17 True Motivational Stories That Will Inspire You

man running in the desert

Sometimes, we all need a reminder of what’s possible in life. Luckily, the world is filled with countless true motivational stories from people who’ve overcome insurmountable odds.

It’s easy to underestimate the level of perseverance that it takes to achieve great things.

It’s easy to chalk up the success of others to “good upbringing” or  right place, right time”, but in most cases we’re blind to the reality of what success really looks like.

The following real life inspirational stories of success peel back the layers of what goes into success. They serve as a potent reminder of what’s possible when you become a “no matter what” kind of person.

I hope they add fuel to the fire that already exists within you.

Juliane Koepcke’s Motivational Story Of Survival

It’s Christmas Eve in 1971. Juliana Koepcke is flying over the Peruvian rainforest with her family. 

The plane starts shaking due to massive turbulence, and her mother notices a flashing red light as she looks out the passenger window.

She looks over to Juliana and says, “That’s the end, it’s all over.” 

The plane starts jumping up and down rapidly, before falling into a nosedive. A few moments later, Juliana finds herself strapped to her seat, stuck in a freefall.

The plane had broken into pieces two miles above the ground, which left Juliana plummeting towards the earth.

In a stroke of luck, the dense rainforest braces her fall on the way down, lessening the force of her impact. 

Despite falling close to 10,000 feet, she only sustains a broken collarbone, deep cuts on her legs and arms, and a ruptured ligament in her knee.

Now comes the hard part — surviving the Amazon rainforest until she can find help.

Maggots make their way into the cuts on her body, and she’s forced to pick them out one by while they infect her wounds. She seeks shelter wherever she can find it while the climate shifts from hot/humid to cold/rainy.

Ten days into her fight for survival, she can barely stand. She decides to float along the edge of a large river, and sees a small boat moving towards her in the distance.

The boat was full of local fishermen. They pull Juliana out of the water before taking her to a local camp to administer first aid. 

Juliana ended up making a full recovery from her injuries. Fast forward to today, and she serves as the director of the Panruama biological research station.

Koepcke’s story is living proof of just how much the mind can withstand. Next time you want to give up on your goals, remember how much fight you really have left.

quote from juliana koepcke

Nick Vujicic Was Born Without Arms Or Legs, But Remained Undeterred

Nick Vujicic’s story is one of unparalleled inspiration. Born in Melbourne, Australia, he arrived in this world without arms or legs due to a condition called tetra-amelia syndrome.

When he was born, his mother refused to hold him. His father didn’t take it well either, and ran into the hallway vomiting profusely after Nick came out of the womb.

As you can imagine, Nick was bullied relentlessly in his younger years. As time went on, he became depressed and suicidal at the thought he’d never find career opportunities, enjoy his favorite hobbies, and get married or have children.

One night, he attempted to drown himself. As he drew closer to death in his bathtub, he realized that he didn’t want to die.

From that point on, he set out to make something of his life despite losing the genetic lottery.

Learning to navigate life with his limb difference, Nick taught himself how to swim, surf, and skydive, eventually competing in competitions across the world.

Today, Nick is a world renowned motivational speaker, touching millions with his message of hope and resilience. 

With a contagious zest for life, his true motivational story encourages others to find strength in the face of life’s trials and tribulations.

nick vujicic on stage

Sylvester Stallone’s Bet On Himself

Stallone’s inspirational story is the stuff of legends in the film industry.

In the early 1970’s, Stallone was a struggling actor in New York City. Eventually, the lack of work left him broke and homeless, and the bus station became his bedroom.

With his life in turmoil, Stallone decided to write a screenplay about a gritty thug who wanted to make it as a professional boxer. 

Obviously, the script in question became the first film in the Rocky series. This is where Stallone’s inspirational story gets really interesting.

Film executives were intrigued by the script, and one studio even offered him $125,000 for it. The only problem? Stallone wanted to star in the movie, and they wouldn’t let him. 

By this time, Stallone was no longer homeless, but still living paycheck to paycheck.

Yet despite this, he turned down the $125,000 offer.

