Celebrating Celebrity Failures

(Information for this essay comes from the following sources: websites “presentoutlook.com/famous failures”, “getbusylivingblog.com” and the book

“Celebrity Setbacks” by Ed Lucaire.)

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In our pursuit of our dreams, we are often intimidated by the success of celebrities. We think that they have never experienced failures and rejections. We seldom think about them in any other way.

But, in reality, celebrities have all experienced failures. And they have learned from their failures. It has made them stronger and wiser.

And it should inspire us not to give up in pursuit of our dreams.

We all have to start somewhere. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:”Every artist was first an amateur.”

Here’s a short list of celebrities and their failures:

J.K. Rowling, the author of “Harry Potter” was, at one time, penniless, recently divorced and raising a child on her own. She wrote the first Harry Potter book on an old manual typewriter.

Twelve publishers rejected the manuscript. But her publisher Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book but insisted she get a day job since there was no money in children’s books.

Rowlings, talking about failures, told an audience at Harvard in June 2008:”You might never fail on the scale I did. But it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

In high school, Peanuts cartoon creator Charles Schulz failed at algebra, Latin, English, physics. He had his cartoons rejected by the high school yearbook staff. He applied as a cartoonist at Walt Disney studios but was turned down.

Abraham Lincoln dropped out of grade school. He went into politics at the age of 23 for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly and failed. He ran a country store and went broke. He took him 15 years to pay off bills. He had an unhappy marriage. He ran for Congress twice and lost. And ran for the senate twice and lost. He was attacked daily by the press and half the country despised him.

Success is often determined by one’s persistence especially against incredible odds. Just a few who might fit that description:

Many people didn’t think that Theodore Seuss Geisel, or better known as Dr. Seuss, author of “Cat In the Hat” would succeed at writing children’s books. 27 different publishers had rejected his first book “To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.” 

Author/lawyer John Grisham’s first book “A Time To Kill” took three 3 years to write. It was rejected 28 times. It sold only 5000 copies.

Stephen King’s first book “Carrie’ was rejected 30 times. And he threw it in the trash. His wife retrieved it and told him to resubmit it. He has sold more than 350 million copies of his books.

Colonel Sanders the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken was a late bloomer. He started his dream at 65 years of age. Frustrated by his small social check, he thought that restaurant owners would love his chicken recipe. He drove around the country knocking on doors, sleeping in his car, wearing his white suit. He was rejected 1009 times before someone accepted his recipe.

Walt Disney’s first animation company went bankrupt. He was fired by a news editor because he lacked imagination. It’s been said that he was turned down 302 times before he got financing for Disney World.

The Beatles were rejected by many record labels. One label said that:”guitar groups are on the way out” and “The Beatles have no future in show business.”

Vincent van Gogh painted over 800 pieces but only sold one painting in his lifetime. Now everyone wants to buy them.

Poet Emily Dickinson famous for her poem “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain” wrote over 1800 poems but only 7 were published in her lifetime.

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Many celebrities’ hurdles are the negative attitudes of family and teachers as in the following:

Albert Einstein didn’t speak until a later age. His parents and teachers thought he was mentally handicapped. He performed poorly in school.

Isaac Newton failed at running the family farm and did poorly in school.

The father of Charles Darwin told him he would amount to nothing and would be disgrace to himself and his family.

The music teacher of Beethoven once told him that he was a hopeless composer.

Thomas Edison was told by his teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything. Edison would later say that `if I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

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We look at our sports heroes who seem larger than life. We worship the land that they walk on. They appear indestructible. But we forget that they, too, are human as the following examples will show. 

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He once said:”I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Babe Ruth, one of baseball’s prolific home run hitters, struck out 1330 times.

Though Reggie Jackson was a winner of many awards and world championships, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, baseball’s “Mr.October” and  hit 563 home runs, he struck out 2597 times and  said to be the all time major league strikeout king.  That’s an average of 1 out of 4 at bats. 

Ty Cobb, the “Georgia Peach”, a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, holds many records. But it is said that he committed more errors than any other outfielder in major league history.

Other celebrities who have known failures:

Michael J. Fox, star of TV series “Family Ties” was unemployed from 1980 – 1982. The phone stopped ringing. He didn’t have any money.

In high school, Comedian Robin Williams was elected least likely to succeed.

TV host Sally Jesse Raphael was fired 18 times in 36 years in the broadcasting business.

Sir Richard Branson had his share of failures. He has lost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was terrible at his early jobs. He tried carpentry but hated it. He was terrible at being a short order cook. He waited on tables but couldn’t open a bottle of wine. He said he was an idiot lots of times and he learned from them