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7 True Motivational Stories Behind Successful People

As humans, there are two things that we’re all really good at – overcomplicating and oversimplifying

We over-complicate the simplest tasks by falling victim to procrastination and misjudge important decisions by letting our emotions get the best of us. We let our imaginations run wild and convince ourselves to avoid risk and stay in our comfort zone.

That’s how overthinking gets us into trouble, but what about oversimplification? Well, that gets us into trouble too – especially when it comes to making judgements about other people.

It’s human nature to oversimplify the success of the people we admire. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to make judgments about how certain people got to where they are.

It’s easy to chalk up the success of others to a “good upbringing” or a “right place, right time”, but in most cases we have no idea what we’re talking about. 

In this article, we’re going to be looking at the true motivational stories behind some of the world’s most successful people. These inspirational stories will give you a glimpse into the challenges that forged these high-achievers into people that we admire.

Peeling back the layers behind the facade of successful people can give us insight into how to handle setbacks in our own lives. Not only that, but they serve as a wake up call by defining what it really takes to achieve our own goals and dreams.


7 True Motivational Stories About Success

Let’s dive into some true motivational stories behind successful people that will I hope will be eye-opening for you to read about.

In each of these stories, you’re going to notice a common theme – failure. Many of these inspirational people that we’re about to cover failed over and over again to get to where they are now.

They experienced things that may have made other people throw in the towel. But because they didn’t let their failures define them, they were able to see their goals through and live purposeful lives.

Read these true motivational stories closely. With each experience, think to yourself – would this have stopped me?


#1: Steve Jobs Was Fired From The Company He Started

To start off this list of true motivational stories, it’s only right to start off with the late, great Steve Jobs.

We all know Steve Jobs as the marketing genius and co-founder of Apple, one of the most successful companies in the world today. 

Contrary to many people on this list, Jobs was a fairly quick success. By the age of 25, his net worth was over $100 million. 

What you probably don’t know is that he was fired from Apple, the company he co-founded, by a man named John Sculley. Ironically, just a few years earlier Jobs had hired Scully to help run the company.

Jobs wanted the CEO title, but the board felt like he was too young and too difficult to work with, so they ousted him.

How would you feel if you were fired right in your prime from the very company that you built from the ground up? Jobs was humiliated, but he didn’t see this situation as permanent – just a temporary setback.


steve jobs


Almost immediately after getting fired from Apple, he founded a company called NeXT. He poured all of his effort into building an operating system that would change the world, and he succeeded. 

Realizing the value of what Jobs was doing at NeXT, Apple ended up buying them for $429 million. A few months later, Jobs was named interim CEO and then eventually acquired the coveted CEO title that he had gotten fired for aiming at 12 years prior.

After the biggest failure of his career, all it took was twelve years of struggle and work to reach his ultimate goal. 

Would you have the patience to wait it out?


#2: JK Rowling’s Inspirational Story About Rejection

It’s impossible to leave J.K. Rowling off of this list of true motivational stories given all that she experienced when trying to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer.

In 1994 J.K. Rowling was divorced, jobless, and a single mother who suffered severe bouts of depression on a regular basis. Through everything she was going through, one thing remained – her love of writing.

Barely surviving on unemployment benefits, she used every spare second she could to write her manuscript. 

Eventually, the day finally came where her manuscript was completed. However, she still needed to find a publisher who was willing to take a chance on her.

She took her manuscript to the first publisher, and they said no. She took it to the second publisher, who also said no. 

Twelve times, J.K. Rowling walked into the office of a publisher. And twelve times, she was told that her work simply wasn’t good enough.

At this point, she was almost ready to quit. Rejection after rejection had taken its toll on her and she began questioning her own ability as a writer. 


jk rowling and her true motivational stories


However, eventually her manuscript got accepted. The book that these publishers rejected was Harry Potter, which has now sold 500 million copies worldwide and been turned into a movie series that’s grossed billions of dollars.

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

How many people have given up without realizing each failure was bringing them one step closer to success?

