7 Successful Influential people who failed their way to the top


I like to say “We see the glory but we often don’t know the story”.

There is a massive mis conception that successful people had it handed to them on a silver spoon.

They didn’t have to work hard for it or they just “got lucky”.

First of all I would like to state that success is not luck.

If someone is successful in their lives it was not caused by luck.

It was caused by their ability to believe, work hard and take consistent action on a daily basis to get to their desired result.


Below are 7 highly successful influential people whose glorious succeses are remembered but their failures are lesser known:
















Madonna bought herself a plane ticket from Detroit to New York and asked the cab driver to drop her off in the middle of everything.

Of course he dropped her off in times square.

Madonna arrived to the big apple with approximately $25 in her pocket and a dream.

She was one of eight children whose mother passed away of cancer when she was five.

Madonna originally started out as a dancer in New York which led to singing in bands which led to signing her first record deal.

She went through many struggling times during her rise to fame in New York

Below is a letter from a record company that rejected her:


Madonna rejection letter














It seems Mr Jimmy may have missed out on an extraordinary opportunity for his business.

Little did he know Madonna would rock the world, inspire millions and become the most famous successful female artist known as the Queen of pop!

“I stand for freedom of expression, doing what you believe in, and going after your dreams”

Success leaves clues……

Madonna’s powerful words when she was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame in 2008…

She reflects on the people in her life that believed in her before anyone knew her name, a struggling dancer…

“I am only the manager of my talent, not the owner”



Walt Disney















Can you imagine your childhood without Disney?

Well it could easily have been that way if Walt had listened to his former newspaper editor.

The editor told Walt he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas’.

Undeterred, Walt went on to create the magical, cultural icon that bears his name.


“I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young…

Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you.

Because of it I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when we’ve been near collapse and all of that. I’ve never been afraid.”


3. J.K. Rowling

J K Rowling
















J K Rowling was a broke, depressed, divorced single mother that was writing a novel while studying.

Now one of the richest women in the world, Rowling reflects on her early failures:

“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.”















Michael Jordan’s coach originally cut him from his high school basketball team.

Six Championships and five MVPs later, Jordan became arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jordan famously said:

“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.”



Oprah Winfrey


















Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire with her own TV channel OWN that was fired from her first TV job as an anchor in Baltimore.

Oprah reflected on her experiences during a Harvard commencement speech:

“There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Oprah Winfrey on Career, Life & Leadership



Thomas Edison
















Thomas Edison was told by his teachers he was ‘too stupid to learn anything’.

Edison went on to hold more than 1,000 patents, including the phonograph and practical electric lamp.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”




Albert Einstein
















His name is synonymous with intelligence yet it wasn’t always that way for Albert Einstein.

He didn’t start speaking until he was four years old.

He didn’t read until he was seven years old.

He was labelled mentally handicapped.

He went on to win a Nobel Prize and altered the world’s approach to physics.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”


39 thoughts on “7 Successful Influential people who failed their way to the top

  1. First of all you must have a dream, then you must see the it, then take action, don’t stop until you’ve achieved your dream or you have passed on.

  2. Great post Alesha, very inspiring. Failing is an important part of success and it is quite impressive to me how many cultures see failure as a horrible thing…. We should learn that failure is part of the process.

  3. Nice work Alesha Drew. I often like to cite the failures of Abraham Lincoln when I talk to people. That guy couldn’t BUY an election for years. Perseverence made him one of the top 2 Presidents in the history of this country. Keep on keepin on…

  4. Hey Alesha, thanks for sharing this. Reminds me that sometimes you need to fail before you succeed. One other person that inspires me is Abe Lincoln! 🙂

  5. Great article Alesha. Parents and the educational system are two groups of people responsible for why kids and young adults are afraid to fail at something. Fearing failure prohibits a person to try something new, or explore a new idea. My mentors success is based on failing 80% of the time. Once you understand you have to fail to be successful, then the skies the limit of what you can accomplish.

  6. It’s always inspiring to see the success of others, but even better to see where they came from and what struggles they had. Madonna a awesome.

  7. I love reading about highly successful people that had failed horribly before hitting their stride in life. It gives great motivation to keep moving forward when all you feel like doing is giving up. Other people that dealt with severe struggles in the beginning were Sylvester Stallone (in fact, the Rocky movies reflect his life), Stephen King and the Beetles. Lesson: Never give up!

    1. Thanks for sharing Anna Marie! Rocky is one of my all time fav movie series! So inspiring!
      There are so many success stories coming from struggle and failure.
      We must always be reminded of these and keep moving forward.

  8. Thanks for sharing Anna Marie! Rocky is one of my all time fav movie series! So inspiring!
    There are so many success stories coming from struggle and failure.
    We must always be reminded of these and keep moving forward.

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