In every success strategy, there are at least a dozen epic failures. And if you ask the richest and most accomplished entrepreneurs of today’s free world, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. Where would we be without our trials, and what would we learn without our mistakes? Right at the beginning, at status quo.
The following five billionaires have had it worse than you ever will.
Their stories of adversity, persistence, and success are written to inspire you.
Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you’re not innovating enough.
Musk is a living, breathing example of how big dreams and hard work eventually amount to world-changing realizations. He too is a university dropout, a fired CEO of a gigantic company, and a philanthropist who continues to give back to the humanity after decades of imposing ups and downs.
His first company, Zip2, immediately comes to mind.
When Musk talks about Zip2 today, he hardly ever fails to mention how he and his brother saved money by sleeping in the office and showering in the nearby YMCA. Despite all their efforts and a couple of serious investors, Musk was ultimately turned down for a CEO position in his own company.
In the context of SpaceX’s huge success, Musk has managed to transform the famous NASA slogan (the failure is not an option) into a propeller for change. Having overcome all of his obstacles, he now firmly believes that – if we are to make any difference in the world – failure is our only viable option.
It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.
Before having founded the Microsoft Corporation, the godfather of business magnates, now worth a whopping $93 billion, was a high school and Harvard dropout with a failed traffic monitoring company who was accused of stealing from a rival. Today, he’s rich enough to give half of his wealth to others.
His followers count as much as seven epic failures during his career in tech.
Traf-O-Data, a company founded by both Gates and his Microsoft partner, Paul Allen, had virtually no customers. After building a strong foundation for Microsoft, Gates was criticized for turning down the government and crucified for underestimating the Internet, which led to the company’s 2000s decline.
In August 1997, as Microsoft fans recall, Gates made one of the biggest CEO mistakes in tech – investing in his company’s rival Apple. Google bested Microsoft the following year, thanks to a not-so-great MSN Search, developed by Gates himself. The entrepreneur’s learned his lesson and moved on.
My attitude has always been, if you fall flat on your face, at least you’re moving forward.
All you have to do is get back up and try again.
Virgin’s CEO is not only a failed founder of a magazine, an airline, a soda company, a car company, a bridal gown company, and a digital download company, but also a dyslexic visionary with a bad attitude. At least that’s how his headmaster saw him when he predicted that Branson’s place is in jail.
Luckily, Branson has stayed on the right side of the law and took the very first opportunity to learn from his mistakes. Instead of letting his Student magazine go under, he pivoted into a mail-order discount record business, a billion-dollar recording empire we now know by the name Virgin Records.
Of course, he still made time to flirt with other industries and niches, mostly unsuccessfully.
The greatest lesson any entrepreneur could receive from Bronson strongly resembles the infamous fake it until you make it mindset. It took him not two or three, but as much as six business mishits to arrive at this place. Just imagine if he let even one of these failures crush his spirits and derail his path.
Not only is a failure a prerequisite for getting what we want, but it’s sometimes exactly what leads us to discover what we actually need. Embrace it like a boss, learn something wise every time it surprises you, but never ever give up. If you’re looking for a moral of these five stories, this perfectly sums it up.
The difference in winning and losing is most often not quitting.
The founder of the Walt Disney Company, which is currently worth $92 billion, was in his lifetime rejected by the Army, fired from a number of jobs, stripped of his intellectual property, and finally bankrupt before he eventually got an idea that will make him crazy rich – the beloved Mickey Mouse.
Much to his disappointment, Mickey Mouse was rejected by MGM studios too.
Disney had faced adversity in both private and professional life long before his first company, the Laugh-O-Gram Corporation, declared bankruptcy after just two short years. Everything he had tried and failed in – be that a job as an ambulance driver or a career in acting – led him to a person we love.
Even then, not all of Disney’s projects were immediate successes. At first, The Three Little Pigs and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were both turned down, while Pinocchio and Fantasia brought him more financial headache than international recognition. Nonetheless, Disney was determined not to quit.
Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.
One of the rare ladies with a VIP booth in the all-male billionaire’s club, Oprah is a survival of a child abuse and a spokesperson for unprivileged and repressed people through the world. At the beginning of her career as a TV news anchor, Oprah had faced years of both humiliation and sexual harassment.
In a Vanity Fair interview, Oprah talks about the biggest challenge of her career – the big-budget movie Beloved that turned out to be an office box flop on the very first day. The attitude that helped her prevail was, in her words, instilled with selfless gratitude, unwavering persistence, and mindfulness.
But not before she took a six-week long plunge into food, depression, and suppressing her feelings.
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