Another offer came in for $250,000, and then another for $350,000. Again, he turned both down.

Eventually, he accepted a reduced offer for the script in exchange for the lead role in the movie. His performance in Rocky catapulted Stallone into stardom, and he subsequently starred in several blockbuster films.

Throughout his 50 years in the film industry, he’s amassed a net worth of $400 million.

From sleeping at a bus station to the big screen, Stallone’s inspiring life story is a powerful testament to what happens when you refuse to be denied.

sylvester stallone on stage

The Inspirational Story Of Giannis Antetokounmpo

Born to Nigerian parents in the heart of Athens, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s story feels straight out of a fairy tale.

Antetokounmpo grew up amid economic hardship, and was forced to sell trinkets on the streets of Sepolia to help his family survive. 

At the age of 13, Giannis was discovered by a basketball coach, who was immediately struck by his raw potential.

The sport became his passport, and Giannis began climbing the ranks of European basketball. 

His talent was undeniable, and his ascent was meteoric. At 19, he was drafted into the NBA by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Despite his natural talent, he arrrived in the NBA as a very raw prospect. His jumpshot was awkard and inefficient, and he struggled as a scorer during his first two years.

Every offseason, he worked diligently to address the holes in his game. And by his fourth year in the league, Giannis had blossomed into a bonafide NBA superstar. 

In 2021, he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player and led the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA Championship, their first one in 40 years.

From the streets of Sepolia to NBA superstar, Giannis’ real life success story is an inspiration to us all.

giannis antetokounmpo playing basketball

JK Rowling’s Inspirational Story

In 1994 J.K. Rowling was divorced, jobless, and a single mother suffering severe bouts of depression. Barely surviving on unemployment benefits, she used every spare moment to cobble together her manuscript.

Once she’d completed the manuscript, now she needed to find a way to get published.

Twelve separate times, she walked into publishing offices with her completed manuscript. And twelve times, she was denied a book deal.

Rowling admits that she got dangerously close to giving up on her dream of being a writer. Yet as fate would have it, her manuscript was accepted on attempt #13.

The manuscript that twelve publishers rejected became Harry Potter, which has now sold 500 million copies worldwide.

A story like this makes you think — how many great artists, novelists, and entrepreneurs have we lost because of the word no?

jk rowling signing book

The Perseverance Of Inky Johnson

Inky Johnson’s life story is a masterclass in resilience. 

Johnson grew up in the gritty streets of Atlanta. Motivated by the desire to pull his family out of poverty, he spent every spare second honing his skills on the football field.

He quickly became a high school superstar, and the University of Tennessee took notice of Johnson’s prowess.

It didn’t take long for Johnson to make an impact. In the midst of the 2006 college football season, he was destined to be a first-round draft pick.

But in one split-second, Johnson’s dreams were shattered. When attempting a routine tackle of an opposing player, he ruptured his clavian artery and blacked out.

He was rushed to the ER, where doctors performed life-saving surgery. He escaped with his life, but lost the use of his right arm, which rendered his dreams of NFL stardom hopeless.

After that accident, Johnson turned his tragedy into purpose. He evolved into a motivational speaker, touching lives with his story of unwavering determination.

Inky’s comeback story highlights that when life punches you in the face, there is always a pathway back to greatness.

Continue Reading: Inky Johnson Motivational Quotes


Ramona Pierson’s Life-Changing Accident

At the age of 22, Ramona Pierson was serving in the Marine Corps. One night, a drunk driver struck her, plunging her into a coma for 18 months. 

The aftermath of the accident was brutal. Upon coming out of her coma, she was blind, couldn’t walk or talk, and had 104 broken bones in her body.

Doctors estimated that she faced a decade-long period of rehabilitation.

Eleven years after the accident, cutting edge surgery erased her blindness. Over a period of 25 years, doctors performed over 100 surgeries to rebuild her body.

Ramona spent every second of the day trying to fight her way back to normal, and eventually she succeeded. She became a successful entrepreneur, selling her first startup for $10 million.