Rowling’s story highlights the importance of not letting failures define who you are. After the 5th, 8th, or 11th rejection it would have been very easy for Rowling to throw in the towel.

But because of her courage and persistence, the world was able to enjoy her work, and she was able to live her dream.


#3: Steve Harvey’s Five Hits

Steve Harvey has been in the television business for over 33 years, and is one of the most successful personalities working today with a net worth of over $200 million. 

He’s no stranger to rags to riches either. He’s gone from living in a car doing stand-up comedy to making more money in one day than most people make in one year. 

However, we’re not going to be focusing on his rags to riches story. When reading about Harvey, something very specific caught my attention.

According to Harvey, he’s brainstormed and pitched over 200 show ideas to Hollywood executives. Out of 200 meetings, want to know how many of his ideas got picked? 


200 meetings. 5 ideas accepted. By any standard measure, that’s a horrible acceptance rate. To be more specific, that’s a success rate of 2% and a failure rate of 98%. 

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

Well, they became hits.

Five good ideas made Harvey hundreds of millions of dollars and turned him into a bonafide superstar. You don’t hear anything about the 195 meetings where he got rejected, all you hear about is the five that got picked.

So remember that whenever you encounter failure – it’s simply a part of the process. Despite Harvey’s monstrous success in the industry, he’s really only had five good ideas in 33 years.

He’s failed almost 40x more than he’s succeeded, yet he’s still considered an ultra-successful individual.


steve harvey


Whatever you’re pursuing, you need to adopt the same mindset. Failure is a crucial part of the learning process. You don’t learn anything if you’re never exposed to rejection and failure, and there’s no one that gets it right 100% of the time. 

The first ten blog posts I put on this site were awful. The next ten were a little better. The next ten were slightly better than those. It wasn’t until I had published 40-45 articles until I started to see myself as a competent writer.

This is post #59 and I’m still constantly refining my process and picking up new things. It’s something that won’t stop, even after 100, 200, or 300 posts are on this site. I will always be improving my content and learning from my past mistakes.

Stop trying to be perfect. Things are never going to play out like they do in the motivational montage that runs through your head every day. 

You’re gonna fail. Over. And over. And over again. But all you need is one hit, and that’s what they will remember you for.


#4: Tiger Woods’ Legendary Comeback 

Tiger Woods was the biggest reason that I fell in love with golf at a very young age.

At the time, I wasn’t able to see that behind the facade of this great champion was a dark side that would almost destroy his career. Those of you familiar with Tiger Woods know about the cheating scandal that destroyed his reputation in the eyes of many.

But the massive cheating scandal he was embroiled in during the year of 2009 was really just the start of a decade long period of struggle and suffering. 

After the cheating scandal, Woods walked away from golf for a period of 18 months to heal emotionally and physically. He also spent time recovering from multiple ailments in his knee, including ligament damage and a torn ACL. 

In 2013, after regaining his top-form, he fell to his knees after hitting a drive on the 13th hole of the Barclays Championship. Unable to walk on his own, he needed a cart to drive him back to the clubhouse because.

This injury would start a five-year stretch where Woods would endure five separate back surgeries. 

He described the pain he was in as a living hell. Forget about trying to play golf, limited mobility wreaked havoc on his daily life. He was unable to play with his kids, and some days he was in so much pain that he could barely get out of bed.

Think about what it would be like to endure chronic pain like this and the consequences associated with it for five years straight. To be consistently on and off the course undergoing back surgery after back surgery.

Throughout this turbulent period, Woods was a shell off himself on the course. He fell from the #1 ranked player in the world, and the most dominant player that golf had ever seen, to a complete nobody – falling all the way down to the 1,199th ranked player in the world.

All of this culminated into the infamous mugshot that we’ve all seen before:


tiger woods mugshot


This photo was taken after Woods was pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence. Due to a combination of pain medication and sleep medication, officers had found him woozy and incoherent, asleep behind the wheel of his car while it was running.

In the eyes of many, this was Tiger Woods at his lowest point. He was irrelevant to the golf world. He’d always been known for his mental toughness, but it seemed like he was slipping into a dark hole that not even he could pull himself out of.

