14 Ironic “Failures” of Wildly Successful People
From Oprah to Einstein, your favorite famous people have seen their fair share of failures, mistakes, mishaps, and losses.
Martin Luther King, Jr. got a C in public speaking
One of the many memorable moments of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life is his “I Have a Dream” speech, but Dr. King wasn’t always a gifted public speaker. He actually got a C in his public speaking course during his first year of seminary school in Chester, Pennsylvania, according to the National Constitution Center. This “failure” didn’t stop him from hitting the books as Dr. King became a straight-A student and the class valedictorian. This below-average grade also didn’t deter Dr. King’s speech-giving abilities—he gave more than 2,500 speeches during his lifetime.
Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity team
The NBA All-Star didn’t make the varsity basketball team his sophomore year of high school. Instead, he was a starter for the junior varsity team for a few reasons, according to his former coach, Forbes reports. The coach had lots of seniors on the roster that year, Jordan was only 5-foot-10 at the time, and putting Jordan on JV gave him more playing time than being a varsity benchwarmer. Some might look at this JV status as a “failure,” but it seems the extra play time did him well. Jordan won six NBA championships and four MVP awards, and is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, according to Biography. His can-do attitude is one of the 10 winning attributes of super successful people.
Twelve publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s original Harry Potter
The Harry Potter universe spans many different mediums including books, movies, theme parks, toys, stage shows, and more. The most recent estimate is that Potter Inc. is a $25 million business, Fast Company reports. Before all this success, author J.K. Rowling sent her synopsis to many different publishers and was rejected 12 times, according to Business Insider. Rowling tweeted two of the letters on social media to inspire other writers since her first rejection letter went up on her wall, encouraging her to persist. Millions of fans are glad she did because, in 1997, Bloomsbury Publishing published the first 500 hardcover copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
A film school rejected Steven Spielberg three times
Director Steven Spielberg has directed Oscar-winning films and cult classics alike. His humble beginnings as an amateur child filmmaker, however, didn’t impress the film school at the University of Southern California. In fact, the university reportedly rejected Spielberg three times. Although his lack of a degree didn’t deter Universal Studios who ultimately hired him, making him one of the youngest directors in the 1960s, according to Biography. Spielberg did eventually receive an honorary degree from the university in 1994 and became a trustee in 1996, the LA Times reports. Spielberg, along with a few other famous “failures,” are some of the 25 famous people you didn’t know were Boy Scouts.
Walt Disney’s first cartoon character tanked
Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney go together like macaroni and cheese, but before mouse ear mania, Disney had another character—Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Universal hired Walt Disney studios to make 26 shorts staring Oswald. You’ve probably never heard of him, however, because Universal and the cartoon’s distributor, Charles Mintz, forced Walt out and took over the rights to the Rabbit series, the BBC reports. Disney’s next creation involved no middleman and a different animal—a mouse. As Mickey popularity ensued, Oswald didn’t keep up. Even though the Rabbit wasn’t successful, Walt Disney and his other creations are.
Apple fired Steve Jobs from his own company
The late Steve Jobs knows equally about success and failure. Apple’s founder dropped out of college to co-found Apple Computer before eventually clashing with the CEO that Jobs recruited for the company. Apple’s board sided with the CEO and stripped Jobs of his responsibilities, according to ABC. Jobs left the company without a definite plan, but he eventually started a new computer company, NeXT, and Pixar Animation Studios. In 1996, Apple Computer acquired NeXT after struggling, returning Jobs to his role before eventually starting the iPod and iPhone craze. “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me,” Jobs said in a speech to Stanford graduates.
Beyonce Knowles’ group lost Star Search
Girls Tyme might not sound familiar, but you know one of the members—Beyonce. The group performed on Star Search in 1993 losing to a rock band, but Beyonce didn’t let that stop her. The singer went on to be part of Destiny’s Child, a successful solo artist, and a multi-Grammy award-winner—her current net worth is $355 million, per the Evening Standard. It’s clear that Queen Bey can acknowledge her “failures.” In her song “Flawless,” an audio clip from her Star Search performance plays, Rolling Stone reports. Even if you aren’t making as much as Beyonce, you should still remember these 16 best-ever money tips from successful people.
Albert Einstein failed his school entrance exam
Albert Einstein is arguably one of the most important and influential figures of physics in the 20th century. One might assume he’d be good at traditional learning, but the physicist and mathematician wasn’t exactly a whizz at school. After dropping out of his school in Munich at 15, Einstein took the entrance exam for a polytechnic school in Zurich. He flunked the botany, zoology, and language sections, but passed the math one, according to History. Einstein kept studying and passed the exam the next year, although he struggled before eventually graduating. Struggling in school didn’t prevent him from developing the special and general theories of relativity and explanation of the photoelectric effect show, per Biography.
Katy Perry only sold 200 copies of her first album
Before she was Katy Perry, the “Firework” and “Roar” singer was Katy Hudson. Perry’s music was different at the time, too. Critics liked her debut gospel record, Katy Hudson. Sales, however, show that listeners weren’t so keen on the album. According to Complex, the album was a “commercial flop” for Red Hill Records, selling only 200 copies. The American Idol judge made up for it later though, and became the world’s highest-paid woman in music in 2019, Forbes reports.
Producers rejected 30 of Sylvester Stallone’s screenplays before Rocky
Before his overnight success, Stallone was an out-of-work actor desperate for a gig. Thirty screenplays were rejected before Stallone wrote the 80-page script in three days for Rocky, according to the Guardian. There are also some reports claiming 1,500 talent scouts rejected the actor, too. Stallone got his time in the spotlight as he insisted on playing the titular role of Rocky. The film won an Oscar for best picture in 1977, beating out Taxi Driver and All The President’s Men, and it also sparked a Rocky franchise making Stallone a star.