jk rowling

When you think of some of the biggest names in business, what traits and characteristics immediately come to mind? It’s probably not being in dire straits, or people who get in over their head with debts and need instant relief from creditors, and yet, that’s exactly how many business leaders start their journey—with crushing failure.

Those failures eventually turned around into success stories, and we’re going to take a look at a few of these rags-to-riches tales in order to find some lessons about passion, tenacity, and the unbelievable heights you might achieve when you refuse to accept rejection.

JK Rowling

It’s hard to imagine now that the acclaimed author has written the Harry Potter series and kicked off multiple movie franchises, but in the beginning, Rowling couldn’t get anyone to pay attention to her newly penned work. The single mother (on benefits) was passed over by 12 different publishing houses before finally having the first installment of “Harry Potter” hit the shelves in 1997. From there, her fame and fortune were able to blossom into what we see today.

While those early days were fraught with depression—she had lost her mother, was divorced, and left with few prospects for opportunity—Rowling continued writing and continued submitting her books, showing that sometimes all one needs is perseverance to make their mark.

Soichiro Honda

The intrepid founder of Honda Motor Company was intent on breaking into the automotive industry ever since he was a young teenager. He tried climbing the ranks within the Art Shokai auto repair shop in Tokyo, eventually opening his own branch and even making attempts to design and sell automotive parts to Toyota. Unfortunately, they were rejected.

This did not deter Honda, however, who stayed patient and pounced on his opportunity during the gas shortage that followed WWII. His creative new motor designs, designed for fuel efficiency, became the basis of the first Honda Motor Company bikes, and as we can now see today, Honda has flourished into one of the world’s largest automakers.

Steve Jobs

Few, if any, tech salesmen had the vision and charisma of Steve Jobs, but even he was hit with numerous stumbles before and after finding success. Apple started off strong, but Jobs’ tenure within the company hit an abrupt end in 1985, when he was clashing with leadership.

Even after being forced to leave, however, Jobs didn’t throw in the towel. He bought Pixar, then founded another computer company, NeXT. Pixar, as we all know, has grown into one of the world’s most respected animation studios (and was sold to Disney for a hefty sum). Jobs even managed to sell NeXT to Apple, and make his way back into the company. Jobs went on to revolutionize both Apple and the world, with gadgetry that has literally changed lives.

Walt Disney

It might shock you to learn that Walt Disney of Disney Animation Studios fame actually went bankrupt the first time around. His initial animation company, Laugh-O-Gram Studio, went under and could never achieve that big break. Disney stuck to his guns, however, creating Mickey Mouse, founding the Walt Disney entertainment company, and becoming the largest force in entertainment today.