20 Famous Failures

The famous failures below are now well known and their names are synonymous with success, but it wasn’t always this way. At one point the idea of these people reaching the heights they have reached would have seemed absurd – toally impossible – and yet they did it. Many of them didn’t just fail, they failed in spectacular fashion. So don’t give up on your own dreams – you may end up joining this list of famous failures one day!

“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

Our list of famous failures

1. Abraham Lincoln - Former US president Abraham Lincoln first went into politics at the age of 23 when he campaigned for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly and failed. He then opened a general store which failed after only a few months.

2. Robert M Pirsig - His well known book ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ was rejected by 121 publishers. Since finally being published in 1974 it has gone on to sell millions of copies in 27 languages.

Michael Jordan shooting a goal - he is one of our famous failures

Image: Wikipedia

3. Michael Jordan - The most famous name in basketball was actually cut from his high school basketball team.

4. John Wayne - Before his successful acting career he was rejected from the United States Naval Academy.

5. Steven Spielberg - This household name dropped out of high school and applied to attend film school three times but was unsuccessful due to his C grade average.

6. Beethoven - His music teacher once told him that he was a hopeless composer.

7. Harry S. Truman - This former US President was rejected by the US Military & Naval Academies due to his poor eyesight. At one point he was a clerk in a newspaper mailroom, and also an usher in a movie theater.

8. Babe Ruth - Should he be on this list of famous failures? Yes, this baseball legend struck out 1,330 times!

9. Henry Ford - The Ford Motor Co was Henry Ford’s third business, the first two didn’t work out.

10. Winston Churchill - This former British Prime Minister did poorly in school and had a speech impediment in his early years.

11. Marilyn Monroe - Marilyn Monroe spent much of her younger years in foster homes. One of her first jobs, during the second world war, was inspecting parachutes.

12. Walt Disney - He was fired by the editor of a newspaper for lacking in ideas.

13 Soichiro Honda - The founder of Honda was turned down for an engineering job by Toyota after World War Two.

14 & 15. Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita - These two were the founders of Sony, but one of their first products was an electric rice cooker. They only sold 100 or so of these cookers because they tended to burn rice rather than cook it.

16. Charles Darwin - His father told him he would amount to nothing and would be a disgrace to himself and his family.

17. Albert Einstein - He learned to speak at a late age and performed poorly in school.

18. Thomas Edison - As a boy he was told by his teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything.

19. John Grisham - This best selling novelist’s first novel was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing houses.

20. Isaac Newton - He failed at running the family farm and did poorly in school.

There are a few more famous failures in the short video below:


Please share these famous failures with someone who needs reminding that they should never give up!