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It was 1973 and Stephen King was living in a trailer with his wife.
He taught English at Hampden Academy whilst moonlighting in a variety of other jobs including as a janitor and gas pump attendant.
King didn’t even have his own typewriter, working on his wife’s borrowed Olivetti.
He made a little bit of money from short stories, mainly published in men’s magazines.
A reader told him, “you write all those macho things, but you can’t write about women…you’re scared of women”.
King saw this is a challenge and Carrie was born.
In the first few pages of writing, he was struggling so much that he decided his critics must be right. In a fit of temper, he threw the document into the bin.
The next day, his wife retrieved it and persuaded him to continue writing until he had a final draft.
30 publishers rejected the manuscript…
Eventually, Doubleday Publishing accepted it with an advance of $2500.
Carrie sold slowly at first. Doubleday Publishing then sold the rights for the paperback to another publisher for $400,000, with $200,000 going to King. The paperback version went on to sell 1 million copies in its first year.
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I’m amazed by how many stories of inspirational people, such as King, are out there. We look at Stephen King now and think ‘he is so successful, I could never be like that’.
What we don’t realise is the setbacks he suffered and his sheer persistence in the face of adversity.
Here are a further 13 stories of my favourite inspirational people.
In 1954, Elvis was working as a truck driver but dreamed of becoming a professional singer.
He took to hanging around the Memphis Recording Studios where he made a couple of personal recordings.
Excitement came when he thought he may have his big break. His friend Ronnie, with whom he had played a number of small gigs, was a member of a ‘real’ professional band.
The band, led by Eddie Bond was looking for a new singer and Ronnie suggested that Elvis audition.
Elvis nervously auditioned in the HiHat club in front of Bond. Bond allegedly told him that he should stick to truck driving “because you’re never going to make it as a singer”.
A couple of months later, Sun Records signed Elvis and the rest is history.
Yet another author who suffered the pain of rejection. In 1889 the San Fransisco Examiner fired Kipling as a contributor.
The dismissal letter apparently stated, “I’m sorry Mr Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language”.
In 1907 Kipling was the first English speaker to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The prize citation said: “In consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author.”
Sir James Dyson
In 1978 James Dyson became frustrated with the performance of his vacuum cleaner.
Realising that the bag in the machine would diminish the vacuum’s performance as it got filled with dust, he set about inventing a bagless vacuum cleaner.
He failed no less than 5126 times!
On attempt number 5127, he finally had a prototype, but struggled to find anyone who would licence it.
He says of this time, “the people who rejected it did so for no good reason, which told me they were not interested in technological advances. That gave me the courage to keep going”. (fortune.com)
The vacuum cleaner went on to have limited success in the Japanese market. In the early 1990s, Dyson decided to manufacture the machine himself.
Following a patent war and a battle to raise finances, Dyson finally went into production and began selling by mail order.
John Lewis began selling the vacuum cleaners and other retailers soon followed suit. By 1995 it was the best selling vacuum cleaner in Britain.
In 1919 Disney was fired by a Kansas newspaper editor who told him that he lacked imagination, wasn’t creative enough and that he should be looking elsewhere.
Disney later acquired an animation studio called Laugh-O-Gram which subsequently went bankrupt.
Legend also has it that investors turned him down 302 times before he finally secured funding for Walt Disney World.
Disney went on to be nominated for 59 academy awards for his animation, bagging an impressive 32. He still holds the record for the most Oscars held by an individual.
Joe Wicks (The Body Coach)
In July 2017 he made an inspirational speech to new graduates of St Mary’s University detailing the struggles he overcame to get to where he is today.
From a working-class background, he and his brother were the first from his family to go to university.
Having studied a sports degree he thought he perhaps wanted to be a PE Teacher. Spending some time in a school as a Teaching Assistant, he decided that this wasn’t for him.
He then went on to train to be a personal trainer. On completing the course he decided he wanted to work for himself, so he set up a boot camp called ‘Rumble in the Park’.
Borrowing some money from his mum he bought some fitness equipment to run the boot camps.
He couldn’t afford a vehicle so he put all the equipment in a trailer on the back of his pushbike. Early each morning he would set off for the park. Setting up 15 work out stations for his boot camp, some mornings no-one would turn up.
