8 Successful People Who Experienced Big Failure Before Success

15 Min Read
oprah winfrey lessons learned from failures

One of the greatest teachers ever known to mankind yet unseen but his teachings reach deep into the minds of people is one I call Dr. Failure. The lessons of Failure give rise to courage and fear which ultimately determines how life turns out for everyone. Many develop a fear of everything while others courage knowing that this teacher though cruel offers the most profound teachings in life. His teachings are so vivid yet blurry to some, exciting yet painful.

However, some people experienced failure’s horror along their way to success, they didn’t let failure limit them. They were the ones courageous enough to apply the lessons of failure and failed their way to success. You may know some of these people today are known as the most successful, here are a few of and what they learned;

Bill Gates: Co-founder Microsoft Corporation

Bill Gates failureYou know Bill Gates as the richest man in the world with a Net worth of 89.1 billion USD (2017) Forbes. Before Bill Gates partnered with Paul Allen and launched Microsoft, which became the world’s largest PC software company, they experienced failure. In the early 1970’s Bill Gates and Paul Allen started a company called Traf-O-Data – a company that created reports for traffic engineers after reading and analyzing data from roadway counters. They failed in selling their wares, as Allen recalls;

“Despite efforts to sell our wares as far afield as South America, we had virtually no customers. Traf-O-Data was a good idea with a flawed business model. It hadn’t occurred to us to do any market research, and we had no idea how hard it would be to get capital commitments from municipalities.”

Allen looks back to their experience with Traf-O-Data:
“Even though Traf-O-Data wasn’t a roaring success, it was seminal in preparing us to make Microsoft’s first product a couple of years later” By applying the lessons derived from their failure, they both made Microsoft a Success. You may not build as much fortune as Bill Gates but when you apply the lessons from your failure you increase your chances of achieving success to certainty.

Read More on Lessons of Bill Gates in his book:

Bill Gates: The Life and Business Lessons of Bill Gates  Get Yours Here

Oprah Winfrey: Director/Producer, Entrepreneur, Personality, Philanthropist

oprah winfrey failure
Oprah Winfrey [image credit]
Oprah is one of the most influential people in the world, best known for her talk show” The Oprah Winfrey Show” which was the rated the highest television program from 1986 to 2011. She is ranked as the richest African-American with a real-time net worth of $3.1 Billion. With this much fortune you will wonder, how did she fail her way to success? Oprah was fired from her first television job as an anchor in Baltimore, where she said she faced sexism and harassment. Most people in her shoes would have either pursued a different career, quit or given up. The lessons Oprah learned from her time in Baltimore were priceless using them to find her way. In an interview with Al Roker on the Today Show, Winfrey explains that it was all a powerful lesson:

It taught me to do whatever you’re going to do and release all expectations for it.”

A key thing she learned about expectations, knowing how often we want things to always go our way but it doesn’t. So, whatever you find worth doing, give it your all, but learn to manage your expectations.

Warren Buffett – CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett failure
Warren Buffett [image credit]
Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor with a real-time net worth of about $79.8 Billion according to Forbes, a sage of financial wisdom. Also known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Buffett is one of the most successful investors of all time. He has committed to giving more than 99% of his fortune to charity. So far he has given nearly $32 billion.

Even though he’s made a huge success Buffett still considers his acquisition of the Berkshire a “200-billion-dollar mistake.” Buffet let his ego get in the way when He bought a controlling portion of the company so that he could have the pleasure of firing its CEO over a tender offer agreement they both had at the time which came in 1/8 of a point lower than they had agreed previously. Though it might have given him satisfaction at the time, Buffett later called the move a “200-billion-dollar mistake.”

Why? Because Buffett wasted precious time and capital on a textile mill in terminal decline rather than allocate his funds in something more profitable—in his case, insurance.

Although he managed to turn tides in favor of Berkshire, he still missed out on the immense opportunity in something more profitable, like insurance, and—by his own estimates—doubled his returns over the course of his career.

Get the wisdom of Warren Buffet in his books:

Warren Buffett: The Life, Lessons & Rules For Success   Get Yours Here

Steve Jobs – was Chairman, CEO, and a Co-founder of Apple Inc.

Steve Jobs failure
Steve Jobs.Justin Sullivan / Getty

Everyone knows Steve Jobs as Apple’s former head honcho. Not every Apple product launched with a thousand overcrowded lines filled with excitement. The Lisa computer sold poorly and in 1985 board of directors decided and removed Jobs from the Macintosh division.