Despite all of this. Back pain that made his life a living hell for years. The public destruction of his marriage that he was 100% responsible for. Uncertainty as to whether he would even touch a club again.

He still made the choice to fight his way back to the top. He made the decision that despite the fact that nothing was going right,  there was a way he could dig himself out personal hell..

So he rehabbed his back and underwent a unique fusion surgery that significantly improved his mobility. He regained enough strength to start rigorously practicing again. He began to post better scores and seriously contending in tournaments again.

At the 2018 Tour Championship, his hard work paid off. He secured his first professional win in five years with a two-stroke victory. 

And the crowd, who knew all about what Woods had gone through, followed him down the 18th fairway in one of the most inspiring sports moments that I’ve ever seen.

As a golf fan, this is an image that I’ll never forget as long as I live:


true motivational stories - tiger woods wins tour championship


#5: Walt Disney Had To Survive on Dogfood

Continuing with this list of true motivational stories about success, we have Walt Disney.

Many of you know Waly Disney today as the legendary animation magnate who is responsible for creating some of the most iconic cartoon characters ever – Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Donald Duck, and more.

What you probably didn’t know about is the rocky road that led to his success

Walt Disney was the fourth son born among his five siblings. His father Elias reportedly abused each of his children and was a dominating figure in their lives.

To find solace from the trouble in his house, he began to take up drawing. He watched as each of his siblings decided one by one to run away from their father and start new lives. 

Eventually, he decided to follow suit and lied about his age to become an ambulance driver during World War 1. 

After returning home from the war, Disney maintained his love of art and landed an apprenticeship at a commercial art studio in Kansas City. Feeling like he was destined for bigger things, he decided to leave and start his own cartoon company with his brother Roy.


photo of walt disney


After a couple of years, the company went bankrupt. Disney was flat-broke, so to save money he literally survived on dog food just to keep his expenses low. 

With just $40 to his name, he packed up and moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, but that failed too.

Eventually, Disney finally got his big break by creating a successful cartoon character named Oswald The Rabbit. Yet, failure and disappointment were still lurking around the corner.

When he got back to New York to renegotiate his contract, he discovered that his producer had stolen his team of animators out from under him. More importantly though, he no longer had any legal rights to the character he created.

Noticing a common theme here? Failure. Failure. And more failure.

Time and time again, it appeared as if Disney’s dreams were never going to amount to anything. He experienced repeated setbacks that would’ve taken most people out of the game completely. 

It was on the ride home from New York that he created Mickey Mouse. 

To turn this giant mouse into what he thought it could be, he needed financial backing. And over 300 bankers laughed him out of their offices when he presented the idea of Mickey Mouse.

Yep, that’s right. One of the most iconic cartoon characters ever was rejected 300 times before someone finally bought into Disney’s vision. 

You thought J.k. Rowling’s story of rejection was bad? Multiply that by 30 and that’s how much harder Disney had to work to bring his idea to life.

And as they say, the rest is history. 26 Academy Awards and $130 billion later, Disney has left a legacy in the film industry that cannot be denied.

From eating dogfood and being rejected over 300 times, to being hailed as one of the greatest visionaries of all time. 

Setback after setback. Defeat after defeat. Disney persevered because he had a vision that was strong enough to overcome all of it.


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

Most of you know this story already, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s an exemplary story of how important of an ingredient that failure is to creating success.

Thomas Edison was born to be an inventor. In 1877, he invented the carbon transmitter – a device responsible for cleaning up the audio on the other side of a telephone. That same year, he invented the phonograph, which was able to record sounds as indentations on a sheet of paper.

A year later, he turned his focus towards creating a solution that produced safe and inexpensive electric light. Keep in mind that at the time, this was a challenge that scientists had been grappling with for over 50 years.

Edison believed that he could find the answer, so with the help of financial backers he set up the Edison Electric Light Company and started research and development.


thomas edison picture


Early on, Edison ran into hiccup after hiccup in his attempts to produce the incandescent lightbulb. But two key breakthroughs in 1879 and 1880 helped him create the world’s first affordable and long-lasting lightbulb in 1881.

