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Incredible Famous Failures Who Reached Colossal Success In Their Life

These true stories of famous failures will inspire you not to allow anything to get in your way or stop you from reaching your goals.
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When people think of famous failures, they often don’t imagine world-renowned masters. Because with celebrities, we’re mostly shown the luxury they’ve acquired. Never the struggles, heartbreaking rejections, or the sleepless nights they spent refining their skills.

famous failures
Photo by Daniel Barnes on Unsplash

But most successful people had to go through horrendous trials to get there. Some were homeless and constantly told they’d never make it.

But, they didn’t let that stop them and they pushed through to reach enormous success.

It takes a lot of mental strength and resilience to get through all that! If you’re struggling to get through times, I hope you’ll be inspired to keep going with these stories.

These famous failures are proof that if you don’t give up, you can achieve mind-blowing success too:

1. Abraham Lincoln’s famous failures

Abraham Lincoln's famous failures.
Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” — Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was an inspiring president. He helped free the slaves and promoted equal rights. But he wasn’t always a success.
His famous failures include losing bids to become the following:

  • Speaker of the House
  • Commissioner in D.C.
  • U.S. Senator

Eventually, he was elected to the House of Representatives. During this time, he wrote a bill to end slavery. Finally, in 1861 he became the President of the United States.

2. The famous failures of Will Smith

“You have to get comfortable with failure. You have to SEEK failure. Failure is where all of the lessons are.”

— Will Smith

Will Smith is one of the highest-paid actors and an avid promoter of failing your way to success. He says, “Failure actually helps you to recognize the areas where you need to evolve. So fail early, fail often, fail forward.”

He believes that failure is necessary to grow and be successful. You need to work at the edge of your abilities so that you can move past them.

But, Will had a rough childhood. His parents separated when he was 13 years old. He attempted to become a rapper, and although he saw some success, his 3rd album flopped. He ended up owing $2.8 million in taxes.

So, the IRS seized his possessions and most of his income.

His girlfriend at the time persuaded him to try out for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Even though he got rejected multiple times for other roles, he desperately needed the job. Luckily, he got the job.

But later, Will was in a movie called After Earth, which to him was a disaster. He states it was his most painful failure. Now he has 4 Grammy Awards, and his net worth is $350 million making him one of the most wealthy actors in the world.

3. Leonardo da Vinci

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works.”

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo’s parents never married, and he grew up with his father. Most of his education was self-taught. He spent a lot of time alone diving into his many creative interests.

Unfortunately, Leonardo had problems with perfectionism and couldn’t finish his projects. In fact, he’d leave them unfinished, and that didn’t bode well for his employers!

He would hyper-focus on his work throughout the night yet he couldn’t finish. That’s a well-known symptom of ADHD. Which Da Vinci almost certainly had.

Those with ADHD may have a hard time in school, but it doesn’t mean they lack intelligence. In fact, a lot of the famous people in this article (Albert Einstein, Jim Carrey, and Will Smith) had ADHD.

He tinkered and fine-tuned his ultra-famous painting Mona Lisa for five years. Although, it is a masterpiece.

Famous failures with The Last Supper

Leonardo’s painted The Last Supper with a new technique that proved not to be durable. The paint wouldn’t stick to the wall, and it disintegrated quickly. Later, World War II bombs almost destroyed the painting and years of neglect.

Luckily people have rescued The Last Supper and restored it. It now resides in a climate-controlled gallery.

As an adult, Leonardo worked as a painter, engineer, musician, sculptor, and inventor. To this day, people admire his paintings, sculptures, and notebooks across the world. He was certainly a success.

4. Jim Carrey

Cast of Jim Carrey's to create The Mask. Photo by Reno Laithienne on Unsplash
Cast of Jim Carrey’s to create The Mask. Photo by Reno Laithienne on Unsplash

“It is better to risk starving to death than surrender. If you give up on your dreams, what’s left?”

Jim Carrey

People love Jim Carrey and his movies. Yet few know the failures he went through while growing up. His father couldn’t keep a job, and Jim had to quit school to work as a janitor to help with the bills.

In fact, Jim and his parents had to live in their car. These dire conditions made Jim desperate for a way out, so he tried stand-up comedy.

