrived after Setbacks
Photo source: Paulo Henrick


  1. Bill Gates Couldn’t Launch a Successful Company

It’s hard to imagine now that he’s one of the richest and most powerful entrepreneurs in the world, but those who met Gates right after his first company, Traf-O-Data failed in 1980, might not have been too impressed with his business acumen. The company, which he created while he was in his senior year of high school with business partner Paul Allen, seemed like a clever solution for gathering traffic-flow data, except for one problem, they didn’t have any customers. Gates and Allen got so caught up in the technology, they forgot to do any market research. Don’t feel too bad for Gates though, as of September 2017, the Microsoft Corporation cofounder is the richest person in the word, with an estimated net worth of $84.8 billion, according to Wikipedia.


Walt Disney Portrait
Walt Disney rose from failure to fame after being told he lacked creativity.


  1. Walt Disney Lacked Creativity

He may be the father of the world’s most beloved animated mouse and the founder of what would grow into a multi-billion-dollar, mega-empire, but as a young cartoonist, not everyone could see his potential. In 1919, the Kansas City Star newspaper fired Disney because, according to his editor, he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Lucky for Disney, his creative drought would eventually end, allowing him to go from failure to fame after coming up with a few good ideas that just happened to change entertainment forever, including Mickey Mouse, the multi-plane camera, and Disneyland. This one-time labeled, “creative dunce” also holds the record for most Academy Awards as a film producer.


Albert Einstein Portrait
Albert Einstein found success after setbacks. As a child, teachers worried he lacked intelligence.


  1. Albert Einstein was a Slow Learner

He might be the most recognizable and best-know scientific genius of all time, but as a child, Albert Einstein was so far behind developmentally, that teachers were concerned he might have been mentally disabled. The Nobel-prize-winning physicist didn’t speak until he was four years old and didn’t read until he was seven. He would later be expelled from one school and refused admittance to another one in the years before he took the physics world by storm.

Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four years old and didn’t read until he was seven. Share on X
J.K. Rowling Portrait
J.K. Rowling went from failure to fame, overcoming depression to write her books.


  1. J.K. Rowling was a Penniless, Single Mom

She may be mom to the world’s favorite boy wizard, but before that, Rowling was a broke mom. Recently divorced, on welfare, and clinically depressed, she struggled for five years to complete the first Harry Potter book, writing while her new baby napped. The book was rejected twelve times before finding a publisher, and the rest is history. Fighting her way from failure to fame, today, J.K. Rowling  is wealthiest author of all time, and one of the richest women in the world.


Vera Wang Portrait
Designer Vera Wang rose to fame and succeeded after a major setback.
Image credit: David Shankbone


  1. Vera Wang was an Olympic Team Reject

While women all over the world fantasize about their dream wedding, themselves picture-perfect in a designer, Vera Wang gown, Wang herself dreamed of representing the United States as part of the 1968 US Olympic figure-skating team. But, after years of intense training, she failed to make the team. Later, after serving 15 years as a senior editor at Vogue magazine, she was overlooked when it came time to name the magazine’s new editor-in-chief. It wasn’t until she was 40 years old that she began her designing career, and the rest is history. Today, Vera Wang’s brand is worth over $1 billion, and the average Vera Wang wedding gown can sell for upwards of $13,000.


Stephen King Portrait
Stephen King overcame many setbacks to rise from failure to fame as a bestselling author.
Photo credit: pinguino, Flckr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en


  1. Stephen King Wrote Books Nobody Wanted

Before becoming the master of suspense he is today, Stephen King had more than a little trouble getting his writing career off the ground. A few publishers apparently thought Kings first novel, Carrie, wasn’t up to par – 30 to be exact. King got so fed up with the constant string of rejections that he threw the manuscript for Carrie in the trash. Lucky for horror fans around the world, King’s wife, confident in her husband’s talent, retrieved the book and encouraged him to keep going. Eventually, the writer would discover that one or two people were actually interested in what he had to say; King has published more than 50 novels and has sold more than 350 million copies of his books. His work has also been transformed into dozens of award winning movies and series including The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption, Misery, and the story he, himself, once trashed, Carrie.


Steven Spielberg Portrait
Steven Spielberg got rejected from film school but still rose from failure to fame as one of the world’s favorite directors. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore


  1. Steven Spielberg Couldn’t Get into Film School

Jaws. E.T. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Jurassic Park. They’re probably some of your favorites, and you’re not alone. Steven Spielberg’s movies include some of the highest grossing blockbusters of all time. In fact, he is said to have invented the concept of summer blockbuster with the release of Jaws, for the first time, creating the kind of fan fervor, and lines around the block, we often see today. He’s won multiple academy awards, and he is possibly the most recognizable film director in the world. As a young, aspiring director and film student, however, Spielberg was rejected from USC’s top-ranked film school three times, because of his mediocre grades. Don’t feel too bad for poor Steven though, the school would eventually award him an honorary degree in 1994, after making some generous donations, that most likely didn’t put a dent in his $3 billion estimated net worth.

Realize that each failure is just bringing you one step closer to your destiny. Share on X

The next time someone tells you to give up, calls you untalented, or rejects your idea, remember you know best what you are capable of. Take your failures in stride and realize that each one is just bringing you one step closer to your destiny. You can become your own success story. Don’t give up on you dreams, Instead, use those naysayers to fuel your desire to persevere and make your dreams a reality. Give it everything you’ve got, and remember that today you might feel like a failure, but the only way you truly fail is by giving up. Brush yourself off, stay committed, and live to fight another day, and you might be surprised what you can achieve.

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