It was reported that he had tried over 10,000 different combinations and techniques before a viable finished product was created. Describing his stream of failures, Edison famously said, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

When we experience constant failure, it can be easy to get jaded and develop a negative mindset. It’s easy to feel like the world is against us and that things are happening to us and not for us.

But the truth is that everything that happens in your life does happen for you. Whatever pain and failure you’re struggling through right now is happening for a reason – it’s trying to teach you valuable lessons that can be used for your breakthrough.

You may not see it that way, but it’s the truth. 


#7: Sylvester Stallone’s Crazy Bet On Himself

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

I wanted to share this comeback story because it’s obviously incredibly inspiring, but it also delivers an important message about sticking to your principles and betting on yourself.

In his early days, Stallone was a struggling actor who was trying to chase his dream in New York City. Like many others in the same predicament, he found work wherever he could get it to make ends meet.

He cleaned up lion’s cages at the central park zoo, ushered in a movie theater, and even hilariously made an appearance in an adult film. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do right?

After a few years of struggle, Stallone’s acting career wasn’t blossoming the way he had hoped. Eventually, he ended up becoming homeless and the bus station became his bedroom. Barely able to afford food, he sold his dog for a whopping $25 (sorry for all of the dog lovers out there)

Stallone also had a passion for screenwriting, so he decided to create a story about a gritty, rough-and-tumble thug who wanted to make it as a professional boxer. 

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


true motivational stories - stallone and rocky


Film executives were intrigued by the script, and one studio offered him $125,000 for the script. 

The only problem? Stallone wanted to star in the movie, and they wouldn’t let him. An accident at birth had left him Stallone with a slurred voice, and the left side of his face was completely paralyzed.

Given this impediment, they didn’t think he was fit to star in a major film. 

However, Stallone remained adamant. Despite being dead broke, he turned down the $125,000 offer for the screenplay because they wouldn’t let be the main character.

Another offer came in for $250,000, and then another for $350,000. Again, he turned both down because neither gave him what he wanted most – a chance to prove himself in the film industry.

He was dead-broke. He had no savings in the bank to rely on. He had a pregnant wife with a baby on the way. These producers were offering him a way out, but he refused to let his dream be deterred.

Eventually, he accepted a significantly reduced offer for the script in exchange for being able to star in the film. Stallone would go on to star in Rocky and several other films throughout the years. His net worth today? Close to $400 million.

Perhaps one of the most interesting true motivational stories on this list, Stallone’s journey highlights the importance ofbelieving in yourself when no one else will.

If Stallone had taken the money and never starred in Rocky, it’s entirely possible that he wouldn’t have become the legendary actor that we know him as today.

He may have ended as just a guy who came up with a great idea and got paid for it, that’s it. But he stuck to his guns and was willing to bet on himself, and it’s safe to say that bet has paid off


Final Thoughts On These True Motivational Stories

Did you enjoy that list of true motivational stories about some of the world’s most successful people? I hope that you took something valuable away from these stories and that they gave you a raw and real perspective on success.

Most people tend to believe that as long as they work hard and do the right things, that everything will go according to plan. But the thing about hard work is that although it’s necessary to achieving success, it doesn’t protect us from the slings and arrows of life.

Success is a pursuit that never goes according to plan. As you chase your dreams, realize that there will be times when you want to give up. 

There will be times when you’re wondering whether or not to persevere through constant rejection. There may be times where you don’t know whether or not you’ll be able to pay your bills. 

In these moments, it’s important to keep your perspective and realize  that others in your position have faced the exact same circumstances, possibly worse.

J.K. Rowling continued to meet with publishers despite rejection after rejection. Walt Disney still believed in his vision even after being forced to eat dog food to conserve money.

Even after failure #3,267, Thomas Edison continued to hold out hope that each failure was bringing him closer and closer to his ultimate goal.

So whatever you’re trying to do with your life right now, all you have to do is stay on the fucking path. Remember these true motivational stories about successful people.

Remember that behind every successful person, there’s a lot of unsuccessful years.

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