You’ve probably heard…
“The road to success isn’t a straight line.”
Or maybe that…
“The road to success is always under construction.”
Or maybe even…
“The road to success is paved with failure.”
I’ve been hearing these quotes since the first grade.
And they’re true, of course.
In fact, the more I study success the more I realize it almost always has an inverse relationship to failure on the graph of life.
The more successful you are, the more trials and tribulations you’re likely to have traversed to get there.
So if you really want to be successful, the secret is simple: FAIL FASTER!
What’s that, you say? You want proof?
Well, it just so happens I have some…
The Rocky Road to Fame and Fortune
It’s a rare individual that takes a straight line to success.
Even when it appears as if they did, a little digging finds a rocky and weathered road they would rather not talk about.
Let’s look at a few…
Co-Founder, Oracle Corporation
Net Worth: $63.4 Billion
“Great achievers are driven, not so much by the pursuit of success but by the fear of failure.”
- Contracted pneumonia at nine months old
- Adopted by his great-aunt and uncle
- Went to a public college, then dropped out
- Enrolled at the University of Chicago, then dropped out again
- Worked odd jobs for 8 years
- Started a business that struggled, forcing him to mortgage his house
- Fired most of the people in his company to save it from ruin in the 1990s
- Now he owns 98% of the island of Lanai in Hawaii
Co-Founder, Microsoft Corporation
Net Worth: $99.7 Billion
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
- Banned from school for hacking
- Co-founded Traf-O-Data, a failed traffic monitoring company
- Dropped out of Harvard
- Accused of stealing from a rival
- Got a cream pie thrown in his face by a protester
- Became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire at 31 years old
- Committed to donating half of his wealth over his lifetime
Founder, The Walt Disney Company
Net Worth: $5 Billion
“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all the troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
- Dropped out of school at 16 to join the Army
- Rejected from Army, joined the Red Cross instead
- Fired from Missouri newspaper at 22; editor felt he “lacked imagination”
- Started Laugh-O-Gram Studio, which went bankrupt after two years
- Lost the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, his most successful character
- Went completely broke
- Created Mickey Mouse on a train from Manhattan to Hollywood
- Nominated for 59 Academy Awards, winning 32
Founder, Oprah Winfrey Network
Net Worth: $2.5 Billion
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.”
- Abused by relatives as a child
- Got pregnant at 14 and lost the baby
- Took talk show called AM Chicago from lowest-rated to highest-rated
- Humiliated and sexually harassed during her first job as a TV news anchor
- Her first boss told her she was too emotional and not fit for television
- Won Emmy awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award
- The richest self-made woman billionaire according to Forbes
- Has donated millions of dollars to charities
Net Worth: $139.8 Billion
“One of the huge mistakes people make is they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passion; your passion chooses you.”
- Didn’t realize he was adopted until he was 10
- Worked as a McDonald’s fry cook
- Struggled with physics in college and switched to computer science instead
- Turned down jobs at Intel and Bell Labs for a startup that failed in two years
- Job-hopped within the finance industry
- Quit his job to start Cadabra, later renamed Amazon
- Launched a failed auction site to try to take down eBay
- Now one of the wealthiest people in history
Founder, Carnegie Steel Co
Net Worth: $310 Billion
“And here is the prime condition of success, the great secret: concentrate your energy, thought, and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged.”
- Born poor in Scotland and watched his father fail repeatedly
- Received very little formal education
- Fled from poverty in Scotland and came to America at 13
- Earned $1.20 per week at a textile factory
- Worked as a telegrapher and found a job at the railroad
- Dodged the draft by paying for a substitute
- Even after achieving success, he dealt with significant criticism in the press
- Donated massive sums of his wealth to philanthropic causes
Founder, The Virgin Group
Net Worth: $4 Billion
“My attitude has always been, if you fall flat on your face, at least you’re moving forward. All you have to do is get back up and try again.”
- Struggled in school because of his dyslexia
- Dropped out of school at 16
- His headmaster said he’d either end up in prison or become a millionaire
- Created a magazine called Student, which experienced cash flow problems
- Created a mail-order record business called Virgin to help fund magazine
- Wanted to start an airline, but in the first test of their only plane a flock of birds flew into the engine
- Started a soda company, digital download company, car company, and bridal gown company, which all failed
- His Virgin Group now controls over 400 companies
Net Worth: $17.7 Billion
“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”
- Got thrown down a staircase at school
- Had an existential crisis at 14 and read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in a search for answers
- Dropped out of Stanford University’s Ph.D. program
- Slept in the office and showered at the local YMCA as his company, Zip2, was getting off the ground
- Got fired as the CEO of PayPal while he was on vacation
- Invested $40 million in his own company to save it from bankruptcy
- Controls numerous companies such as SpaceX, SolarCity, and Tesla Motors
- Wealthiest South African billionaire by net worth
Founder, Bloomberg L.P.
Net Worth: $53.9 Billion
“Being an entrepreneur isn’t really about starting a business. It’s a way of looking at the world: seeing opportunity where others see obstacles, taking risks when others take refuge.”
- Demoted from partner to the information technology division of his company after 13 years as a stock trader
- Laid off at age 39
- Created a Wall Street firm that pitched technology built on better and more accessible data
- To land the first client he promised, “I’ll get it done in six months, and if you don’t like it you don’t have to pay for it.”
- His company now has over 300,000 subscriptions to Bloomberg Terminal
Co-Founder, Alibaba Group
Net Worth: $35 Billion
“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.”
- Pedaled 70 miles on his bike to give tours to tourists
- Flunked his college entrance exam twice
- Applied to Harvard 10 times and got rejected
- Applied to KFC with a group of 24 other people; they hired 23, he was rejected
- Created an ugly website, China Yellow Pages, with a $20k budget
- Was told that his escrow payment service was a stupid idea
- Now one of the richest people in China
Ok, so what does all of this have to teach us?
The Moral of the Billionaire Success Story
The way I see it, the moral of the story is this…
The most successful people in life are those who fail the most.
Falling flat on your face isn’t just a mere possibility on the road to success, it’s an absolute requirement.
So where are you going to fail today?
Wherever and whatever it is, go out and do it now.
Because the sooner you get the necessary failures out of the way, the sooner you’ll be able to bask in the warm sunshine of success.
If you truly want to succeed, nothing beats action.
Along that vein, I’ll leave you with two quotes that I love and live by…
“Good things come to people who wait, but better things come to those who go out and get them.” – Walt Disney
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
Now get back to work… if it’s going to be, it’s up to thee!