7 Outrageously Inspiring Rags-to-Riches Stories

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall." ~ Confucius

1. Steven Spielberg
After being denied entrance into a traditional filmmaking school, Steven Spielberg enrolled in English at California State College at Long Beach. Then in 1965, he recalls, in one of those serendipitous moments, his life took a complete turn. Visiting Universal Studios, he met Chuck Silvers, an executive in the editorial department. Silvers liked the kid who made 8 mm films and invited him back sometime to visit.

He appeared the next day. Without a job or security clearance, Spielberg (dressed in a dark suit and tie, carrying his father's briefcase with nothing inside but "a sandwich and candy bars") strode confidently up to the guard at the gate of Universal and gave him a casual wave. The guard waved back. He was in.
"For the entire summer," Spielberg remembers, "I dressed in my suit and hung out with the directors and writers [including Silvers, who knew the kid wasn't a studio employee, but winked at the deception]. I even found an office that wasn't being used, and became a squatter. I bought some plastic tiles and put my name in the building directory: Steven Spielberg, Room 23C."
Ten years later, the 28-year-old Spielberg directed Jaws, which took in $470 million, then the highest-grossing movie of all time. 

2. Harrison Ford
"The Vice President of Columbia told this actor that he was never going to make it in the business." 

After Harrison Ford’s first performance as a hotel bellhop in the film Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round, the studio vice-president called him in to his office. “Sit down kid,” the studio head said, “I want to tell you a story. The first time Tony Curtis was ever in a movie he delivered a bag of groceries. We took one look at him and knew he was a movie star.” Ford replied, “I thought you were supossed to think that he was a grocery delivery boy.” The vice president dismissed Ford with “You ain’t got it kid , you ain’t got it … now get out of here.”

Not happy with the roles being offered to him, Ford became a self-taught professional carpenter to support his then-wife and two small sons. While working as a carpenter, he became a stagehand for the popular rock band The Doors. He also built a sun deck for Sally Kellerman and a recording studio for Sergio Mendes. He returned to acting when George Lucas, who had hired him to build cabinets in his home, cast him in a pivotal supporting role for his film American Graffiti (1973).

Ford's work as a carpenter would land him his biggest role to date. In 1975, George Lucas hired him to read lines for actors being cast for parts in his upcoming space opera, Star Wars (1977). However, Lucas was eventually won over by Ford's portrayal and decided to cast him as Han Solo.

3. John Grisham
"His first book was rejected by 12 publishing houses and sixteen agents."
            John had a legal practice in Southaven, Mississippi . His firm handled mostly uncomplicated criminal cases and private ones. Looking for more challenges, he ran for office and was elected  a member of the State House of Representatives. Being a legislative member, John continued his legal practice, and the more time he spent handling legal cases, the inspired he was by the true stories he heard. The case of a rape victim aged 12 years old especially got his attention. He found himself wondering : what would happen if the victim’s father took the law into his own hand and made a revenge to the rapist? Stimulated by this question, John began to note down his idea and the plot frame. Then after some time he started to write. Working 60 – 80 hours a week  as  a representative of the people left not much time to write. But John was persistent and he woke up at 5 AM each morning so he could spare one hour to write. It took him three years to finish the novel. He titled it  - A Time to Kill. He sent a polite formal letter enclosing his manuscript to read. In return he got a letter of rejection.  Another letter to another agency.  Another rejection.  Altogether there were 16 agencies rejecting his novel and himself to be their client. And when he started to contact a publisher, the string of rejections reoccurred. The novel was sent to as many as what John now recalls  “thirty so-and-so” printers and “thirty so-and-so” editors turned it down. 
               Bill Thompson of Wynwood Press was the editor that discovered Stephen King. He gave a limited chance to A Time to Kill  by printing 5000 copies and giving John an advance money of  15,000 dollars. John himself bought 1000 copies to sell on his own. He went on a book selling tour but both the book and the tour didn’t make John Grisham a best seller writer. This effort was discontinued.

