They Did Not Give Up
50 famous people who were repeatedly rejected early in their careers but went on to become household names...
Did not speak until he was 4-years-old and did not read until he was 7. His parents thought he was "sub-normal," and one of his teachers described him as "mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams." He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. He did eventually learn to speak and read. Even to do a little math.
Handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him "hopeless as a composer." And, of course, you know that he wrote five of his greatest symphonies while completely deaf.
Flunked out of college. He was described as both "unable and unwilling to learn." No doubt a slow developer.
Was fired by a newspaper editor because "he lacked imagination and had no good ideas." He went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. In fact, the proposed park was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff.
Failed sixth grade. He was subsequently defeated in every election for public office until he became Prime Minister at the age of 62. He later wrote, "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never, Never, Never, Never give up." (his capitals, mind you)
His teachers said he was "too stupid to learn anything." He was fired from his first two jobs for being "non-productive." As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" Edison replied, "I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps."
As a young man went to war a captain and returned a private. Afterwards, he was a failure as a businessman. As a lawyer in Springfield, he was too impractical and temperamental to be a success. He turned to politics and was defeated in his first try for the legislature, again defeated in his first attempt to be nominated for congress, defeated in his application to be commissioner of the General Land Office, defeated in the senatorial election of 1854, defeated in his efforts for the vice-presidency in 1856, and defeated in the senatorial election of 1858. At about that time, he wrote in a letter to a friend, "I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth."
Was booed from the podium when he first presented his ideas to the scientific community of Europe. He returned to his office and kept on writing.
Gave up a medical career and was told by his father, "You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat catching." In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, "I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect." Clearly, he evolved.
An expert said of him: "He possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation." Lombardi would later write, "It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get back up."
Is famous for his past home run record, but for decades he also held the record for strikeouts. He hit 714 home runs and struck out 1,330 times in his career (about which he said, "Every strike brings me closer to the next home run."). And didn't Mark McGwire break that strikeout record? (John Wooden once explained that winners make the most errors.)
Michael Jordan & Bob Cousy
Were each cut from their high school basketball teams. Jordan once observed, "I've failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed."
was rejected as a ball boy for a Davis Cup tennis match because he was "too awkward and clumsy." He went on to clumsily win Wimbledon and the U. S. Open. And eight Davis Cups.
Had every cartoon he submitted rejected by his high school yearbook staff. Oh, and Walt Disney wouldn't hire him.
After his first screen test the memo from the testing director of MGM, dated 1933, read, "Can't act. Can't sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little." He kept that memo over the fireplace in his Beverly Hills home. Astaire once observed that "when you're experimenting, you have to try so many things before you choose what you want, that you may go days getting nothing but exhaustion." And here is the reward for perseverance: "The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style."
After his first audition was told by the casting director, "Why don't you stop wasting people's time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?" It was at that moment, recalls Poitier, that he decided to devote his life to acting.
When she began studying to be actress in 1927, she was told by the head instructor of the John Murray Anderson Drama School, "Try any other profession."
The first time he walked on-stage at a comedy club as a professional comic, he looked out at the audience, froze, and forgot the English language. He stumbled through "a minute-and a half" of material and was jeered offstage. He returned the following night and closed his set to wild applause.
In 1944, Emmeline Snively, director of the Blue Book Modeling Agency, told modeling hopeful Norma Jean Baker, "You'd better learn secretarial work or else get married." I'm sure you know that Norma Jean was Marilyn Monroe. Now . . . who was Emmeline Snively?
At the age of 21 was told by a casting director that her head was too crooked, she wasn't beautiful enough, and she wasn't photogenic enough to make it in films. She took a deep breath and said to herself, "Alright, then, I guess I will have to make it my own way." After making nearly 100 films her own way, in 1997 she received the European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award.
After his first performance as a hotel bellhop in the film Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round, the studio vice-president called him in to his office. "Sit down kid," the studio head said, "I want to tell you a story. The first time Tony Curtis was ever in a movie he delivered a bag of groceries. We took one look at him and knew he was a movie star." Ford replied, "I thought you were supposed to think that he was a grocery delivery boy." The vice president dismissed Ford with "You ain't got it kid , you ain't got it ... now get out of here."
His headmaster told him, "You will be a laborer all your life."
Was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because his pantomime was considered "nonsense."
His music teacher said he had no voice at all and could not sing. His parents wanted him to become an engineer.
Were turned down by Decca Records who said "We don't like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out." After Decca rejected the Beatles, Columbia records followed suit.
Was fired in 1945 by Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, after one performance. He told Presley, "You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck."
Had to arrange their own art exhibitions because their works were routinely rejected by the Paris Salon. How many of you have heard of the Paris Salon?
A Paris art dealer refused him shelter when he asked if he could bring in his paintings from out of the rain. One hopes that there is justice in this world and that the art dealer eventually went broke.
Sold only one painting during his life. And this to the sister of one of his friends for 400 francs (approximately $50). This didn't stop him from completing over 800 paintings.
His luminous painting Watermeadows at Salisbury was dismissed in 1830 by a judge at the Royal Academy as "a nasty green thing."
His father once said, "I have an idiot for a son." Described as the worst pupil in the school, he was rejected three times admittance to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. His uncle called him uneducable. Perhaps this gave him food for thought.
Was run out of town by an enraged audience and critics after the first performance of the Rite of Spring.
Louisa May Alcott
The author of 'Little Women' was encouraged to find work as a servant by her family.
15 published rejected his manuscript. When he finally got it published by his mother, the dedication, printed in uppercase letters, read WITH NO THANKS TO . . . followed by the list of publishers who had rejected his prized offering. Nice going Eddie. Thanks for illustrating that nobody loses all the time.
Only had seven poems published in her lifetime.
21 publishers rejected his humorous war novel, M*A*S*H. He had worked on it for seven years.
22 publishers rejected 'The Dubliners'.
27 publishers rejected his first book 'To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street'.
Received six hundred rejection slips before he sold his first story.
The English crime novelist got 753 rejection slips before he published 564 books.
Accumulated more than a thousand rejections before he had his first literary piece published.
Wrote Paradise Lost 16 years after losing his eyesight.
Submitted poems to editors for nearly 20 years before one was finally accepted.
Was only a mediocre pupil in undergraduate studies and ranked 15th out of 22 students in chemistry.
Failed and went broke five times before he succeeded.
F. W. Woolworth
was not allowed to wait on customers when he worked in a dry goods store because, his boss said, "he didn't have enough sense."
R. H. Macy
Failed seven times before his store in New York City caught on.
When struggling to get started, its owners offered all their rights to Western Union for $100,000. The offer was disdainfully rejected with the pronouncement, "What use could this company make of an electrical toy."
Found his ideas bitterly rejected by his scientific peers on the grounds that rocket propulsion would not work in the rarefied atmosphere of outer space.
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