Talent Acquisition

5 Lessons We Can Learn from Famous Failures

Failure is part of life – and definitely part of success. Most of the incredibly successful people we know have all had their fair share of failures – some small, some monumental. But what it did do was teach them something and gave them a springboard to bounce off and learn from. It’s easy to give up and stop trying – but the secret here is to carry on, no matter how hopeless the situation looks or feels. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs you know did this, and now they’re riding success knowing they overcame endless failures and disappointments. But, when everything feels hopeless, how did they overcome the failure? I’ve compiled a list of some familiar faces and their stories from failure to success:

1) Oprah Winfrey:

Oprah Winfrey is a great example of someone who turned their adversity into success – over many years. She started off life in a difficult place, but transformed her situation, majored from university and then continued to experience a continual cycle of failure and success – which eventually led her to having a number one talk show, and being named the most powerful woman in the world.

  • No matter how difficult your situation is, if you work hard enough you can overcome even the most adverse situations.
  • Perseverance is key – don’t give up.

2) JK Rowling:

JK Rowling is a fantastic example of a bad situation being turned around. In her own words, “I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew”. After concentrating for hours and hours on her book, it finally paid off and her talent was recognised -but this was only after numerous publishers declined to print the book. Today, she is the 13th wealthiest woman in Britain.

3) Steve Jobs:

Steve Jobs is one of the most influential and innovative thinkers in recent years. He was fired from Apple Inc, the company he actually founded with Ronald Wayne and Steve Wozniak. In a thought provoking quote from Steve Jobs himself, we learn the power of failure: “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

  • Embrace failure with open arms.
  • Remember that it’s just an opportunity to begin something different

4) Walt Disney:

It’s crazy to think that one of the most ingenious and creative thinkers was once told that he ‘lacks creativity’. Disney was forced to close his first animation studio – named Laugh-O-Gram Films. Disney then found his way to Hollywood, where his films gained steady popularity. Today he’s one of the most famous names in the world, with his movies and theme-parks loved by children and adults alike.

  • Go with your gut. If you feel like you’re doing the right thing, go with it, despite what anyone else may say.
  • Nothing of value ever comes easy. You must work for it, through adversity.

5) Vincent Van Gogh:

Vincent Van Gogh, the genius artist, never knew of his own success. By only selling one painting in his life, he was dubbed a failure – and after years of suffering with mental illness and failed relationships, the artist committed suicide at the age of 37. After his death, he became one of the leaders of the post-impressionism movement and is one of the greatest artists of all time. He would never know that despite feeling like a failure, he is now known as one the best artists in the world, with his work being held in the most esteemed galleries and shared all over the world.

  • Success can come when you least expect it. Work hard and be humble.
  • The greatest block to creativity is fear of getting something wrong.


By Ruby Lowe

Account Executive at Link Humans, download our 12 Essentials of Employer Branding eBook now.