               After creating A Time to Kill he started his second novel : a thriller about a young intelligent lawyer who was framed by a reputed but corrupt firm in Memphis. Not long after 'The  Firm'  arrived at his agency’s desk, John was surprised when told the manuscript was bought for 600,000 dollars, not by a publisher but by Paramount Pictures. Involving so much money, this deal got the attention of a number of big publishers in New York, many of whom had once ignored John’s first novel. Following its publication, The Firm remained for 47 weeks in the list of best sellers in New York Times and became the best selling novel of 1991. Subsequently, John Grisham went on to publish other famous international best sellers such as The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, and The Broker.

              John reflects : "I really doubt that I would ever succeed to write my first novel if I wasn’t a lawyer”. In fact, his success was the result of his desire to rediscover something in his profession that has begun to bore him. He believed he owed it to his law career for the inspiration of his many thrilling stories that forms the fundamental of his success as a writer today. 

4. Beatles
Turned down by a recording company saying, 'We don't like their sound and guitar music is on the way out'

Lennon's mother bought him his first guitar in 1957, a cheap Gallotone Champion acoustic "guaranteed not to split". She arranged for it to be delivered to her own house, knowing that her sister, sceptical of Lennon's claim that he would be famous one day, hoped he would grow bored with music, often telling him, "The guitar's all very well, John, but you'll never make a living out of it". When Lennon was 17, his mother, out walking near the Smiths' house, was struck by a car and killed.

Lennon failed all his GCE O-level examinations, and was only accepted into the Liverpool College of Art after his aunt and headmaster intervened. Once at the college, he wore Teddy Boy clothes and acquired a reputation for disrupting classes and ridiculing teachers. As a result, he was excluded from first the painting class and then the graphic arts course. 
             John Lennon  formed a skiffle group called the Quarrymen, named after his high school, Quarry Bank. He invited in Paul McCartney after hearing him play. At first the band played mostly covers of already popular songs. When Brian Epstein met them, they were young, fairly inexperienced - to look at them then, you probably wouldn't have given them a chance and laughed at the idea they would be successful. But Brian heard the boys play at a club and signed them. Under his management, on New Year’s Day, 1962,  four nervous young musicians played their first record audition for the executives of the Decca Recording company, performing a total of fifteen songs, twelve covers and three originals. Talent executive Mike Smith rejected the group and told them that “ “We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out.”. They perused, however, and were signed by George Martin of Parlophone on May 9, 1962.

5. Walt Disney
Fired from a newspaper because he "lacked imagination and had no original ideas"

Walt Disney was born in Chicago 1901, His father’s persistence was one of the most important factors that changed his life. Walt attended drawing class every Saturday in Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design, which his father considered as “an education”. 

At the end of World War I, Walt quitted high school to join the ambulance driver troops and managed to earn a huge success in drawing and caricature for the U.S Troops. He went home to join the Kansas City Star as an intern in cartoon section. He was rejected. Walt established his business called Laugh-O-Gram, he added $15,000 from investors and sold his cartoon series to Kansas City cinema. As Walt’s staffs were getting ready to work on the series, the company itself was struggling to survive and his only client got bankrupt six months later and only one movie from the series completed, Walt was also bankrupt.

Walt said, “It was good to experience huge failures when you were young.” He left Kansas City with only $40 and joined his brother Roy in California by hoping that he could revive Laugh-O-Gram series in Hollywood. He aired his short comedic news at a cinema in Los Angeles and sold an idea for a film - a tale about Alice in Wonderland to a New York film distributor called Charles Mintz. He received $1,500 per film, this was his great debut. Walt and Roy built their business together;Walt returned with a series about a naughty rabbit named Oswald, the first animal character to appear in a comic. The series was a huge hit, and soon replaced Alice. Disney’s success was finally here. Little did he know that he would lose all his staff members and right over his most important asset: Oswald the Rabbit, which had been given license under Mintz. He was left with small amount of money and an idea. 

