Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Failure Hall of Fame

Esty Atlas //April 14, 2014//

Failure Hall of Fame

Esty Atlas //April 14, 2014//

Ever been fired from a job? Good for you!

Failure is part of learning.  Through failure and disappointments do we truly grow and spread our wings!

Consider some of the most famous people who were fired or rejected and whose perseverance did not deter them from future success:

1919      WALT DISNEY                    IS FIRED from his newspaper job for “lacking imagination.”

1926      LUCILLE BALL                    IS TOLD by her acting coach that “she’s wasting her time and ours.”

1936      JOHN F. KENNEDY            RUNS FOR president of the freshman class at Harvard – and LOSES.

1960s    STEVEN SPIELBERG          IS REJECTED by the film school at the University of Southern California.

1962      THE BEATLES                     ARE TURNED DOWN by Decca Records.

1968      VERA WANG                      DOESN’T make the U.S. Olympic Figure Skating team.

1973      HILARY CLINTON              FAILS the D.C. bar exam.

1975      ANNA WINTOUR              IS FIRED from Harper’s Bazaar because her shoots are too edgy.

1977      OPRAH WINFREY              IS FIRED from her news-hosting job for getting too emotionally invested                                                                           in her stories.

1980      BILL CLINTON                   LOSES re-election as governor of Arkansas.

1981      MICHAEL BLOOMBERG   IS FIRED by investment bank Salomon Brothers.

1985      STEVE JOBS                        IS FIRED from the Macintosh division of Apple.

1996      J. K. ROWLING                  IS TURNED DOWN 12 times for her Harry Potter manuscript.

1990s    SARA BLAKELY                   (future founder of Spanx) BOMBS her LSATs – TWICE.


The point is pretty obvious and yet people generally feel horrible when they get fired or rejected.  If you’ve got talent or at least a good dose of determination at whatever stirs your motivation, then you will naturally try things or express yourself in ways that someone of authority may not like.  Many in this culture seem to have a huge fear of failure, so they play it safe and wonder why they aren’t getting ahead.

Today’s critical and overly opinionated society is not helpful.  At every media turn, there is someone voicing objection to something. What has happened to positive influence?  Who are today’s role models and risk-takers?  One of this generation that comes to my mind is controversial, but cannot be denied his due rewards. How about Elon Musk of Tesla and Space X, the former creator of Pay Pal?  

He was near financial ruin at one point, not to mention laughed at or ignored by both the aerospace and automotive industries.  Who’s laughing now?  Maybe it’s the guy or gal who loves driving their new status symbol: his zero emission, shiny electric Model S sedan, the one The Wall Street Journal calls, “This is one amazing car.  I mean, hard-core amazing.” Or the Space X manager who’s signing new billion dollar contracts for the rocket engines and thrusters they design and build in California.  On April 9, 2014, the news headlines read, “A private spaceflight company will launch its third robotic resupply mission to the International Space Station next week.”

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s unmanned Dragon vehicle loaded down with supplies is expected to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 14. This will be SpaceX’s third official flight to the station under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to fly 12 missions to the orbiting outpost using the Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket.

People are the engines and entrepreneurs that drive business, every business.   And in today’s top speed, globally competitive world, that means even a local business has to be willing to risk some degree of failure and pay attention to people who are working on a new product, service, or technology.  

So, if you need one more reminder that failure can be your greatest indicator of future success, look to a doctor; in this case, Theodore Seuss Geisel, best known as Dr. Seuss.  While his beautiful mind was dreaming up The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, stories full of clever tongue twisters, publisher after publisher rejected his stories.

Put this in your top hat: His first manuscript titled And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street (1937), was rejected by 28 publishers before Random House/Vanguard Press chose to publish it!  Finally, the former President of Random House, Bennett Cerf once remarked, “I’ve published any number of great writers, from William Faulkner to John O’Hara, but there’s only one genius on my authors list. His name is Ted Geisel.”

Persistence is the key.

I hope you remember, if someone is not yet realizing your true talent, it’s their loss, not yours.

In a related note, I am looking to interview as many as seven self-made entrepreneurs for a series of articles called, “Think Tank Experts.”  If interested, please contact me via email and put “Think Tank” in the subject line.