Tag Archives: Failure

Richard Branson Is A Failure

Richard Branson has lost far more money that most people earn in their entire lives, and yet he is one of the richest people on earth. I recently read his autobiography ‘Losing My Virginity’ and in it he is not shy about talking about his failures, in fact you get the impression he enjoys it.

A theme that kept cropping up throughout it was his ability to take risks. You could sum it up as:

If you try something new then you take a risk. It might work out, it might not. But if you do nothing, then you’re guaranteed to get nothing in return.

Richard BransonRichard Branson has tried many different things in his life. He has failed a lot. He has lost millions upon millions, if not billions, over the years. Many people would have given up along the way. But he hasn’t allowed his failures to stop him from trying again. He has learnt from his mistakes and gone on to be extremely successful.

It is his willingness to give things a go that has seen him succeed. He sees his failures as a step to success. The two go hand in hand for everyone in every endeavour. They are inseparable and you can generally learn more from the failures! He’s not alone in his willingness to take risks of course, failure is an essential part of every success story – such as these famous failures.

In Daniel Pink’s book on career direction, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, one of the 6 key messages he puts across is – Make Excellent Mistakes. It’s a similar concept. Don’t make stupid mistakes (although I’m very capable of those myself), make excellent mistakes by trying new things. By taking risks you open yourself up to new possibilities. Being too afraid of making mistakes that you don’t take risks will almost certainly stop you from realising your potential.

It can be easy to write someone like Richard Branson off as a unique individual with talent and luck that the rest of us don’t have, but that isn’t the case. His abilities are modest in many ways. He has simply taken risks and given things a go. He has dared to venture knowing that he could fail – and even when he has failed he has carried on, or as he puts it:

My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them.

Even if it were simply a question of mathematical odds, it makes sense that the more things you go after, the more you are likely to get.

Learn from your mistakes.

Having a ‘Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained’ attitude can really help you go places if you remember to learn from your mistakes. Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If you make a mistake don’t just blindly keep trying using the same approach. Figure out what went wrong, work out how you can do it better, then have another shot at it.

Interestingly Branson’s high school headmaster made this comment of him when he left school:

Congratulations Branson. I predict that you will either go to prison or become a millionaire.

As it turned out he has done both, but you’ll have to read the book to find out about that :)

Image of Branson: Wikipedia

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!