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11 Famous Failures That Will Inspire You to Success

Fear of failure is daunting. Here's help--famous "been there, done that" stories that will have you saying "learned this, did that"

Nothing debilitates us as much or is as scary as a fear of failure.

In fact, research indicates that our fear of failure tops the list of our phobias with nearly one in three people having a fear of failure (31 percent), ahead of our fear of public speaking or fear of spiders (30 percent each) or even our fear of the paranormal (15 percent).

A close fifth was our fear of another Transformers movie being made.

Furthermore, nearly half of all adults (49 percent) admitted that fear of failure “was the biggest roadblock to either not achieving their goals at all, or discouraged them from revisiting their goals.”

In this column (and in my upcoming book) I talk a fair amount about overcoming a fear of failure, for good reason. It is the antithesis of what makes us feel inspired, the opposite of positive, forward-movement, the dark force that snuffs out our passion for our work.

It can be lonely, but you’re not alone.

The truth is that when we find that even massively successful people have failed along the way, and more than recovered, it’s reassuring and inspiring (we’re sick like that). It’s a universal truth that we fear things a bit less when we know that we’re not alone in facing that fear. There is quiet comfort in numbers.

Especially when your failures keep company with the likes of the success stories that follow. Ask yourself, “What if these people had let their failure shut them down?”

  1. The greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, was cut from his high school team.
  2. Walt Disney was fired from his job at a newspaper early in his career–they said he lacked imagination.
  3. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school three times.
  4. John Grisham’s first book, “A Time to Kill”, was rejected twenty-eight times.
  5. Albert Einstein had the label “mentally slow” put on his permanent school record.
  6. Henry Ford’s first two automobile companies failed.
  7. Oprah Winfrey was fired from an early job as a television news anchor.
  8. Jerry Seinfeld was booed off stage in his first stand-up comedy appearance.
  9. Sir James Dyson suffered through 5,126 failed prototypes before he landed on the first working Dyson vacuum.
  10. Elvis Presley was fired from the Grand Ole Opry and was told to go back to truck driving.
  11. Colonel Harland Sanders of KFC fame was rejected over 1000 times before finding a franchise partner.

Feel better? You should. We’ve all been there. It’s all in your frame of reference and determination to keep moving forward, which is in your control.

Yes, a fear of failure is daunting. But no, you’re not on an island. Take comfort in these famous failures and get more comfortable with getting on that horse and giving it a go.

Before you know it, you and success will be getting along famously.

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