12 Successful People Who Failed: Proving Failure Is “Success In Progress”
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Everyone knows that failure is no fun and just plain doesn’t feel good.
But what most people don’t know about failure is that it is actually one of the best things for you, and not for the reasons you might think.
Failure isn’t meant to check your ego, keep you “in line” with following the status quo, or keep you tied down and prevent you from dreaming bigger.
Failure is meant to give you a jumping-off point, a next step up on the stairway to success.
Let me explain it another way: as the saying goes, “there are two types of people in this world…”
In this case, there are those who view failure as a negative and those who view failure as a positive.
If you’re like the vast majority of people you meet, you’ll say that failure is a bad thing.
And technically, you wouldn’t be wrong – failure IS bad.
So let me reword the statement about those two types of people: there are those who view failure as a negative reflection of themselves and who stop there, and there are those who view failure as a learning moment and a starting point for follow-up efforts.
Would you rather stop in your tracks and be average (or even unsuccessful) and a failure, or be in the ranks of successful people who failed but continued on, onward and upward?
Sure, while the actual failure itself might be bad (failing an exam, a failed startup costing you a lot of money, a failed relationship, etc), every single failure you encounter in life will give you an opportunity to refine your approach and improve upon the past.
And if that’s not awesome news, well, I don’t know what is!
Successful People View Failure With A Success Mindset
As I said before, if you view failure as the end of the road, then clearly whatever it is that you were attempting to do is going to end there and never have a real chance to become a success story.
But if you view failure as a learning opportunity, and you make a point to change your efforts even a little on your next attempt, your chances of success just increased dramatically – purely because you were willing to try again.
Think of it like this: if you’re trying to start a business and work for yourself, let’s say that you’re pre-destined to have 6 failed business ideas before you find the lucky 7th one that works. (Sure, that might be a generously low number of attempts, but let’s go with it.)
Once you’ve had your first failed business, you’ve only got 5 more to go before you see success. That makes you already about 17% of the way to success!
In reality, Failure is only success in progress!
When each step on the path to success is worth almost 20% of the total journey, it’s fairly easy to see that each failure has a high value.
But here is what you really need to remember as you approach new things and risk failure:
In life, you’ll never truly know how many failures it will take to find success.
What differentiates successful people who failed from unsuccessful people who failed (and gave up) is their success mindset.
In a nutshell, a success mindset is simply a mentality that a person holds that convinces them that success IS in their future, after some predetermined number of preceding failures.
Simply put, these successful people believe that success is the only end-result outcome for themselves, and they need to just keep plodding on until they reach it.
Successful People Bolster Their Chances of Success With Success Quotes & Success Habits
You don’t have to look up statistics on failures vs. successes or find some cheesy success quotes like:
“Success is not the key to happiness…If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” (Herman Cain).
Yes, it’s a good quote and if taken to heart it provides a solid mentality for finding happiness in life and dwelling on good instead of bad.
But maybe you’re not that kind of person. Maybe you need a little bit of a different sort of push.
Maybe you need to find your own set of success quotes — maybe you’ll build your own list of personal mottos, instead, that does the job of getting your fired up and hopping out of bed each morning, ready to give the day your all regardless of what happens by the end of it.
Maybe you’ll use those mottos to be able to get out of bed early every day, ready to absolutely crush it, no matter (or even in spite of) how the previous day ended!
It really doesn’t matter what your definition of “success quotes” is — you could simply wake up and on a daily basis repeat “hey, don’t suck at life today” as your main success quote. Hey, if that works for you, then go for it!
What matters is that you find some quote or quotes that make you feel energized, ambitious, and ready to keep plowing on ahead no matter what happens.
Find something that makes you determined to the point of stupidity to reach your success goals, no matter what life chooses to throw in your path.
With that first-thing-in-the-morning-straight-out-of-bed recitation of your success quote(s), you’ve officially started building your own set of success habits. Congratulations!
All you need to do now to fill in the rest of your success habits are give yourself 2-3 more actions that you repeat on a daily basis to help you maintain your focus and your success mindset. Make sure these habits are actual action, something you’ll definitely notice if you didn’t do (none of those silly little “touch the left side of the mirror and spin in a clockwise circle while combing your hair weirdo moves haha — those you can do without).
Remember: it takes 21 days to make a habit.
Build up those success habits, and make it a routine that you follow every day.
In just 3 weeks, you’ll be a success (hopefully)!
Successful People Who Failed…At First
So obviously it’s all great talk to go over how to maintain your success mindset with goals, quotes, etc. But what does it look like in a practical application, to have that success mindset be SO ingrained into becoming a part of you that you’ll keep trying and trying until you succeed, no matter how long it takes (or even if it never happens)?
Let’s take a look at a few successful people who failed hard, way more than once, but came out WAY on top!
1) Babe Ruth
You’ve gotta know this guy — home run record holder for 40 years, with 714 career home runs! That’s almost twice as long as his entire baseball career lasted! Talk about a success!
But what you probably didn’t know is that he also had over 1300 strikeouts…making him almost twice as much of a failure as he was a success, if you want to look at things from that angle.
Really, think about it: the guy was twice as likely to strike out than to knock it out of the park, by those numbers, and yet he’s considered an absolute LEGEND in the baseball world.
Just goes to show you how terrible your success rate can be, and yet the overall impression is that you’ll be looked up to for generations!