Mickey Mouse was invented. Walt felt his first “spoken” animation movie would become a sensation and it did. Walt began building his studio from the money he received from Mickey and began to develop more Mickey adventures-such as Donald, Daisy, Pluto, Goofy, and other Disney animals. Walt took a lesson from Oswald the Rabbit and the result was he made the most important business decision when he sold his first Mickey series: he insisted to maintain control over his artistic work and ownership of his characters. At first it was a bitter experience, but in the end it became the most valuable lesson, because it taught him to secure his company. 

6. Michael Jordan
He was cut from the high school basketball team, went home, locked himself in his room and cried

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” - Michael Jordan

He was one of five brothers in a family with discipline and spirit of progress, he was brought up with high standard and great expectation. During his trials in The High School the coach thought it might be good for Michael to play in the university junior team group for a year to get more training time. So when the list of names of the university team was announced, Michael’s mates were in the list, but Michael was not.

It was the very moment so deeply imprinted on Michael’s life. He stared at the alphabetically arranged list of names, read and reread the list several times, feeling sure his coach had mistakenly left his name out. Later he admitted that when he got home that day, so disappointed and ashamed, he wept. His mother came to his side. “She said that the best thing I could do is to prove to the coach that he had made a mistake”, recalled Michael. “And, leaving my disappointment behind, I started to improve my performance”.

Michael reluctantly rejoined the junior university team squadron. He arrived at school before 7:00 AM in autumn, in winter, in summer and practiced. Almost every morning coach had to ask him to leave the court. Knowing that his lack of height made him unqualified for the university team, he often tried to get taller by daughing on horizontal bar. Although his height was under 183 cm, Michael quickly made himself a favourite player in the university junior team. Soon, the university team players started to come earlier to the games just to watch how Michael led university junior team. He developed it to a true team through Michael demanding from his team mates the same intensity he did to himself, and persuading the coach to urge the team to work harder under his criticisms. Eventually he was admitted into the university team. 
                 Behind his competence and spirit, lies the secret: : “You can achieve incomparable level of skill through incomparable spirit and commitment”. Through the following years Michael used to motivate himself by reflecting on his failure: “Whenever I achieve some success but feel so tired, I often come to think to give up and leave everything. But then I close my eyes and see again that list that didn’t include my name. usually by doing that my spirit is revived”.

7. Akio Morita

Being the eldest in the family, he was expected to take over the family business of brewing sake, a Japensese drink. However, Morita’s interest lay in electronics which is where he went.

Morita's family was involved in sake, miso and soy sauce production in the Chita Peninsula, Aichi Prefecture since 1665. He was the oldest of four siblings and his father Kyuzaemon trained him as a child to take over the family business. Akio, however, found his true calling in mathematics and physics, and in 1944 he graduated from Osaka Imperial University with a degree in physics. 

On May 7, 1946, Morita and Ibuka founded Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation, the forerunner of Sony Corporation) with about 20 employees and initial capital of ¥190,000. Ibuka was 38 years old, Morita, 25. Morita's family invested in Sony during the early period and was the largest shareholder.

The company went on to develop magnetic recording tape, tape recorder, pocket-sized radio in 1958, Morita and Ibuka decided to rename their company Sony (sonus is Latin for sound, and Sonny-boys is Japanese slang for "whiz kids"). 

In 1960, it produced the first transistor television in the world and in 1975, Betamax home video recorder, a year before VHS came out. In 1979, the Walkman was introduced, making it the world's first portable music player. In 1984, Sony launched the Discman series which extended their Walkman brand to portable CD products.

In 1960, the Sony Corporation of America was established in the United States. In 1961, the Sony Corporation of America was the first Japanese company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Sony bought CBS Records Group (Columbia Records, Epic Records and other CBS labels) in 1988 and Columbia Pictures Entertainment (Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures and others) in 1989.

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