J.K Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, spoke to the graduating class of Harvard in June 2008. She didn’t talk about success. She talked about failures. Her own in particular. I absolutely love her quote.
“You might never fail on the scale I did,” Rowling told that privileged audience. “But it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.
She should know. The author didn’t magically become richer than the Queen of England overnight. Penniless, recently divorced, and raising a child on her own, she wrote the first Harry Potter book on an old manual typewriter.
Twelve publishers rejected the manuscript! A year later she was given the green light by Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, who agreed to publish the book but insisted she get a day job cause there was no money in children’s books.
What if she stopped at the first rejection? The fifth? Or the tenth?
The measure of success can be shown by how many times someone keeps going despite hearing only no.
The following people are not the only ones who have succeeded despite failure and rejection.
I thought they would be the most interesting to you.
People who found success despite failures
Colonel Sanders : The founder of KFC. He started his dream at 65 years old! He got a social security check for only $105 and was mad. Instead of complaining he did something about it.
He thought restaurant owners would love his fried chicken recipe, use it, sales would increase, and he’d get a percentage of it. He drove around the country knocking on doors, sleeping in his car, wearing his white suit.
Do you know how many times people said no till he got one yes? 1009 times!
Walt Disney: The man who gave us Disney World and Mickey Mouse. His first animation company went banktrupt. He was fired by a news editor cause he lacked imagination. Legend has it he was turned down 302 times before he got financing for creating Disney World.
Albert Eistein: He didn’t speak till he was four and didn’t read till seven. His parents and teachers thought he was mentally handicapped. He only turned out to win a Nobel prize and be the face of modern physics.
Richard Branson: He’s a billionaire mogul of Virgin but has had his share of failures. Remember Virgin Cola or Virgin credit cards? Probably not. He’s lost hundreds of millions of dollars but has not let failure stop him. When you’re rich like him you can rent his private island for $53,000 a night.
Mark Cuban: The billionaire owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks got rich when he sold his company to Yahoo for $5.9 billion in stock. He admitted he was terrible at his early jobs. His parents wanted him to have a normal job. So he tried carpentry but hated it. He was a short order cook but a terrible one. He waited tables but couldn’t open a bottle of wine. He says of his failures,
“I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how many times you failed,” Cuban says. “You only have to be right once. I tried to sell powdered milk. I was an idiot lots of times, and I learned from them all.”
Vincent Van Gogh: He only sold one painting in his lifetime! Just one to a friend. Despite that he kept painting and finished over 800 pieces. Now everyone wants to buy them and his most expensive painting is valued at $142.7 million.
Theodor Seuss Giesel: Dr. Seuss gave us Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. Books every child reads. At first many didn’t think he would succeed. 27 different publishers rejected Dr. Seuss’s first book To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.
John Grisham: The American author first was a lawyer who loved to write. His first book A Time to Kill took three years to write. The book was rejected 28 times until he got one yes for a 5,000 copy print. He’s sold over 250 million total copies of his books.
Steven Spielberg: He applied and was denied two times to the prestigious University of Southern California film school. Instead he went to Cal State University in Long Beach.
He went on to direct some of the biggest movie blockbusters in history. Now he’s worth $2.7 billion and in 1994 got an honorary degree from the film school that rejected him twice.
Stephen King: His first book Carrie was rejected 30 times and he threw it in the trash. His wife retrieved it out of the trash and encouraged him to resubmit it. The rest is history. He has sold more than 350 million copies of his books. (He’s also made many adults fear clowns too.)
Stephenie Meyer: The author of the crazy Twilight series said the inspiration from the book came from a dream. She finished it in three months but never intended to publish it until a friend suggested she should.
She wrote 15 letters to literary agencies. Five didn’t reply. Nine rejected. One gave her a chance. Then eight publishers auctioned for the right to publish Twilight. She got a three book deal worth $750,000. In 2010, Forbes reported she earned $40 million.
Tim Ferris: The man behind the 4 Hour Workweek, who changed how many people view work and life, was rejected by 26 publishers before one gave him a chance. It’s been on the bestseller’s list for years, sold all over the world, and last year published The 4 Hour Body that went to #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list.
After that the Beatles signed with EMI, brought Beatlemania to the United States, and became the greatest band in history.
Michael Jordan: He’s famous for being cut from his high school basketball team. He turned out to be the greatest basketball player but never let failure deter him. I love this quote…
“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Thomas Edison: No list of success from failures would be complete without the man who gave us many inventions including the light bulb. He knew failure wouldn’t stop him.
If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.
There is no success without failure
Decide what is important to you and take huge steps everyday even though it doesn’t seem like it’s working. Success doesn’t happen without failures. It’s reality.
Deal with it.
How bad do you want to achieve your goal? It better be so bad that rejection won’t derail you.
How much do you believe in what you’re doing? Colonel Sanders did despite 1009 rejections!
“Fall down seven times, get up eight.” – Japanese proverb
Let these examples inspire you every day.