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6 People Who Refused to Fail, and Their Incredible Stories

6 People Who Refused to Fail, and Their Incredible Stories

October 28, 2009

What would you do if you couldn't fail?

This is one of my favorite exercises. It transcends your limitations to move beyond what you think you can accomplish. This takes your passion and plays it forward.

1. What's your greatest desire? (What's a crazy idea worth giving a shot?)

2. What will happen if you don't do it? (Will you continue to feel unfulfilled?)

3. How would your life change if you started pursuing your desire?

4. What's been holding you back?

5. Finally, write down the top 3 steps you need to take that will address those things that have been holding you back.

Running a business is more about overcoming failure than anything else.

My friend Alan Morinis, in this month's teleseminar, talked about how when you want to achieve something great and make a difference, it often means taking a big risk.

Unfortunately, that often means experiencing failure along the way. The key is to learn from those failures and have the confidence in yourself that you can succeed. The following are 6 examples of people who experienced failure, overcame it and went on to become some of the greatest names in history. See if you can guess who they are. Answers are below.


Mystery Person #1:

His Yale University professor gave this entrepreneur's senior thesis a grade of a C. His teacher commented, 'The concept is interesting and well formed, but in order to earn better than a C, the idea must be feasible.' The student did experience several false starts but the company is now one of the largest in the world.

Mystery Person #2:

At 52 years old, this restaurant equipment salesman convinced one of his customers to sell him his diner because he wanted do more than just run a Mom and Pop hamburger restaurant. He wanted to create a chain of restaurants beginning with that first one.

Mystery Person #3:

Fired by a newspaper because his boss said he was 'lacking ideas,' he continued his career and went bankrupt three times before finally finding success. Most people are afraid to go bankrupt once. But after the first time and then the second time, he must have lost everyone's trust, credibility and confidence. But he continued and tried a third time. And failed again. The fourth time, one of his ideas stuck. But even then, people said he had lost his mind. Who would travel to an area of the country that was basically a swamp and try to imagine themselves in another world?

Mystery Person #4:

'You ain't goin' nowhere,' this man was told. 'You ought to go back to driving a truck.

Mystery Person #5:

This man slept in the back of a station wagon for a year and a half. At 65 years old and living off of a $105 monthly social security check, he couldn't even afford a meal. He fed himself by going into restaurants, claiming he had a great recipe and challenging the chefs to a 'cook-off.' If he won, he got a free meal. He went to more than 1,000 places trying to find a buyer. He eventually sold his recipe and his company for $15 million at 75 years old.

Mystery Person #6:

I'll give you a hint, this man was a politician. The first time he ran for the state legislature he lost. He opened a store and ran it into the ground. He ran for Congress and lost. A few years later, his son died. He ran for Senate and lost. He was finally elected as president, but only received 40% of the popular vote. Two years later his second son died.


1. Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx 2. Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's 3. Walt Disney 4. Elvis Presley 5. Colonel Sanders, founder of KFC 6. President Abraham Lincoln.