In an earlier post, I discussed society’s tendency to glorify business leaders’ current renown without properly depicting the struggle they endured, the modest beginnings they overcame in their journey to fiscal superstardom. Yet, while I talked about a few individuals’ beginnings, I did not mention the outright failure so many faced in their lives as they were building their career. It was not just personal turmoil that stood in the way; it was professional as well. Here are a few titans of business that were forced to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds as they paved their way to success:
While we all know the ubiquitous Huffington Post and the mastermind behind it, many of us do not know the obstacles Arianna Huffington faced before enjoying her current renown. When attempting to publish her second book, Huffington was rejected by thirty-six different major publishers. Yet, her resilience and determination motivated her to keep trying, to keep pushing no matter how discouraging the results. While her second book may not be what made her career, the unshakeable determination she displayed to get the book published did, considering it was this same determination and dedication that led to her online legacy, The Huffington Post.
Interestingly enough, the now world famous news and opinion publication was not an immediate success. On initial release, it faced a barrage of criticism questioning its quality of writing and its long-term potential. However, with a focus on the future and certainty in herself, Arianna Huffington pushed on and built her empire despite the negative reviews, despite the adversity, and despite the potentially overwhelming obstacles she encountered.
The now 72.9 billion dollar man is by no means a stranger to the sting and stink of failure. Before establishing the incredibly successful Microsoft, Bill Gates invested in Traf-O-Data as his first entrepreneurial stint. Although the company attempted to efficiently “process and analyze the data from traffic tapes,” it was mostly unable to develop a commercially viable product.
Despite the questionable product, Bill Gates and his partner tried to sell the idea anyway, only to be met with constant rejection. After a few years, Bill Gates eventually moved on from his failed Traf-O-Data experiment and was able to develop his very first Microsoft product; and now, he has amassed such a fortune that he is a household name the world over.
Remarkably, and almost laughable in retrospect, Walt Disney was once told he “lacked creativity.” In fact, he was fired from a newspaper because of it. After the newspaper’s questionable decision, Disney formed his first animation company, Laugh-O-Gram. Although he was able to raise a notable $15,000 for the company, he was eventually forced to close its doors after an integral distribution partner backed out.
Yet, Walt Disney did not lose inspiration. Rather, he redoubled his efforts and moved to Hollywood, where he underwent more rejection, more criticism, and more failure. Eventually, however, after he ran out of money, after he had tasted desperation, he found success. His first few films amassed a following, he established his company, and the rest is history.
Failure is present every day, everywhere, in every facet of our lives, both professional and personal. Yet, if we embrace it, if we learn from it, if we improve from it, we will benefit from it.