10 Success Stories of Famous People Who Begin With Setbacks

Have you ever felt discouraged because of a failure? Do not worry, even the most successful people in the world had to overcome failures and setbacks before achieving success. This article will explore ten stories of famous individuals who experienced setbacks but still managed to reach the top.

Why the best success stories often begin with failure?

Failure is an integral part of success. Without experiencing failures, it is challenging to learn from mistakes and grow as individuals. Failure can be a stepping stone towards success. It teaches us valuable lessons about perseverance, hard work, and resilience. In fact, many successful individuals have faced multiple failures before achieving their goals and becoming successful.

Who are some famous people who failed before they succeeded?

1. Oprah Winfrey

10 Success Stories of Famous People Who Begin With Setbacks

The television queen grew up in poverty and was sexually abused as a child. She tried her hand at being a TV reporter but was fired because she wasn’t deemed suitable for television. Issues from her childhood affected her, resulting in weight problems. She also experimented with cocaine and struggled in many relationships.

However, her life changed when she became the host of a television program, produced and appeared in her own show called “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. She transformed the talk show format by focusing on politics, health, spirituality, and philanthropy. Her program became the most watched talk show on the planet, making her a billionaire.

Now, Oprah Winfrey is a media executive, talk show host, and philanthropist. She became a multi-billionaire after her show became the most viewed talk show on the planet.

2. J.K. Rowling

10 Success Stories of Famous People Who Begin With Setbacks

At one point, the famous author of the Harry Potter series was a desperate unemployed single mother who relied on social welfare to support her child. She even wrote the first Harry Potter book while holding her baby in a café, eating and putting her child to sleep at the same time. Her book was rejected by no less than 12 publishers.

However, later on, Bloomsbury publisher agreed to publish this novel. The book received much praise and sold a lot of copies, allowing Rowling to continue writing subsequent parts and become wealthy with a fortune even greater than that of the Queen of England.

3. Thomas Edison

10 Success Stories of Famous People Who Begin With Setbacks

Thomas Edison is not only renowned for inventing various things such as the phonograph, movie camera, alkaline storage batteries, etc., but he is also well-known for his failures.

In elementary school, we were all taught that Thomas Edison failed over 10,000 times when attempting to invent a commercially-viable electric lightbulb. Edison was a master of trial and error. He was not afraid to make hundreds, or even thousands, of mistakes before figuring something out.

4. Winston Churchill

10 Success Stories of Famous People Who Begin With Setbacks

Churchill was once a rebellious boy, who didn’t do well in school and even failed sixth grade. He had a speech impediment and stuttered. He also faced challenges in his military and political careers, losing most of the elections he participated in. In the following years, he became isolated, even within the Conservative Party. His political reputation was severely affected to the point that he temporarily withdrew from Parliament and the House of Commons.

However, Churchill was one of the first people to recognize the danger of Nazi Germany and attempted to become the Prime Minister of England at the age of 62 during World War II. His perseverance helped Britain withstand Hitler and later defeat Nazi Germany, making him “the greatest Briton of all time.”

5. Lucille Ball

10 Success Stories of Famous People Who Begin With Setbacks

Lucille was expelled from John Murray Anderson School of Theatre and Art in New York due to her fear of performing. Later, she returned to New York as a fashion model and actress but was fired by at least two producers. She went to Hollywood and signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, but despite her best efforts, she only landed roles in B movies.

Finally, she found her path in the field of broadcasting and television, a new form of entertainment that emerged in the 1940s and 1950s. Together with her husband, Desi Arnaz, she created the TV program “I Love Lucy” which aired on CBS. This is one of the longest-running TV shows in history and helped her become a famous comedian.

6. Steven Spielberg

10 Success Stories of Famous People Who Begin With Setbacks

A young man with Dyslexia had his application to attend the University of Southern California’s School of Theatre, Film and Television rejected three times. Instead, he attended California State University but ultimately dropped out.

The famous filmmaker’s debut work, “Sugarland Express,” was highly acclaimed by critics but failed at the box office. However, Spielberg moved forward and was given opportunities with large-budget films such as “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “ET,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and “Jurassic Park.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences snubbed him for many years until he directed the film “Schindler’s List” in 1993, when he was finally awarded the Best Director prize. Since then, he has been recognized as an A-list Hollywood director and a major artistic force in film history.

7. Abraham Lincoln

10 Success Stories of Famous People Who Begin With Setbacks

The 16th President of the United States ended slavery in the country. He self-educated at home in a family on the country’s border. He tried to start his own business and entered politics, but due to a lack of education from a young age, connections of power, and money, he failed twice in business and eight times in elections. When he married Mary Todd, they had four sons, but three of them died early due to illness. This caused depression for him.

However, in 1860, he was nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate for the presidency. He won the election and became the President of the United States during the Civil War, ultimately ending slavery for African Americans.

8. Steve Jobs

10 Success Stories of Famous People Who Begin With Setbacks

Jobs redefined the way the world uses personal computers through Apple Inc., the computer company he founded. He created the Mac computer and GUI (Graphical User Interface). However, he was fired by the board of directors, which left him discouraged and disappointed.

He started a new company called NeXT Computer, developing the next generation of personal computer technology and purchased Lucasfilm’s film company, renaming it Pixar. When Apple was struggling, they invited him back and he agreed to return and eventually made Apple one of the most innovative and profitable companies on the planet.

9. Albert Einstein

10 Success Stories of Famous People Who Begin With Setbacks

One of the most well-known successful people who experienced numerous failures is definitely Albert Einstein. He couldn’t speak until he was 4 years old and couldn’t read until he turned 7.

His mother and teachers all believed that he learned too slowly. He was expelled from school and rejected when his parents applied for him to attend the Zurich Polytechnic. However, nowadays Einstein is always mentioned for his outstanding intelligence and contributions that changed the world.

10. Henry Ford

Henry Ford - Wikipedia

Henry Ford founded one of the most successful car companies of all time. However, he himself experienced several failures. In 1899, he established the Detroit Automobile Company, which soon went bankrupt.

In 1901, he established Henry Ford Company and went bankrupt once again. However, it was his third attempt that brought him success. Founding Ford Motor Company propelled him to the pinnacle of success and revolutionized the automotive industry.


Success does not happen overnight. It takes hard work, perseverance, and resilience to achieve our goals. Failure is a part of the journey towards success, and we should not be discouraged if we experience setbacks. The stories of these ten successful individuals show us that we can overcome our failures and achieve greatness if we keep trying. Following Biographypipe for news update

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