If you take a moment to think about someone who is successful, whom do you think of? A friend? A family member? Or is the person you envision better known for fame and fortune?
When we think of success, we often admire people like Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey. They are household names with business empires to match.
However, these mega-moguls started out their world-changing endeavors like everyone else. They faced setbacks. They were told ‘no,’ or had doors slammed in their faces. At first, they failed at pursing their dreams. But, despite the obstacles, they triumphed. We may honor them for their contribution to history, marvel at the inventions or contributions that forever changed the landscape of our lives, or laugh/cry/scream in response to their genius. But aside from all that, these 7 people had one thing that set them apart: perseverance.
Lesson One: Sometimes you need a reality check to make your dreams come true.
Although he is well known for creating the beloved films that have significantly impacted families around the world, Walt Disney didn’t have an easy start in the film business. Working at a newspaper, he was fired by his editor for “lacking imagination and creativity.” But Disney didn’t let that deter him. He kept writing and creating, and went through countless business failures before the success of his first film, Snow White, effectively launching his legendary career.
Lesson Two: It is never too late to go back to school, even if you could probably teach a course or two (or seven).
Steven Spielberg, the brilliant director behind such celebrated films as Jaws, E.T. and Indiana Jones, faced rejection early on in his pursuit to work in movies. He applied three times to his dream school, the University of Southern California – and was rejected. It wouldn’t be until after he established a successful career in the movie industry that Spielberg returned to college in 2002 to complete his bachelor’s degree.
Lesson Three: No matter what life throws at you, keep your eye on the prize, and always carry a few napkins with you.
Life can be unfair, and no one knows that better than Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling. While she may be an acclaimed writer today with a fortune that could buy and sell the Queen of England, before all her literary success, Rowling was an unemployed, single mother living off welfare. With limited time for herself to write, Rowling jotted down the first draft of the Harry Potter series on a napkin while on a delayed train.
Lesson Four: With the right attitude, you can turn a bad situation, not that there’s anything wrong with that, into a good one.
Talk about a tough crowd. Sitcom star and career comic, Jerry Seinfeld, was booed off the stage at his first show. The following day, he returned to the same club and won the laughter of that same crowd. And so, yada, yada, yada, a comedy star was born.
Lesson Five: Don’t let the opinions of others define who you are; show them that some of your favorite things are a strong work ethic and determination.
With a loyal talk show audience and her own television network, billionaire Oprah Winfrey has sure made a name for herself…and a magazine… and a school… But Winfrey didn’t always win over the television critics; she was fired from one of her first reporting jobs because she was considered unfit for television. She refused to let the opinions of others discourage her from her dreams, eventually transforming into one of the most influential media moguls and prominent personalities of all time.
Lesson Six: Sometimes magic takes a little more time and effort to happen.
As a child, our institution’s namesake, Thomas Edison, was called “too stupid to learn anything.” However, being degraded by his teacher didn’t break Edison’s desire to learn. He may have made 10,000 light bulbs before one that worked, but the power of that one successful invention forever changed the world. Known as “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” Edison’s pursuit of knowledge and numerous inventions including the motion picture camera, the phonograph, electric car batteries, and much, much more, led us to the modern life we know today.
Lesson Seven: Do not underestimate yourself; your capability and potential are limitless.
Sometimes, we are our own worst critic. The master of contemporary horror, Stephen King, knows that first hand. While writing one of his terrifying novels, he became so frustrated he threw the draft into the trashcan. His wife found it, and forwarded the manuscript to an editor. The story eventually became a best seller and an equally as frightening film, Carrie.
Success is an ongoing process; it does not happen over night, and it takes time. If you focus on your goals and maintain a positive attitude, you can reach your dreams. With a healthy mix of perseverance and determination, you will be unstoppable. Whether you are looking to pass that TECEP® test, get that degree or change your life, do it whole-heartedly. Only then can you create your own legacy of success.
Written by Thomas Edison State University