Achieving your dreams can be an incredibly difficult feat. But the difference between success and failure is choosing not to give up. Let’s see what these real motivational stories can teach us about the road to success.
10. Well, well, well…
In 2016, a small village in India was afflicted with a severe drought. The local wells had dried out, and things were getting pretty dire. After the wife of Bapurao Tajne, a poor laborer from the village was denied water by the owner of the only nearby well that still had some, Tajne vowed that his family would never have to ask anyone for water again. He was going to dig his own well.
So, with some newly acquired tools and a huge amount of willpower, he chose a spot and began digging. Tajne had no training in well-digging, and this made him the subject of ridicule from his fellow villagers.
But Tajne could not be stopped – he believed in himself, and he rose early each day, digging for four hours before leaving for work, then putting in two more hours of back-breaking labor when he returned home. For 40 consecutive days, he dug further and further into the Earth, alone, until he finally struck water. Now, he provides hydration to the people of his village, including the naysayers.
I like to think he’s as petty about it as I’d be… Oh, thirsty are we? Hmm, sure would be useful if someone dug a well around here. Oh, wait! I did! Shame you didn’t believe in me, isn’t it?
9. Ali Ma Ma
Jack Ma is a little more well known than Bapurao Tajne. He is one of the most successful people in modern times. Since founding e-commerce giant Alibaba in 1999, Ma has become a giant in the tech and trade industries. With an estimated net worth of 36.2 billion dollars, Ma has created an empire of epic proportions, due to his strong vision and understanding of the internet’s business potential.
But life wasn’t always so triumphant for Jack Ma. After graduating from university in 1988, Ma faced extreme difficulties getting even minimum-wage work. He applied to 30 jobs in Hangzhou, the city he grew up in, and got a rejection from every single one. He applied to KFC, which had recently opened in town: 24 people applied, 23 were hired, and he was not among them. You may not believe but he even tried to start a career in the police: five candidates, four were hired, he was not.
But Ma says that all these failures only helped him in the long run, as he grew resilient and determined. And, to say the very least, it paid off. Getting used to failure isn’t easy, but every successful person must learn how to fail before they can learn to succeed.
8. Jim Carrey
Watching his famously elastic face contort into one of his many iconic characters, you might not think that there was a troubled past behind Jim Carrey’s wild eyes.
In recent years, Jim has been more open about the troubles in his life and has notably changed his approach to performance following this. At his height, however, Carrey never snapped out of his crazily-energetic public persona, and it would have been easy to assume that it was a product of a happy and carefree life. The truth will make you re-think your understanding of Jim Carrey.
You see, Jim’s childhood was tough; after his father lost his job, the family fell on hard times, and Jim had to work long shifts in a factory, aged 10, just to make ends meet. Part of the reason Jim was able to present such a constantly energetic version of himself was that he had been crafting the persona since he was 15.
Jim left school to pursue comedy at the age of 16 and faced a great deal of heckling and penniless living on his way to success. According to Jim, after he moved to LA to seriously pursue his comedy career, he would visit wealthy neighborhoods and visualize his future self, living there among the stars. For years he struggled to break through and had a series of complete failures along the way.
Whilst this might sound like some tip from a self-help guru who’s just swindled you out of a few thousand dollars, Jim wrote himself a cheque for 10 million dollars, dated about four years ahead, for Thanksgiving of 1995. Just before that time, Jim’s prophecy had come true, as he learned he’d earn that amount for Dumb & Dumber. He buried the now-valid cheque in his father’s casket.
It’s a bittersweet image and shows how an undying passion for your work, willingness to put in the time, and constant determination can go a very long way. Now I’m just going to sit here and visualize a billion dollars whilst drinking my beer. Oh – that’s not how this works?
7. Chris Hill-Scott
Sometimes, people do give up. It happens. But the story of Chris Hill-Scott is enough to turn anyone away from the idea of giving up on a good opportunity. Chris was one of the co-founders of a company called SwiftKey, a pioneer of the predictive text and autocorrect algorithms that seem to rescue and infuriate us daily.
No, I didn’t mean to type “duck”, Siri, how many times!?
Chris made the difficult decision that the long, unrewarding hours necessary in developing a small company were not worth the stress. He left SwiftKey in hopes of something better. Unfortunately for Chris, SwiftKey was purchased by Microsoft in 2016 for 250 million dollars, with each co-founder receiving around $50 million each.
Chris received… nothing. Sometimes, it pays to stick it out, even if things are difficult.
6. Stephen King
Another famous instance of soul-crushing struggle on the way to greatness is Stephen King’s slow rise to fame. His success story does not involve anything easy. The dark stages of his life involved bouts of drug and alcohol addiction, and some of the greatest difficulties of King’s life came on the road to fame.
King’s childhood was tough: when he was an infant, his father abandoned his family, leaving his mother to raise her children alone, and as a child, King saw one of his friends get killed by a train. For years in his adult life, King worked tirelessly to make a living as a writer, all while he and his wife lived in a trailer, working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
Eventually, he sold his first novel, Carrie, in 1973, which would be adapted into a hugely successful movie two years later. King’s perseverance allowed him eventual success, in spite of a tough and unfortunate life. I just kind of wish he wasn’t so damn good at scaring the life out of me. Pennywise the clown… no thanks. What was that?!