2) Bill Gates
Most people are vaguely aware of some fact about Bill Gates, stating that he was a college dropout.
They’re right…he’s a Harvard dropout. Not for nothing, but that probably makes him smarter than the average college student in the first place, to even be able to get into Harvard in the first place! (Joking…but for real!)
But did you know this fun fact: his first effort at starting a tech company had to do with counting traffic data? Dang, I’m in the wrong career, that sounds exciting (haha, nope)!
When that company was a total bust because the tech straight up didn’t even work, he and his business partner just brushed their shoulders off and moved on to the next big thing…yup, Microsoft. And the rest is history.
3) Charles Schultz
Alright, who DOESN’T love the Peanuts comic strips?! You’re a monster if you don’t! LOL.
They’ve been around for DECADES, even GENERATIONS, without interruption, so if that doesn’t count as a successful creation I’m not sure what does.
But did you know that Schultz himself thought he was a failure?
Yup. He couldn’t get any comics to fly with his yearbook staff, got rejected from working at Disney, and “the little red-haired girl” that Charlie Brown pines for was inspired by the redhead that he proposed to but was rejected. Ouch.
4) Harland Sanders (aka “Colonel Sanders”)
This guy’s story is a whopper…no, not the burger.
Maybe you’ve never thought about his famous Kentucky Fried Chicken past letting yourself drown in its flavor.
But consider this: he tried to sell his secret recipe to restaurants over 1,000 times before one said it was good enough.
Can you imagine plugging away and aiming for success with that many failures? Most of us would quit after less than a dozen rejections, wow.
5) Jack London
Exceptional author, loved by all for his iconic novel “White Fang,” among many more titles.
His very first stories, however, were rejected over and over for 6 months before a publication took him up on it.
As he became successful, he made it a point to practice his craft by committing to writing 1,000 words daily, or a total of 7,000 per week (short days were compensated for the following mornings). This is an excellent example of a success habit — an action you can take daily to push you farther along the road to the success goals you have for yourself!
6) Ludwig van Beethoven
Alright, let’s just get this one done and over with, short and sweet.
Beethoven, considered one of the best musical composers of all time, was COMPLETELY DEAF.
Remind me again why YOU can’t succeed at whatever you’re putting your mind to? I thought so…
7) Michael Jordan
I don’t care what team you root for. This guy may just be the best basketball player of all time.
And he didn’t even make the team when he first tried out in high school.
First, I’m glad to hear my NBA dreams can still live on, with info like that.
Second, it just goes to show you that the opinions that others have of you or your current skill level are NOT a true representation of what you are actually capable of.
And if you don’t keep pushing for what you know you want, how will you ever know what you really ARE capable of?
8) Oprah Winfrey
YOU get success, and YOU get success, and YOUUUUUU get success!!!!!!
We all know who she is — one of those iconic people who can be referred to by only her first name and there is no question who someone is talking about.
(Side note: now THAT is success!)
Hers might be one of my favorite success stories.
We all know that she has built her huge fan base by how much compassion (and generosity) she has, with things like her “Oprah’s Favorite Things” show each holiday season…I remember the year that everyone in the audience got a new car from her!
But the irony of this incredible character trait of hers is that it is exactly the reason why she was fired from her job as a news anchor!
Well, I think the world (and definitely her audience members over the years) have been much better off because of it, so thanks to whoever fired her — they freed her to reach even higher and become an even bigger success because of it!
9) Stephen King
His very first published book was called “Carrie.” And it was the 4th one that he’d written.
His very first rejection (30 times) was…”Carrie.”
And yet now it’s one of the most popular thriller movies ever.
Even if you’ve never read his books, you still know his name.
Even if you’re feeling like you’ll never make it with what you aim to do in life, you will. Just keep writing your own life story until it has the ending you want it to have. That’s what all the good writers do, after all.
10) Stephen Spielberg
Star Wars fans, unite!
Seriously though, ask someone to name a movie director and chances are good his is the name they’ll think of first. I.e. the guy is a massive success.
But he was rejected from film school THREE TIMES.
For the guy who made epic hits like Star Wars, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, and Jaws…I bet the folks who rejected him are feeling a little bit silly, don’t you think?
11) Thomas Edison
Maybe you’ve heard this fun fact about him, and maybe you haven’t: It took him about 1,000 failed attempts at the lightbulb before he finally invented one that worked.
Since then, he went on to hold over 1,000 patents, proving that despite what most people would have been crushed by only fueled his fire to make things work and to keep pushing forward.
This guy, by the way, said one of those inspirational success quotes I have ever read:
[bq] “I have gotten lots of results! I know several thousand things that don’t work!”
12) Walt Disney
You grew up on Disney movies, didn’t you?
His failure story includes probably my most favorite reason for being fired ever.
He was let go from his job as a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
(I’ll wait until you’re done laughing at that one.)
Yet another failure is that his first cartoon business went bankrupt.
But you know what HUGE lesson there is to take away from his story?
Big dreams are only as big as you let them be. Don’t let other people tell you how big YOUR “big” can be.
Hey! I'm Noah Riggs.
Noah is the founder of Busy Living Better and has built a life he loves, despite growing up poor. He shares exactly how he started his six-figure business, became financially stable, and lives his best life so that he can help you do the same. You can read more about how he did all of this before the age of 23!