Then, she leveraged her passion for education and co-founded Declara, a platform harnessing artificial intelligence to personalize learning.

Pierson’s real life success story proves even if your world gets turned upside down, you can always flip the odds back in your favor.

The Inspiring True Story Of David Goggins’ Transformation

Many of you know David Goggins today as the embodiment of resilience and mental toughness, but his life wasn’t always that way.

During his childhood, Goggins father physically abused him. Several times, he was left black and blue by the man that was supposed to be his primary role model.

His struggles weren’t limited to home either. At school, he struggled due to numerous learning disabilities and endured nonstop bullying

As he grew older, Goggins struggled mightily with obesity. Sitting at 300 pounds, he hated the body that stared back at him in the mirror every day.

Yet just like many of us, Goggins reached the point where enough is enough. Not only did he decide to shed the weight and face his trauma, but also shatter the barriers of human potential. 

And that’s exactly what happened.

Goggins became obsessed with pushing his body and mind to the limit. He lost 100 pounds in just three months, and then became a Navy SEAL.

He also became an ultra marathon runner, and set the Guiness World Record for most pull ups completed in 2017. (4,030 pullups in 17 hours).

Best-selling author, motivational speaker, and smokejumper are other accolades that Goggins has added to his resume.

From an overweight man sleepwalking through life to being labelled the “toughest man on earth,” his transfiormation is certainly complete.

Continue Reading: David Goggins Quotes

david goggins running in the desert

The Astounding Success Story Of Niki Lauda

Contrary to many on this list, Niki Lauda was born into a wealthy Austrian family.

But when he decided to pursue a career in motor racing instead of following his father into the family business, his father cut him off completely. 

Lauda then took out a $30,000 loan against his life insurance policy and bought himself a seat in a Formula 2 team.

His talent was evident from the outset, and he was promoted to Formula One shortly after. Within two years, he was signed by Ferrari, and proceeded to win back-to-back world championships.

While going for the three peat in 1976, Lauda spun around and hit the wall after going through a corner too fast.

The impact knocked his helmet off, and his car burst into flames. Unable to get his seatbelt off, other drivers pulled over to help Lauda out of the car.

He spent 57 seconds in a fiery inferno of 800 degrees before exiting the car.

The Austrian was rushed to the hospital in agonizing pain with third degree burns all over his face. More importantly, all of the smoke he had inhaled meant there was life-threatening damage to his lungs.

At one point after Lauda slipped into a coma, a priest was called in to read him last rites.

Defying all odds, Lauda returned to the racetrack in just six weeks. With blood-soaked bandages around his forehead, he finished 4th place in his heroic return to the grid.

Despite missing four races that season, he came within one point securing another world championship, nearly completing one of the most miraculous comeback stories ever.

Lauda went onto win four world championships during his career, and is widely considered one of the best Formula One drivers ever.

niki lauda doing an interview

Steve Harvey’s True Motivational Story

Steve Harvey has been in the television business for over 33 years. When reading about his inspirational story, something very specific caught my attention. 

According to Harvey, he’s pitched over 200 show ideas to Hollywood executives. 

Out of 200 meetings, how many of his ideas do you think got picked? Five.

That’s 200 meetings, with only 5 ideas accepted. In any domain of life, that’s a horrible track record.

But guess what happened to those five shows that got accepted? 

Well, they were hits.

Five good ideas turned Harvey into a bonafide superstar. You don’t hear anything about the 195 ideas that didn’t get picked, all you hear about is the five that made his career.

So as you encounter failure on the path to your goals, remember that successful people fail more times than the average person ever tries.

Further Reading: Steve Harvey Motivational Quotes

steve harvey on a podcast

Thomas Edison’s 10,000 Ways That Didn’t Work

Thomas Edison was born to be an inventor. In 1877, he invented the carbon transmitter, a device responsible for cleaning up audio on the other side of a telephone. 

In that same year, he invented the phonograph, which could record sounds as indentations on a sheet of paper.

However a year later, he turned his focus towards a challenge that had perplexed scientists for over 50 years; producing safe and inexpensive electric light.

