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From Rock Bottom to Rocking Success: Success Stories of Famous Failures

From Rock Bottom to Rocking Success: Success Stories of Famous Failures

Maybe a stroke of luck if you are an heir to multi-billion businesses or your parents.
Or perhaps winning the lottery is the ever-famous way to become rich.
But for some, it takes failures to test their determination to succeed.
Rags to riches stories never fail to serve inspiration.
For me, the critical point is actually the point of transition from being loser to winner.
It’s not easy to be pinned down, bashed hard, discouraged and down.
And to rise from the brink of giving up? It’s not easy. It’s doable. but it’s not easy.

You may have read The Billionaires Series of the blog where I have featured the life of business mogul Manny Pangilinan. And a list of college drop-outs who made it big, in fact very big.

In the Inspirations and Reflections section you can find how to develop a tycoon mentality amidst tough pressures. And the people who rose from the lowest point of their lives have thought things through big, very big.

In Wilson Lee Flores Bull Market, Bull Sheet “Is failure often the key to success?” June 25, 2012, he shared the failure and success stories of people. I think it is fitting to share with fellow readers who like me, dream of financial freedom from debt and money scarcity. Thanks to The Philippine Star for the inspiring article:

Failure is an event, never a person. — William D. Brown

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. — Henry Ford

An entrepreneur e-mailed this writer asking for advice. He has hit the brick wall of failure in his first business, lost his capital, gotten the ire of his bank and lost his self-confidence. My recommendations? Persevere, never lose hope, take care of your health, pray, don’t avoid creditors but talk to them and pay them gradually to show that you have a good character.

I believe nobody alive is hopeless and nothing in this world is impossible.

People who fail are those who try and take risks. Failure or setbacks are tools for success with unique, priceless lessons, and finally — failure helps build character in us human beings.

Famous Failures Who Became Successes
What do the world’s second richest tycoon Bill Gates, filmmaker and theme-park visionary Walt Disney, KFC fast-food chain founder Colonel Harland Sanders, Sony founder Akio Morita, Honda empire founder Soichiro Honda, US retail tycoon R. H. Macy and the world’s assembly-line pioneer auto tycoon Henry Ford all have in common? All of them started out as failures, they never gave up, they persevered and they succeeded magnificently.

Gates dropped out of Harvard and his first business venture called Traf-O-Data was a failure; his partner there was his future Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Col. Sanders was already old when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken and his secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant gave him a chance.

Henry Ford experienced failures in his early businesses that left him broke five times before he started the Ford Motor Co. R. H. Macy had a worse track record than Ford, failing in seven business ventures before becoming a huge success in retail in New York City.

Soichiro Honda was rejected as an engineer job applicant at Toyota Motor Corp. Unemployed, he started making scooters at home, and later flourished as an entrepreneur. When Akio Morita set up Sony with a rice cooker as its first product, it sold less than 100 units and was a failure. He persevered and built Sony into a global success.

* * *

Phantom, Vienna Opera House, Van Gogh, Stephen King
Whatever financial, business, professional, emotional or social failures one faces, do not despair but persevere. I believe the greatest successes are often those who have endured and overcome adversity. Here are some examples:

Businessman Francis Lumen is bringing in Broadway’s longest-running musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, to Manila’s Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) this August, straight from its successful six-month run in the Teatro of Montecasino in South Africa.

Over 100 million people have watched Phantom in 149 cities around the world. But how many people know that this popular musical is based on a 1909 novel by the French writer Gaston Leroux, which was a failure when it was first published, and had poor sales?

In 2008, I visited the world’s most famous Vienna Opera House in Austria. What is sad about its past was that this elegant landmark was built on plans drawn by talented architects August Sicard von Sicardsburg and Eduard van der Nüll. Due to the plans’ initial unpopularity and many harsh criticisms, Van der Nüll committed suicide and Sicardsburg died of a heart attack 10 weeks later. Both architects never saw the completion of the building in 1869.

Artist Vincent Van Gogh sold only one work for a small amount of money out of his total lifetime output of over 800 paintings. Today, the works of Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso are among the most expensive paintings in the world.

Stephen King’s first book Carrie received 30 rejections, causing the author to just throw it in the trash. However, his wife, Tabitha Spruce King, retrieved it and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the book became a bestseller. King has since become a top bestselling novelist with over 350 million copies sold.

The bestselling book Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen was initially rejected 140 times by publishers.

The novel Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was rejected 38 times by publishers, but it later won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a movie that won eight Oscar awards.

* * *

Manny Pangilinan, Lucio Tan, Steve Jobs and Liem Sioe Liong
Another reason why I wrote this column on many successes having started out as failures was the June 10 death at age 97 of Indonesia’s most famous business leader, Liem Sioe Liong (also known as Soedono Salim).

Among various media statements, I noticed that PLDT/Smart boss Manny V. Pangilinan said of his late boss in the Hong Kong-based First Pacific Group: “Liem Sioe Liong was not embarrassed to admit that he failed at least twice in his business, only to recover eventually… As a result of his large, asset-heavy businesses, Oom (Dutch word for “uncle”) Liem is considered Indonesia’s first industrialist.”

This saga of Indonesia’s greatest entrepreneur having had two previous failures reminds me of how John Gokongwei Jr. and Cebu’s Ludo and Luym clan once forced the cornstarch factory of Lucio C. Tan to go bankrupt. Tan had investor/financiers in that venture. If not for that debacle in the cornstarch business, perhaps he wouldn’t have gone into the cigarette manufacturing business, which became the bedrock of his fortune.

Manny V. Pangilinan not so long ago seemed to have hit a serious crisis, too, as businessman. In 2002, the First Pacific Corp. he leads had to sell control of its prized real estate jewel, Bonifacio Global City (BGC), in order to pay off huge debts.

Control of BGC was sold to both the Zobel-Ayala clan and the Jose Yao Campos family for about P5 billion or US$105 million then. Earlier in June 2001, First Pacific almost sold control of PLDT and a huge stake in BGC to Gokongwei.

Today, MVP is on top of the world as boss of the Philippines’ most profitable business, the PLDT Group, which had a consolidated core net income of P39 billion last year.

Perhaps one of the greatest business successes ever was the late Apple founder Steve Jobs. At his 2005 Stanford University commencement address, he said: “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”

What is the moral lesson in all these numerous examples of successes who have experienced failures and overcome excruciating crises? Never, ever give up!

* * *


See the image above? Success is definitely not a destination but a journey. And along the journey, you experience heartbreaks, roadblocks, stumbles and ill feelings.

If you are on the verge of giving up on your business idea, or if you are dealing with complicated work issues, remember these people who, once in their lives, have experienced rock bottom.

Rise up from rock bottom and turn it into a rocking success!

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