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Warren Buffett to Elon Musk: Top 10 changemakers who made it big after rejection

Each of their stories inspires one to accept no's and let failures not break one's determination to stay on the course

Moneycontrol News @moneycontrolcom

Pursuing one's dream consistently despite rejections is one lesson that all aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from businessmen who made it big after rejections.

The list of changemakers include names from Warren Buffet to Elon Musk. Each of their stories inspires one to accept no's and let it not break one's determination to stay the course.

Here are the top 10 such changemakers that have made it big after rejection: 

Steve Jobs

Tech icon Steve Jobs was rejected and sacked from his own company, Apple, in 1985. In the interim, Jobs launched another business, software company NeXT, and purchased a little animation studio called Pixar Animation Studios from Lucasfilm. Pixar, which made him his first billion dollars, is reportedly the most successful animation studio of its kind.

In 1997, Jobs returned to Apple and set it on course to become one of the most valuable publicly traded companies.

"I am convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from non-successful ones is pure perseverance," Jobs advised entrepreneurs during a 1995 interview for an oral history project done by Computerworld Information Technology Awards Foundation.

JK Rowling
The worldwide known author of Harry Potter, JK Rowling, in 2016 shared some of the toughest rejection letters she received over the years. In a Twitter post, Rowling posted two rejection letters, one for Harry Potter book and for her Cormoran Strike detective series, which she wrote under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Interestingly, Harry Potter was turned down 12 times before Bloomsbury agreed to publish it. "I wasn't going to give up until every single publisher turned me down, but I often feared that would happen," Rowling wrote. "I had nothing to lose and sometimes that makes you brave enough to try."

Harry Potter's first book alone has sold over 100 million copies and the combined series is estimated to have sold close to 400 million.

Elon Musk

The success story of SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk entails a number of rejections.  Musk is said to have not received any traction when he applied for a gig at Netscape in 1995, following which he founded Zip2. The company's board, however, removed him as CEO.

Musk founded, an online-payment company which went on to become PayPal. He was once again fired from his job as PayPal's CEO.

These rejections did not stop Musk. He went on to achieve his dream to build an aerospace business. When the Russian entities offered a deal worth $8 million for a rocket, Musk considered the deal was too expensive and decided to make affordable rockets. Thus, SpaceX came into existence.

Podcast | Digging Deeper: Man on the cusp of future? Elon Musk and his vision for the world

He also c0-founded Tesla, Neuralink and The Boring Company. While Musk continues to deal with setbacks such as Tesla production bottlenecks and rocket explosions, he is still reaching for the stars.

"When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour," Musk said.

Oprah Winfrey

Before Oprah Winfrey became the star of daytime TV, she was fired from her job at a local Baltimore station. Winfrey found her true calling in the network's morning show, People Are Talking, which yielded some less than stellar reviews early on.

"Not all my memories of Baltimore are fond ones. But I do have fond memories of Baltimore, because it grew me into a real woman. I came in naive, unskilled, not really knowing anything about business or about life. And Baltimore grew me up," Winfrey said while reflecting on the experience to The Baltimore Sun.

The Oprah Winfrey Show became one of the highest ranking shows in American history, according to CNN. In 2011, Oprah was the best-paid female in the entertainment industry, according to Forbes Magazine, and remains the richest self-made woman and only black female billionaire.

Warren Buffett

The Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett, is known as one of the most profound investor. The 88-year-old has had a good mind for business and investment since he was a child. He started investing when he was just 11-years-old.

At 19, when Buffet was trying to get into his dream school Harvard, he was rejected. "I looked about 16 and emotionally was about 9. I spent 10 minutes with the Harvard alumnus who was doing the interview, and he assessed my capabilities and turned me down," Buffett said in an interview with Alice Schroeder in her biography of the tycoon.

Warren Buffett started investing when he was 11: Here's a look at the billionaire investor's fortune

Later, Buffett considered his rejection by Harvard as the 'pivotal episode of his life'. Since Harvard did not work out, it led him to Columbia where he honed his skills in investing. It has clearly paid off.

Barbara Corcoran

Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group and star of TV's Shark Tank, had straight D's in her school and 20 jobs before age 23 in her resume.

In 2008, Corcoran was offered a position on ABC's Shark Tank only to have the offer rescinded. After she lost the job to another female entrepreneur, Corcoran wrote a powerful letter to the studio owner that persuaded him to give her another shot.

"I said that all the best things happened to me on the heels of rejection and I considered his rejection a lucky charm," Corcoran told Entrepreneur. "I cited half a dozen similar situations throughout my career where obstacles turned into my greatest opportunities."

Jeff Bezos

The founder of the US giant Amazon Jeff Bezos is the richest man on the planet. While Amazon's success is well known to people, Bezos had to struggle in the initial days to raise early funds for the business.

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Bezos explained: "I had to take 60 meetings to raise $1 million, and I raised it from 22 people at approximately $50,000 a person. It was nip and tuck whether I was going to be able to raise that money. So, the whole thing could have ended before the whole thing started. That was 1995 and the first question every investor asked me was: ‘What’s the internet?'"

Amazon recently overtook Microsoft to become the world's most valuable listed company. The online giant was valued at $810 billion as compared to Microsoft at $789 billion.

Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck, the most recognisable women on Wall Street, was publicly fired from her position as Citigroup’s CEO after she said that the firm had an obligation to pay back some of the money that their clients had lost because of its advice.

Krawcheck, however, channelled her rejection into becoming an entrepreneur and launching an investing platform for women called Ellevest. "The biggest risk is not taking any career risk," Krawcheck told Entrepreneur. "We all need to be pushing ourselves in different directions, otherwise we risk having the world just pass us by."

Jack Ma

Alibaba co-founder and China's richest man, Jack Ma's success story also entails various incidents of rejection. Ma was rejected from all the 30 jobs, including a job at KFC, where he had applied for work in his initial days. Even Harvard rejected his application for a total of 10 times.

At KFC, where 24 people applied for the job, Ma said, 23 were hired but he wasn't one of them.

Read — With $39bn wealth, Alibaba founder Jack Ma reclaims top spot among Chinese billionaires

The early rejections, however, taught him an important business lesson: "You have to get used to failure," Ma said while speaking at the University of Nairobi.

Bill Gates
When Microsoft went public in 1986, making Bill Gates a 31-year-old billionaire, Gates shared that 900 people out of 1,200 rejected his idea. Driven by his passion for computer programming, he built what would become the world's largest software company.

"There's no secret. I worked really hard on my idea to get it as good as I could, and then knocked on door after door," Gates said when asked about his secret to this success.

First Published on Jan 10, 2019 02:42 pm
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