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Famous Facts, Flops and Failures

Updated on July 11, 2011

Michael Jordon

Someone once said, “To err is human,” and history has borne this out. Most people have failed at something, but they are in good company. Many famous people throughout history, who were thought to be practically infallible, have had their share as well…although, their mistakes are not always widely known.

Did you know Henry Ford’s first two automobile companies were complete failures? There are many such examples. Such as Hillary Clinton failed the D.C. bar exam in the 1970s, but went on to become a presidential candidate. Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players to ever grace a court was actually cut from his high school team. And even baseball great Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times.

Walt Disney was actually fired from a job because he “lacked creativity and was rejected by over 300 banks while seeking funds for his theme park. Bank officials must still be kicking themselves over that. And Winston Churchill, one of the most important leaders in world history, failed the 6th grade. Equally as surprising, former US President Harry S. Truman was rejected for Military service due to his poor eyesight.

Mel Gibson

Who doesn’t remember comedian Lucille Ball? She failed dismally in her high school drama class because she was “too shy.” Or Ludwig van Beethoven? His music instructor said “as a composer, he is hopeless.”

Celebrities continue to be an ever overflowing source of dumb utterances which could conceivably have ruined their careers. Mel Gibson, for example was heard to say “(unprintable F word,) Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” That probably went over well with his Jewish fans. These immortal words were issued from an inebriated Gibson shortly after being arrested for DUI.

Horror master Stephen King’s famous book “Carrie,” was rejected 30 times. He became so frustrated he threw the manuscript in the garbage can. However, his wife took it out of the trash and encouraged him to keep trying. Another noted author, JK Rowling, lived on welfare for years. Rowling later wrote the Harry Potter series. Then there is Steven Spielberg who applied to film school 3 times but was rejected because he only had a C grade average.

Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda, is another example of a monumental failure on the part of motor giant Toyota. After World War II they rejected Honda’s application for an engineering position. Likewise, there were the founders of Sony, Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita. One of their first products, a rice cooker, failed because it burned rice rather than cook it.

Going back in history a ways, there was genius Isaac Newton.His record throughout grade school showed him to be a total failure rather than an intellectual. Another genius, Thomas Edison, was told by his teacher he was too stupid to learn anything. Imagine what might have been if only that teacher had encouraged young Edison and helped him in his studies. Even Albert Einstein was said to be 4 years old before he could speak.speak.

Here’s another tasty tidbit. The Colonel’s chicken may have been “Finger lick’n good,” but some restaurants with really smart taste testers rejected his recipe over 1,000 times.

Here are a few more examples:

· Actor Harrison Ford was once told by the Vice President of Columbia he would never make it as an actor.

· Author John Grisham’s first book was rejected by 12 publishing houses and 16 agents.

· The Beatles were turned down by a recording company who said "We don't like their sound and guitar music is on the way out."

· Charles Darwin’s father told him he would never amount to anything but a disgrace to his family.

· The book Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 140 times. It now has over 80 million copies sold around the world.

So, what have we learned from this little article? Maybe W.C. Fields said it best. “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damn fool about it."


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    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      I could have included many others, but then it would never have been finished. I'm not so certain Audie Murphy was rejected for his height. I was a short Marine 5'4. And I believe all services have the same standard. There were a few shorter Marines. Read my story "The Littlest Marine."

    • profile image


      7 years ago from Dayton, ohio

      Harry Truman being rejected from the military over poor eyesight has nothing to do with his later success as a politician. You could have mentioned Audie Murphy being rejected by the Marines for being too short.

      I find it funny how people will struggle for years and finally succeed at something, then be refered to as an "Overnight Success".

      A fine hub indeed.

    • Alexander Props profile image

      Alexander Props 

      7 years ago


      Loved it sooooo much, articles like this really inspire me.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the interesting and inspiring information. It's strange how sometimes an endeavor seems doomed for failure and later turns out to be a wonderful success.


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