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15 Highly Successful People Who Failed On Their Way To Success

15 Highly Successful People Who Failed On Their Way To Success

Before their success, some of the world’s most successful people experienced epic failure. We celebrate their success but often overlook the path that got them there. A path that is often marked with failure.

Their crowning achievements stem from drive and determination as much as ability. Persistence and certitude are the difference between success and failure.

Here are 15 highly successful people whose glorious succeses are remembered but their failures are lesser known.

Get motivated, accept failure as merely a chance to learn, and remember the words of American writer Elbert Hubbard:

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”

1. Oprah

oprah

    She’s a billionaire with her own TV channel and a penchant for giving away cars but Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first TV job as an anchor in Baltimore.

    Last year, 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.”

    Creating your own TV channel is a sure way never to get fired again!

    2. Steven Spielberg

    His cinematic output has grossed more than $9 billion and brought him three Academy Awards, but the master of the blockbuster was rejected TWICE by the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.

    As their way of saying “Oops, I guess we were wrong about you” the school built a building in honor of Spielberg.

    3. Thomas Edison

    In what might be at once the most discouraging statement and worst teaching practice of all time, 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. Death most likely spared his teachers the ignominy of their incorrect assessment.

    4. Walt Disney

    Disney

      Can you imagine your childhood without Disney? Well it could easily have been if Walt had listened to his former newspaper editor. The editor told Walt he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas’. Undeterred, Old Walt went on to create the cultural icon that bears his name.

      Disney’s take on failure:

      “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.”

      5. Albert Einstein

      His name is synonymous with intelligence yet it wasn’t always that way for Albert Einstein. As a child he didn’t start speaking until he was four, reading until he was seven, and was thought to be mentally handicapped.

      He went on to win a Nobel Prize and altered the world’s approach to physics. I guess he was just thinking of the right thing to say for those first four years…

      6. J.K. Rowling
      JK

        Before there was a wizard, there was welfare. Rowling was a broke, depressed, divorced single mother simultaneously 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.”

        7. Abraham Lincoln

        Lincoln’s failures were broad and numerous. He achieved the unique feat of leaving for a war a captain and returning a private (the lowest military rank).

        He next took failure in his stride during multiple failed business attempts. Undeterred, Lincoln marched into the political realm, where he launched several failed runs at political office before his ascendance to President.

        8. Jerry Seinfeld

        Before the show about nothing, Seinfeld was a young comedian on the stand-up circuit. His first time on stage didn’t go so well. On seeing the audience he froze and was booed and jeered off stage.

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        His choices: pack it in and accept comedy isn’t his thing or return to the same stage the following night and have the audience in hysterics. He opted for the latter and went on to become one of the most successful comedians of all time.

        9. Theodor Seuss Geisel

        Known to generations as Dr Seuss, the much-loved children’s author had his first book rejected by 27 different publishers. His books that weren’t good enough for these publishers went on to sell more than 600 million copies worldwide.

        10. Stephen King

        In another instance in the never ending series “Book Publishers Making Dumb Decisions”, mega novelist Stephen King had his first book Carrie rejected 30 times.

        Dejected, King dumped the book in the trash. His wife retrieved it and implored him to resubmit it which led to his first book deal and spawned his illustrious career.

        11. Vincent Van Gogh

        A Van Gogh painting will cost you upwards of $100 million nowadays. But in his lifetime, Vincent Van Gogh couldn’t get rid of the things.

        He sold just one painting, ‘The Red Vineyard’, during his lifetime, and the sale came not long before his death. Unfortunately for Vincent, others got to enjoy the financial spoils of his lifetime of toils.

        12. Elvis Presley

        “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

        These are the words that greeted Elvis Presley after his first performance at the Grand Ole Opry, after which he was promptly fired. Disposing of the keys to the truck, Presley went on to become the world’s biggest star with a legacy that endures.

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        13. Michael Jordan

        MJ

          Either he was part of the greatest high school roster of all time or his coach made a huge mistake in cutting Michael Jordan 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.”

          14. Charles Darwin

          The man credited with much of how we came to understand the world today, Darwin was considered an average student and abandoned a career in medicine as a result.

          Darwin embarked on a lifetime study of nature that led to the seminal ‘On the Origin of Species’ and forever altered the way humankind looks at our existence.

          15. Sir James Dyson

          You know that frustrating feeling when you don’t get something on the first attempt?

          Multiple that by 5,126 because that’s the number of failed prototypes Sir James Dyson went through over the course of 15 years before creating the eponymous best-selling bagless vacuum cleaner that led to a net worth of $4.5billion.

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          The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

          The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

          It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

          Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

          “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

          In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

          New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

          There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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          So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

          What is the productivity paradox?

          There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

          In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

          He wrote in his conclusion:

          “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

          Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

          How do we measure productivity anyway?

          And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

          In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

          But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

          In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

          But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

          Possible causes of the productivity paradox

          Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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          • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
          • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
          • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
          • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

          There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

          According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

          Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

          The paradox and the recession

          The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

          “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

          This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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          According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

          Looking forward

          A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

          “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

          Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

          “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

          On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

          Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

          Reference

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