Soon after Jobs left Apple, he found a new company called NeXT. The company didn’t manage to have the access Jobs was hoping for well, but Apple purchased the software division in 1997 and Jobs was back at Apple, becoming CEO in 2000. He faced setbacks in trying to make Apple something special:

“…a company that will still stand for something a generation or two from now That’s what Walt Disney did, and Hewlett and Packard, and the people who built Intel. They created a company to last, not just to make money. That’s what I want Apple to be.”

With the successes of the Macbook, iPod, the iPhone and iPad, and a little animation company called Pixar, Jobs turned a mountain of failures into the ultimate success story. Just because you encountered failure doesn’t mean that’s where your path ends, that’s no excuse to give up  Keep innovating, implementing, and believing in what you do. You’ll get back on track eventually, and it’s possible you’ll be even better off than before.

Arianna Huffington – President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington

Arianna Huffington failureYou probably know Arianna Huffington as the President and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, but she’s had her share of ups and downs along the path to success. She was the first foreign female president of Cambridge Union debating society, published her first bestseller at 23, and has been a prominent figure in US politics. Whether you’re a fan of her or not, she’s a very successful person, one who has encountered failure numerous times. Over at Success, Mary Vinnedge says Huffington will always recall two of her biggest failures:

…high on her list of failures are the 36 rejections of her second book, despite the success of her first. Then there’s her abysmal showing as an independent in California’s 2003 gubernatorial race: Although Huffington withdrew a week before the election, her name stayed on the ballot and she finished fifth with 0.55 percent of the vote.

Huffington’s approach to her own failures is one driven by positivity. She recognized failure, its relevance and has her mother to thank for it:

“My mother instilled in me that failure was not something to be afraid of, that it was not the opposite of success. It was a stepping stone to success. So I had no fear of failure. Perseverance is everything. I don’t give up. Everybody has failures, but successful people keep on going…

It’s not always easy, but when you keep moving forward—despite the failures and obstacles you encounter along the way—you’re already way ahead of everyone who gave up.

Jack Ma: Founder and Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group

Jack Ma failure
Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California, on Oct. 27. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

We know the guru, Ma behind Alibaba Group, one of the world’s largest e-commerce business. Ma co-founded and chairs Alibaba’s revenue in the 12 months ending in March 2017 rose by 56% to $23 billion. Alibaba’s IPO in New York in 2014 set a record as the world’s biggest public stock offering. Now Ma’s investments beyond Alibaba includes China entertainment industry firms Huayi Brothers and Beijing Enlight Media.

Jack Ma shares his long story failure on Goalcast:

“I had a lot of failures. I failed for, funny things that I failed in, a key primary school test for two times. I failed three times for the middle schools. You know for three years I tried, failed in the universities. So I applied jobs for thirty times, got rejected. I went for the police, they said, “No you’re not good.” I went to even the KFC, when KFC came to China, came to our city, people went for the job. Twenty-three people accepted. I was the only one who got rejected. Here’s his advice about failure;

“I think we have to get used to it. We’re not that good. Even today we still have a lot of people reject us. I don’t think in this world there are a lot people being rejected more than thirty times. If we, the only thing, we never give up. The only thing, we’re like Forrest Gump, we keep on fighting. We keep on changing ourselves. We don’t complain. ”

Sergey Brin: President, Google

Sergey Brin failure
Sergey Brin

Brin works as president of tech giant Alphabet, the parent firm of Google. Forbes 13th world billionaire’s with a real-time net worth is $44.8 B as at 15th April 2017. Brin co-founded the search engine firm Google with Larry Page in 1998 which the world knows today and often use it as its name as a search word “google it”.

There is hardly any doubt that Google is successful, but what is yet unknown to most is the story behind one of Google’s co-founders, Sergey Brin, and how he met failure before his success with Google.

In a video, Brin recalled how he made an effort to start-up a company that allowed customers to order pizza by fax which was an epic failure. He laughed as he recalled the pizza companies they tried to launch the product with failed to check their fax machines and didn’t make the orders.

If Brinn had given up instead of trying, he would not have made a huge success he has today as one of the founders of a search empire. Don’t give up because you failed rather see the great lessons you could learn from your failure and apply it.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan failure

Micheal Jordan, is an American retired professional basketball player, businessman, and principal owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Six Championships of the National Basketball Association. Jordan recalls his failures as he 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.”

He kept on pushing, trying and became the greatest basketball player in history. He shares the reason for his success:

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”

The tales of these successful people teach that there’s no success without failure. You shouldn’t worry about your failures but what you can learn from them, keep pushing, never back down, apply and reapply the lessons learned from your failure to create your success.

Which of these successful people’s failure stories inspired you the most? Be inspired by more inspirational stories.

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Hi there!! I'm Anthony Ejiogu, Founder, and Creator of TheSuccessElite. It is my hope to be a part of your journey to self-discovery, achieving your dreams, and living up to your potential.