Not put off, Joe got flyers printed and handed them out at the railway station.
Despite the number of flyers thrown away by rushed commuters, Joe slowly built up a following for his boot camp.
In 2014 he started posting recipes on Instagram and Twitter and came up with the hashtag #leanin15. His friends and relatives told him it was annoying and that he should stick with the boot camp.
Eventually, a publisher contacted him with the possibility of publishing a recipe book. Joe then got an agent and a bidding war started for Lean in 15. He secured an 8 book deal and the books are now the second best-selling UK recipe books of all time.
Joe now runs a global company with 40 staff and inspires people around the world to get fit and lean.
Stories suggest that Einstein didn’t speak until he was 2, almost 3 years of age.
He failed to pass the entrance exam to the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School. He later passed but then struggled once at the school.
His father allegedly considered him to be a ‘major failure’.
Later in life, Einstein struggled with various ailments. As a German Jew, his life was also at risk before and during World War II.
Through sheer persistence, Einstein went on to revolutionise scientific thinking in space, gravity, light and time.
Penniless and recently divorced, single mum Joanne Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book on an old manual typewriter.
Rejected 12 times, the manuscript was eventually published by Bloomsbury with a very small advance of £1500.
Initially, 1000 copies were printed with 500 of these going to libraries. The editor of Bloomsbury advised Rowling to “get a day job” saying that she had little chance of making money with children’s books.
The book won the Nestle Smarties Book Prize and also the British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year in 1997.
In 1998 the book was published in the US and Rowling wrote a further 6 Harry Potter books. The final book sold 11 million copies on its first day of release.
The letter is undated but thought to be from around 1981.
Lenner stated that although he “enjoyed listening to Madonna…I do not feel that she is ready yet.”
Not long afterwards, Madonna signed with Sire Records and released her first solo album. This went on to sell in excess of 10 million copies worldwide.
Madonna is currently the best-selling female recording artist of all time, worth an estimated $590 million.
“I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Jordan always loved sport but as a teenager failed to make his high school basketball team.
Drafted by the Chicago Bulls, Jordan quickly increased the number of fans attending their games.
He went on to enjoy considerable personal success and was named defensive player of the year in 1988.
In 1993, following the murder of his father and reports of a gambling problem, Jordan announced his retirement from basketball. He returned just a year later, a little rusty but determined to get back to the top of his game.
The Chicago Bulls went on to win 6 NBA Championships with Jordan also winning 6 MVP awards.
The Beatles were famously rejected by Decca Records in 1962.
Following a 15 song audition, Decca told them that “guitar bands are on the way out” adding “The Beatles have no future in show business”.
5 months later, George Martin at Parlophone signed the group.
Golding’s first book ‘The Lord of the Flies’ was rejected by the many publishers he sent it to. One even claimed it to be “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull”.
Golding’s daughter recalls in the Guardian “My earliest memory is not of the book itself but of a lot of parcels coming back and being sent off again very quickly. She adds “he must have been grief-stricken every time it returned”.
Even upon its eventual publication in 1954, it was a commercial flop, selling just 4662 copies. By 1962 it had managed to move 65,000 copies.
In 1983 Golding received the Nobel Prize for his novels “which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today”.
The University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts rejected Spielberg 3 times, apparently due to his poor high school grades.
Obtaining his education elsewhere, he went on to direct Jaws, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List and many other blockbusters. He is now worth over $1 billion to Dreamworks, his production company.
The University eventually awarded Spielberg an honorary degree in 1994 and he became a trustee in 1996.
Colonel Harland Sanders is well known as the jolly, bearded face behind Kentucky Fried Chicken. What is less well known is that he only started trying to sell his fried chicken recipe at the age of 65.
He travelled around the country looking for restaurants to partner with. Legend has it that he was rejected 1009 times.
By 1964 he had 600 franchises selling his chicken. He went on to sell the company for $2 million dollars.
I must admit that before reading the stories of these 14 inspirational people, I did have a tendency to look at failure and rejection as signs I should give up. Instead, from now on I am going to look at it in a different way.
As Winston Churchill put it:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts”.