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10 Inspirational People Who Hit Rock Bottom Before Climbing to the Top

We often compare someone else's big moment with our behind-the-scenes. Let these 10 people inspire you to rise, even if you feel like you've hit rock bottom.

Good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.” — J. Willard Marriott

Let’s face it.

Sometimes it’s hard. You don’t know the way forward and can’t see how, when or why things will ever work out. This is when you might feel like you’ve hit rock bottom.

You might have a bad day or maybe you feel confused, bruised or scared in general. Perhaps, you’ve fallen flat on your face and now you’re working your way up.

To hit rock bottom and get back up again 

In today’s Instagram and Facebook-friendly world we’re often bombarded with success stories. We see where other people are and we are not. We look at others successes and compare our work in progress.

Often we (meaning: media) don’t take notice of someone until they’ve reached a certain goal, topped a best-seller list or created a multimillion business. Only then do they get noticed and celebrated. That’s our reference point.

But, here’s the thing: many of those who have created successful and fulfilling lives were once at rock bottom. Many of them have suffered and struggled massively. In fact, rock bottom was the foundation many of them build upon.

So if you’re feeling stuck, frustrated and powerless – allow these people to awaken your inner champion.

1. James Altucher

He founded a web design company and sold it two years later for $10 million. Then, due to bad investments, he lost everything and almost committed suicide. In an interview he said that he had realized that he couldn’t judge his “self-worth by his net worth”. Eventually, he made his fortune back as a fund manager, blogger and podcaster.

The only truly safe thing you can do is to try over and over again. To go for it, to get rejected, to repeat, to strive, to wish. Without rejection there is no frontier, there is no passion, and there is no magic.” ― James Altucher

2. Martha Stewart

She became America’s first self-made female billionaire. Then five years after her company went public, she went to prison for conspiracy as part of a stock case. Immediately after she was released she launched her comeback and her company was profitable again within a year.

Getting over those unexpected hurdles may not be exactly enjoyable, but ultimately I believe that such challenges and the solutions we find give us more confidence.They teach us with common sense and determination we can turn what looks like a disaster into a triumph.” – Martha Stewart

3. Abraham Lincoln

He failed in business at the age of 21 and 22. Then he overcame the death of his sweetheart at the age of 26. Also, he lost a congressional race several times before he was elected president of the United States.

I walk slowly, but I never walk backward” – Abraham Lincoln

4. Thomas Edison

He was told that he was “too stupid to learn anything” by his teachers. He was thought to be dumb because his mind would often wander in class. Oh, and he “failed” 10,000 times before he invented the light-bulb.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

5. Katy Perry

She dropped out of high school and the first album she made only sold 200 copies. She got dropped by three labels while working odd jobs before her first huge hit came out.

Maybe the reason why all the doors are closed so you could open one that leads you to the perfect road.”  ― Katy Perry

6. Walt Disney

He was fired by a newspaper editor. The reason was that he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Several of his businesses failed before he made his way into our living rooms.

All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my 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.” — Walt Disney

7. Oprah Winfrey

She had a rocky life from the start. She was the daughter of a teenaged low-income mother and sexually abused by several people. At the age of 14 she got pregnant, but her son died shortly after birth. She got fired by a local television station because she was “unfit for television.”

I don’t think of myself as a poor deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who, from an early age, knew I was responsible for myself, and I had to make good.” — Oprah Winfrey

8. Steven Spielberg

He was rejected by the University of Southern California School of Cinematics Arts multiple times. Then to get closer to his dream, Steven sneaked into Universal Studios. He even set up his own office and it took Universal two years to discover that he was on the lot.

All good ideas start out as bad ideas, that why is takes so long.” — Steven Spielberg

9. Vincent Van Gogh

He only sold one painting in his life. During his lifetime he had tons of critics and out of frustration, he destroyed and burned many of his paintings. Today his paintings are sold for millions.

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” — Vincent Van Gogh

10. J.K. Rowling

She was a divorced mother living on welfare, going to school while trying to write a novel in her spare time. She said she was the “biggest failure I knew.”

Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” — J.K Rowling

Use Your Energy to Create, Not to Destroy

If you’re experiencing fear, failure and frustration — you’re experiencing powerful energy. Use that energy and direct it towards creation, not destruction.

Change happens when we see no other option. When we’re uncomfortable in our comfort zone. When the pain of staying where we are is greater than that of change. That’s when we take charge and steer our life in a different direction.

Remember: Out of limitation comes creativity. Out of frustration comes inspiration. Out of desperation comes new beginnings.

As they say, rock bottom has built more heroes than privilege.

About the author: Maria Stenvinkel is on a mission to help people get a career they truly love. Download her free worksheet Get a Clue to Your Calling With These 10 Powerful Questions.

Photo cred: Sofie Stenmark, Model: My Charlotte Lestander

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