You’d think he’d be an instant success, but even Jim Carrey was booed off stage! That didn’t stop him, though.
In 1980 he auditioned for Saturday Night Live. Surely they hired him, right? No.
Nevertheless, he kept his hopes up and believed he would someday make $10 Million. That seems pretty extravagant, but 7 years later, that’s what he made from the movie Dumb and Dumber.
Soon after, he gained even more success with The Mask and Ace Ventura. He made many other movies after that, and you can be sure he’ll never be homeless again.

5. Stephen King

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash
Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

“Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.”

— Stephen King

Stephen King grew up in poverty after his father left. His mom moved him and his brother David from place to place repeatedly after that.

Although his mother loved her children and did her best, Stephen took a turn to the dark side, and trauma pushed him further.

For example, when he was four years old, he witnessed his friend get run over by a train. Later he included this horrific event in his book, Stand By Me.

Stephen was a misfit, and other kids rejected him. So, he spent a lot of time alone reading books and became fascinated by horror stories.

One day while looking around in the attic, Stephen found some spooky H.P. Lovecraft books. He loved being afraid, and soon, he was hooked.

In the years that followed, he used drugs and alcohol to cope with his mental anguish and depression.

Stephen wrote three books before Carrie but never published them. He even threw Carrie in the trash because it was rejected by publishers 30 times!

Luckily, his wife Tabitha found it and persuaded him not to quit. So he sent it off again, and the publisher accepted it. It was an instant hit.
King wrote best-sellers every decade since Carrie in 1974. Along with the many other books, he’s written, his net worth is now $500 million.

6. J.K. Rowling

. J.K. Rowling famous failures.
Photo by Shayna Douglas on Unsplash

Some may not know that the billionaire author J.K. Rowling was once a self-proclaimed failure. Her marriage fell apart, and she had to raise her daughter in poverty. All of her biggest fears came true.

Sometimes people need to hit rock bottom and be in a state of desperation to succeed. But she believes that if you live without risking failure, then you might as well not be alive at all.

In her spare moments, she worked on her book Harry Potter. Twelve publishers declined her. Some told her to get a job because children’s books don’t make money.

When she did finally get published, her book was a hit. People stood in lines for hours just to buy her books. By 2004 she was the first-ever author to earn a billion dollars.

7. Albert Einstein

Einstein's famous failures.
Image by Jackie Ramirez from Pixabay

“Failure is success in progress.”

— Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein’s parents thought he was mentally slow because his grades were horrible. Not to mention, he didn’t start talking until he was four and wasn’t a fluent speaker until nine years old!

A teacher once told him he wouldn’t amount to anything and that he should do himself a favor and quit school. So, he dropped out that day.

He attempted to get into the Swiss Federal Polytechnic school but failed the exam. However, he eventually got accepted.
Still, it was an enormous struggle for him to graduate. Before his dad died, he told Einstein he thought of him as a massive failure.

After college Einstein struggled to find work, he even took a job as a door-to-door salesman. Then he got hired as a lowly patent clerk. His easy job allowed his imagination to run wild, and he’d think about physics problems.

Einstein created several laws of physics and started some of the quantum theories. Later, he won the Nobel Prize for his contributions to theoretical physics. If only his dad could have seen everything his son would achieve!

He landed Time magazine’s cover for December 31st, 1999, as The Person of the Century, and he’s a household name.

8. Jay-Z

Photo by Vlad Alexandru Popa from Pexels
Photo by Vlad Alexandru Popa from Pexels

“I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of not trying.”


Jay-Z grew up surrounded by crime in the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn, New York. His father had abandoned him by the time he was 11 years old. Jay-Z practiced improving his rapping skills, but no one would sign him. So, he and his friends would try to sell his CDs from the trunk of his car.

Those record companies made a massive mistake because Forbes states he’s worth $1 billion!

Photo by Katie Harp on unsplash
Photo by Katie Harp on unsplash

To sum up, these are just a few of the many famous failures. I’m sure most famous people failed along the way to success. Read biographies, and I guarantee you there will be challenges they had to surmount.
So, don’t think that failing is a horrible thing. It just means you’re learning! You’re evolving into the next level of yourself.

Photo by Robert Nagy from Pexels
Photo by Robert Nagy from Pexels

You’re trying, and that’s what counts. It’s the failures and struggles that genuinely make these people impressive.

Nothing can stop you from reaching your goals when you become immune to failing. Then you can join the masters, the famous failures.

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Also, let me know in the comments if you can think of any other
famous failures!

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