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Goal Achievement

11 Super Successful Entrepreneurs Who Failed at First

Author:NeuroGym Team

The word “failure” just sounds bad, right?

Failing a test, or a class, or a failed marriage . . .

That blows.

What about a failed business?

(Probably not much fun either.)

Here’s the good news: “failures” are great opportunities to learn.

No matter what you try, your chances of getting it right the first time are slim.

Think about a sport or game you play. If you play against great players, you’ll lose a lot at first. If you keep playing with them, you’ll improve to their level.

Leveling up is almost always uncomfortable, and necessary.

These 11 entrepreneurs are a great example of what can happen if you make it past the challenges.

1. Fred Smith of FedEx

FedEx faced not one, but two major setbacks.

Initially, this multi-billion dollar company was a term project at Yale University.

His professor said,  “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.”


That didn’t stop Smith, however. He got funding, planes, and people, and started operating.

Two years in, the company faced high fuel charges and a bunch of debt.

At one point, FedEx had $5,000 left. Still believing in his capacity to succeed against all odds, Smith took it to Las Vegas.

And what do you know?

He did succeed. He turned 5,000 into 27,000 — enough to cover costs for another week. That’s about how long it took for him to find another investor.

The Lesson: 

No one’s recommending blackjack as a finance tactic, but tenacity is one handy tool.

This could have been a perfectly reasonable time to give up. In fact, I bet a lot of people were expecting FedEx to be over.

Fred Smith had a different mindset than most. He tried something most people would call “crazy,” because he believed in what was possible.

So stay strong, and carry on!

2. Oprah

This renowned communicator had a hard early life. After graduating from college, she took a job at a tv station — but it didn’t last long.

She was fired shortly after, as the producer dubbed her “unfit for TV

…I think we all know how untrue that it. Good thing she didn’t take that to heart!

The Lesson:

If someone tells you that you aren’t cut out for something, think about where that may be coming from.

Sometimes people put each other down out of jealousy, or because they don’t see the the other’s true value.

Make sure you show the world what you can do, and don’t let a ney-sayer take away your drive.

3. Henry Ford

Henry Ford revolutionized the production of cars.

But first, he alienated his investors by taking too long, and subsequently lost funding twice.After the second mishap, Ford’s reputation in the auto industry was abysmal. Most people aren’t willing to give out a third chance.

Mr. Ford was persistent.

He eventually found backing from a foreign investor who wasn’t afraid of a little risk.

You know the saying: Third time’s the charm!


Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, and Henry Ford


4. Thomas Edison

This guy takes the cake when it comes to appreciating failures.

Rather than use such a harsh word, he considered each “failure” an iteration.

He’s famous for inventing the lightbulb, on the 10,000th try — something he readily acknowledged.

“When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work,” Edison explained.

Nothing wrong with a little trial and error.

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5. Ariana Huffington

Maybe you’ve heard of the Huffington Post?

Before founding the infamous site, Ms. Huffington published 2 books.

36 publishers told this woman “no,” before she finally found a publisher.

This was probably good preparation, since the Huffington Post also received bad reviews initially.

How would your life be different if you stopped listening to the “no’s?”

6. Colonel Sanders

Although the validity of this story isn’t certain, it still contains a valuable lesson.

The founder the famous fried chicken food chain, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), didn’t get started until his late 60s.

Before that he served in the Army, worked on a railroad, spent a few years with an oil company, and had two wives (one at a time, of course).


 Photo Credit: Wikipedia


Although many people think 60+ is “too late,” the Colonel figured, “better late than never!”

7. JK Rowling

In 1992, JK Rowling was jobless, penniless, and divorced with a baby. She had three chapters of Harry Potter in her suitcase as she fled to her sister’s house.

Despite (understandable) depression, she kept writing until she had a book.

12 prominent publishers rejected Harry Potter, before Rowling tried a small publishing house named “Bloomsbury.”

They agreed to print 1,000 copies (500 to be placed in libraries).

And the rest, they say, is history!

8. Walt Disney

Can you imagine someone with the audacity to call this man “unimaginative?”

(Me either.)

Before creating the empire we all know and love, Mr. Disney was fired from a newspaper for his lack of creativity.

Photo credit: Wikipedia


9. Steve Jobs

This story is so famous you’ve probably heard it a few times already.

The iconic Steve Jobs was at one point fired from his own company, Apple.

In a commencement speech1 at Standord, he said, “What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.”

That’s the point where many people give up. Or settle.

What would you deprive the world of if you stop striving towards your goals?


10. Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is impressive. His followers love him, and his contribution to the world is well received.You would never guess that 26 out of 27 publishers rejected The Four Hour Workweek.

Just because someone can’t see your talent doesn’t mean others won’t appreciate it.

Try thinking about it this way: maybe only 10 in 100 people will like what you do. Your job is to find those 10 people. It doesn’t matter what the other 90 say.

As Dr. Seuss put it:

Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.


11. Nick Woodman

You’ve heard of GoPro, right?

This surfer dude was the creator of what is now a multi-billion dollar company.

Before that? He had two massive failures.

Startups 1 and 2 were both in the tech space. The first one hardly got off the ground.

The second resulted in a huge loss to investors — and to Nick’s confidence.

Somehow, the fear of a third failure drove him to work harder on GoPro.

The lesson?

Just like surfing in the ocean, learn to ride the fear, don’t fight it.

Here’s What We All Have in Common With Them

We’re all human.

If you’re feeling down, and someone gives you some negative feedback, just remember: At this very moment, you have all the power within you to achieve all of your dreams.

You just need to believe it.

In closing, here are some  words from Nelson Mandela:

So many of our dreams at first seem impossible. Then they seem improbable. And then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.

If you ever have setbacks or moments of uncertainty, DO THIS INNERCISE.

(It’s scientifically proven to boost your confidence.)


About The Author

NeuroGym Team

NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.

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