Failing Isn’t Always Failure

Success is great. We all want it. But the road to success can be blocked by failure. Detouring around those roadblocks can be a challenge, but it’s not without its rewards.

In her article “Inspirational Stories of Famous Failures and Their Future Success” at, Janeen Elite writes about how the Vice President of Columbia University told a young actor that he would never make it in the business. That actor was Harrison Ford. Another example is John Grisham, whose first book was rejected by 12 publishing houses and sixteen agents. Years ago a record company passed judgment on a young rock band, saying, “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” The band was The Beatles.

When people are discouraged, I always suggest that they watch or read biographies. There are few better ways to see how failure can actually set the stage for success. Successful people don’t achieve everything they attempt on the very first try. In fact, they often have more failures, simply because they take more risks. Risks (at least well-thought-out risks) are the key to living life to its fullest. They also come with setbacks and disappointments. It’s all part of the package.

Families, friends and teachers can sometimes be emotionally and verbally abusive. But that won’t stop a truly successful person. Elite goes on to write about how Charles Darwin was told by his father that he would be a disgrace to himself and his family. Beethoven was told by a music teacher that he was “hopeless” as a composer. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he “lacked imagination and had no original ideas.” Albert Einstein wasn’t able to speak until he was almost 4 years old and his teachers said he would “never amount to much.”

Success usually evolves gradually. Most successful people don’t walk around thinking, “I’m successful.” They’re too busy doing what made them that way in the first place; namely, concentrating on doing the things they love. Success begins the moment you commit to something valuable: being an entrepreneur, an artist or musician, advancing a cause, or whatever your passion.

Thomas Edison was told by a teacher he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. Isaac Newton did poorly in school and failed at running the family farm. Michael Jordan was cut from the high school basketball team, went home, locked himself in his room and cried. Marilyn Monroe was told by a producer she was “unattractive” and could not act. Julia Roberts auditioned – unsuccessfully – for “All My Children.” Obviously, rejection has little to do with eventual success.

The authors of the book series, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” were told by publishers that “anthologies didn’t sell” and that the book was “too positive.” It was rejected 140 times. It has now expanded to over 65 different titles and has sold more than 80 million copies. Philosopher Ayn Rand’s novel “The Fountainhead” was rejected by 12 publishers before being accepted. It became a classic, followed by the author’s landmark novel, “Atlas Shrugged.” Library of Congress surveys have ranked it as the most influential book in people’s lives, second only to the Bible. Richard Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” was rejected 18 times before it was published and sold well over a million copies.

Rejection doesn’t prove anything. In fact, it often proves the opposite. Successful people take risks and are undaunted by rejection. If you like what you’re doing and you know it’s of value, then it’s only a matter of time before you’ll find others who feel the same way. You might use that wisdom to abandon a floundering project in favor of a better one, but never give up on yourself.