5. Ronald Wayne
Quite possibly the worst example of quitting too soon, Ronald Wayne’s story will have you facepalming so hard, you’ll fall off your seat.
In 1976, Wayne helped to establish a computer hardware company in California. While initially optimistic about the venture, Wayne quickly grew concerned about the potential financial losses he foresaw the company headed into, and within a mere twelve days, sold off his 10% share for $800 and left the company. No problem, right?
While Wayne asserts that he doesn’t regret this decision, and it was the right choice at the time, the name of the company might leave you with a different opinion. You see, that company was Apple. And worst of all, that 10% share would now be worth billions.…. approximately $80 billion at the start of 2019, making him the third richest person in the world.
In an interview, Wayne said he has no regrets, but I can’t say I believe him. Maybe he should have kept biting that particular piece of fruit a while longer.
4. J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling’s rise to fame is one of the most incredible, real motivational stories of modern time. For someone responsible for the bestselling book series of all time, which has since developed into an absolute mammoth money machine, spanning video games, theme parks and – of course – multiple movie franchises, it seems crazy that J.K Rowling refers to herself, circa 1995, as a ‘failure’.
But the road to wealth and recognition was incredibly difficult for Rowling. After her mother’s death during the writing of the first Harry Potter book, Rowling fell into a deep depression; something she would struggle with repeatedly. Matters were only made worse following a difficult divorce, leaving Rowling to raise her daughter alone. Throughout the tough times, unable to find work and surviving off unemployment benefits, Rowling found relief in her writing.
She worked extremely hard, pushing herself forward as best she could, even going as far as manually typing out each copy of her 90,000-word debut novel, The Philosopher’s Stone, as she could not afford a computer or printer. After countless rejections, her manuscript ended up on the desk of Bloomsbury Publishing’s editor, whose 8-year-old daughter convinced him to publish it. Against all the odds, J.K. Rowling remains one of the greatest examples of success in the face of adversity, and never giving up.
3. Walt Disney
A controversial figure in his own right, Walt Disney is another great example of a person facing hardships but persevering and – in this case – building an empire.
When Walt decided he was going to be an artist at age 17, he was fiercely discouraged by his family, who wanted him to join the family business. But a life making jelly was not Walt’s intention.
© PX Here
Walt worked, at various points in his early adult life, in an advertising company and a newspaper. The newspaper fired him, with his boss telling him he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas’. Not to be easily discouraged, Walt opened his own animation business, Laugh-O-Gram studios, but this quickly fell into bankruptcy.
With the odds stacked firmly against him, and in the face of painful setbacks, he took his iconic characters to Hollywood, and eventually, Disney grew into the immortal, all-pervasive giant we know today. While Walt may not have been making jelly, the naysayers would certainly be eating their words.
2. Oprah Winfrey
One of the famous people who had a hard and dire childhood is Oprah. She has one of modern entertainment’s saddest and yet most heart-warming tales of perseverance. Throughout her childhood, Oprah suffered terrible abuse at the hands of her family members. To make matters worse, Oprah gave birth at 14 years old and, tragically, the child passed away in infancy.
In spite of these heartbreaking events, Oprah’s determination was to achieve success, and she did: she graduated high school with flying colors, received a full college scholarship, and soon became the first black female news anchor before the age of 20.
Though she faced more difficulties along the way, like gender discrimination and even sexual harassment at her news station, she continued to progress into an American icon. Her $2.6 billion net worth is nothing to sniff at, either.
With the grandeur Oprah commands now, few people stop to appreciate the difficulties she has overcome. It goes to show – no matter how downtrodden life has you feeling, you can always rise from the ashes stronger than before.
1. Struck Gold
From the great heights of Oprah, let’s return to the smaller scale, for a couple of incredible stories. In June 1858, a group of miners in Victoria, Australia decided to take a well-deserved break. All except one fellow. He kept working, driven on by a desire for the riches buried in the rock. When his colleagues returned, they found him unconscious on the floor. After some investigation, they saw the cause: a nugget of gold ore, 18 inches long, there in the rock. And believe it or not, they all fainted too. Believe it or not, this isn’t the only success story of its kind.
In Napoleon Hill’s classic self-help book, Think and Grow Rich, he recounts the tale of a man, caught up in the gold rush of the 19th-century American frontier. In hopes of riches, a prospector pumped his savings into mining equipment and set out to make his fortune. He quickly struck gold and made himself a fair profit. But he had no knowledge of mining, and soon, his fortune ran out; the mine’s gold had been exhausted. He sold his machinery to a junk trader and made his way back home, broke and disappointed.
The junk seller, it happens, was a pretty smart fellow: he had an engineer investigate the now-empty mine, and what he found was unbelievable. The engineer explained that, due to the previous owner’s lack of knowledge and experience, he hadn’t realized that not only was there a lot more gold nearby, but it was a mere three feet from where the last guy had stopped digging. Needless to say, the junk trader never had to trade junk again.
These gold-plated tales serve as timeless lessons that the easy way out – quitting too soon, at the fear of wasting effort, time or money – can come at a price of its own.
It’s not always easy, but following something difficult through and not giving up, will lead to something good, even if it means changing your perspective on what your measures of success are. I’d love to hear your real motivational stories in the face of difficulty, or times you’ve missed out on a goldmine by an inch. All stories welcome in the comments below.