Edison endured nonstop failure as he set out to produce the incandescent lightbulb. 

It was reported that he tried over 10,000 different combinations before a viable finished product was created. He famously described this process by saying, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

portrait of thomas edison

Walt Disney Had To Survive on Dogfood

Continuing with these real life inspirational stories of success, we have Walt Disney.

Many of you know Walt Disney as the animation genius who created iconic cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Donald Duck, and more.

What you probably don’t know about is the misfortune he endured before striking gold.

After serving in World War One, Disney landed an apprenticeship at a commercial art studio in Kansas City. Feeling like he was destined for bigger things, he decided to start his own cartoon company with his brother Roy.

After a couple of years, the company went bankrupt. Flat-broke, he ate dog food just to keep his expenses at rock-bottom.

Eventually, Disney created a successful cartoon character named Oswald The Rabbit, which seemed to be the spark that would turn his life around.

Disaster was lurking around the corner however. Upon returning to New York to renegotiate his contract, he discovered that his producer had stolen his animation team out from under him. 

On top of that, he no longer had legal rights to the character he created. It was on that depressing train ride home from New York City that he created Mickey Mouse. 

Yet still, over 300 bankers laughed him out of their offices as he presented the character.

Yes, you read that right. Over 300 people refused to invest in what would become the most iconic cartoon cartoon character of all-time.

Once Disney finally received funding, the rest was history. Walt Disney died a billionaire, and the company he started now has a market cap of over $200 billion.

walt disney working

Steve Jobs Was Fired From The Company He Started

On April 1, 1976, Steve Jobs co-founded Apple with Steve Wozniak.

But nine years later, he was ousted from the company he co-founded. Jobs had his sights set on the CEO title, but the board felt he was too young and too difficult to work with.

In classic Jobs fashion, he got back right back to work. Immediately after being fired from Apple, he founded a company called NeXT, with a mission to produce computers for college universities and researchers.

Realizing the value of the operating system that Jobs was building, Apple purchased the company for a whopping $429 million. 

A few months later, Jobs was named interim CEO. Shortly after, he was voted into the role permanently, finally acquiring the title he’d been fired for seeking tweleve years prior.

steve jobs sitting on chair

Tiger Woods: Inspirational Story Of Recovering From Rock Bottom

Those of you familiar with Tiger Woods know about the cheating scandal that turned his world upside down.

However, that was just the start of a decade-long period of struggle for Woods.

After the cheating scandal, Woods walked away from golf for 18 months to heal emotionally and physically. After regaining his top-form during the 2013 season, he fell to his knees in pain after hitting a tee shot during a tournament. 

Unable to walk on his own due to severe back pain, he needed a cart to drive him back to the clubhouse. This back injury triggered a five-year stretch where Woods would endure five separate back surgeries. 

To top it all off, Woods was arrested in 2017 on suspicion of driving under the influence. Due to a combination of pain and sleep medication, he’d fallen asleep behind the wheel of his car while it was still running.

Tiger had always been known for his mental toughness, but it seemed he was slipping into a death spiral that he’d never recover from. Many athletes would have thrown in the towel. but Woods was not most athletes.

He rehabbed his back, undergoing a fusion surgery that significantly improved his mobility. Due to improved mobility, he began posting better scores and seriously contending in tournaments again.

At the 2018 Tour Championship, he secured his first professional win in five years, winning by two strokes.

He followed that up by winning the Masters Tournament less than a year later, which is the biggest tournament in all of golf. 

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying his perserverance and mental toughness.

tiger woods playing golf

Final Thoughts

I hope that these true motivational stories were an eye-opening look about the true price of success.

If you’re truly committed to living a 1% life, you need to be realistic about everything that goes into it.

It’s likely you won’t make meaningful progress for quite awhile. You’ll endure failure and rejection constantly. You’ll need to sacrifice a life of comfort for one marred by stress, discomfort, and adversity.

But if you have the courage to tackle adversity head on, you might just become someone that other people write about.

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