If at first you don’t succeed…use your failure to turn things around!

Whilst the phrase ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again’ may seem antiquated and cliched, after reading about the failures and subsequent successes of a few highly successful individuals you may just want to dust off this old moto and put it into practice.

Happy employment female

As Winston Churchill himself said, ‘success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm’. Failure is a crucial part of many prosperous people’s lives, and teaches resilience, fortitude and the importance of persistence. It also humbles those whose arrogance would otherwise be their downfall.

The following figures, each recognised as top of their field, went through periods of failure and disappointment without which they would never have succeeded.

Oprah Winfrey

Having first overcome a childhood of poverty and abuse, Oprah thrived on a full scholarship to university, working part-time at a local radio station. Landing a job as a young, female, black TV anchor was a huge accomplishment, but after just a few months she was fired. This huge blow shows how circumstance forced perhaps the most famous TV anchor of our day into unemployment because she was apparently too emotionally invested, helping the families she reported on with blankets and food. Persisting in the same career takes guts, and as Oprah demonstrated by becoming hugely wealthy and influential in the 25 year run of her show, failure can be the precursor of success.

J K Rowling

In her address to the 2008 graduating class of Harvard, J K Rowling emphasized the extent of her failure, to the point where she had lost her job and security, and became as poor as you can be in England without being homeless. Her persistence in writing – not known as a lucrative career – demonstrates the importance of following your passion. Whilst she emphasises that poverty and hardship is never glamourous, it also gave the her the steely persistence the get the Harry Potter books published. This unassuming 51 year of mother of 3 is now one of the richest 200 people in Britain, and remains grounded, speaking out for causes such as gay and female rights through such platforms as twitter.

Walt Disney

At the very start of his career, aged just 22, Walt Disney was condemned as ‘not being creative enough’. In his early years Disney was fired from a newspaper, faced bankruptcy after forming a his first studio and created a successful character (named Oswald the rabbit) which he soon realised he owned none of the rights to. Despite all this, the word ‘Disney’ is now synonymous with a much loved hugely successful legacy, and you would be hard pressed to find a child or adult who hasn’t heard of Walt Disney in the western world. During the course of his life this man, who was nominated for 59 Academy awards (winning 32), suffered what he termed ‘one heck of a breakdown’, demonstrating that success comes in many forms, and it can take time to reach happiness and success – however you deem it – in each area of your life.

Sir James Dyson

Thomas Edison once said ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work’. Whilst James Dyson didn’t quite reach 10,000, he did spend 15 years creating 5,126 versions of his now famous vacuum cleaner that didn’t work before he found a model which did. Dyson himself believes that failure is ‘part of making progress’, going further to state that ‘you never learn from success, but you do learn from failure’. Dyson is now ranked 14th in the Forbes rich list, ahead of figures such as Richard Branson.

So whether you’re an aspiring writer, filmmaker or businessman, remember that failure is simply a step on the route to success. Persistence and determination will serve you far better than any God-given talent or family connection that may seem essential to success right now. In their early twenties each of these now rich and hugely influential individuals were floundering and failing – so remember, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!

About the author:

Alexandra Jane is the writer and editor of graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate jobs are currently available, as well as their graduate jobs Manchester page for further opportunities.

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