America is the most successful country in the world in part because we accept and embrace failure. Unlike other cultures where a major fail can end one’s career prospects forever, we admire those who get back in the race after face-planting. We understand one can learn more from losing than winning.
Here are eight hugely successful Americans who have known and learned from failure:
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Beyoncé – The international hip-hop superstar entered the Star Search talent show when she was nine-years-old. Wildly talented even then, she recalls being supremely confident of winning the competition. But she didn’t. Beyoncé says that experience taught her that we are never too big or too smart to lose. And when you do lose, you need to embrace the lessons offered by the defeat.
Thomas Edison – The genius inventor is famous for his attitude towards failure: “I have not failed 10,000 times, Edison famously said. “I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
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Michael Jordan – The legendary basketball player once noted that he had lost almost 30 games and missed 9,000 shots, including 26 potential last-minute game-winners. “I’ve failed over and over again in my life,” Jordan said. “And that is why I succeed.”
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Steve Jobs – The Apple founder was obsessed with the shortness of life, and credited that focus for his ability to ignore critics and shrug off failure. Those things don’t matter in the race to make the most of our brief lifetimes, he said in a commencement speech at Stanford University.
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Donna Karan – The designer behind the hugely successful DKNY label struggled at the prestigious Parsons School of Design, where she failed draping class. Unfazed, she continued to hone her craft and became a fashion icon.
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Stephen King – King set his sites on a writing career at an early age. He kept his huge pile rejection slips close at hand for motivation. His perseverance paid off when “Carrie” was published in 1974.
Theodore Roosevelt – TR accomplished so much that we’d probably still recognize his name even if he wasn’t President. But this go-getter suffered his share of setbacks, including childhood illnesses that nearly debilitated him, the loss of an eye in a Harvard boxing match, countless political setbacks, and the death in childbirth of his first wife. TR soldiered on through all his struggles, noting famously that the person who tries and fails is far more admirable than critics or “those cold, timid souls” who never dare great deeds.
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Bill Gates – The Microsoft founder noticed that when someone made a mistake at most corporations there was hell to pay. He worked to eliminate that mindset at Microsoft, encouraging staffers to both celebrate success and learn from failure. Gates believes that how a company responds to failure is a good predictor of how it will nurture talent and meet change.
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