He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School.
He did eventually learn to speak and read. Even to do a little math.
As a young man, Abraham Lincoln went to war a captain and returned a private. Afterwards, he was a failure as a businessman. As a lawyer in Springfield, he was too impractical and temperamental to be a success. He turned to politics and was defeated in his first try for the legislature, again defeated in his first attempt to be nominated for congress, defeated in his application to be commissioner of the General Land Office, defeated in the senatorial election of 1854, defeated in his efforts for the vice-presidency in 1856, and defeated in the senatorial election of 1858. He later became the 16th President of the United States of America.
R. H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York City caught on.
F. W. Woolworth was not allowed to wait on customers when he worked in a dry goods store because, his boss said, "he didn't have enough sense."
When Bell telephone was struggling to get started, its owners offered all their rights to Western Union for $100,000. The offer was disdainfully rejected with the pronouncement, "What use could this company make of an electrical toy." And how many people have a telephone today?
Sigmund Freud was booed from the podium when he first presented his ideas to the scientific community of Europe. He returned to his office and kept on writing.
Rocket scientist Robert Goddard found his ideas bitterly rejected by his scientific peers on the grounds that rocket propulsion would not work in the rarefied atmosphere of outer space.
An expert said of Vince Lombardi: "He possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation." Lombardi would later write, "It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get back up."
Babe Ruth is famous for his past home run record, but for decades he also held the record for strikeouts. He hit 714 home runs and struck out 1,330 times in his career (about which he said, "Every strike out brings me closer to the next home run.").
Hank Aaron went 0 for 5 his first time at bat with the Milwaukee Braves.
Stan Smith was rejected as a ball boy for a Davis Cup tennis match because he was "too awkward and clumsy." He went on to clumsily win Wimbledon and the US Open...and eight Davis Cups.
Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, and Jimmy Johnson accounted for 11 of the 19 Super Bowl victories from 1974 to 1993. They also share the distinction of having the worst records of first-season head coaches in NFL history - they didn't win a single game.
Johnny Unitas's first pass in the NFL was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Joe Montana's first pass was also intercepted. And while we're on quarterbacks, during his first season Troy Aikman threw twice as many interceptions (18) as touchdowns (9) . . . oh, and he didn't win a single game. You think there's a lesson here?
Charles Schultz had every cartoon he submitted rejected by his high school yearbook staff. Oh, and Walt Disney wouldn't hire him.
After Fred Astaire's first screen test, the memo from the testing director of MGM, dated 1933, read, "Can't act. Can't sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little." He kept that memo over the fire place in his Beverly Hills home.
Astaire once observed that "when you're experimenting, you have to try so many things before you choose what you want, that you may go days getting nothing but exhaustion." And here is the reward for perseverance: "The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style."
After his first audition, Sidney Poitier was told by the casting director, "Why don't you stop wasting people's time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?" It was at that moment, recalls Poitier, that he decided to devote his life to acting.
When Lucille Ball began studying to be actress in 1927, she was told by the head instructor of the John Murray Anderson Drama School, "Try any other profession."
The first time Jerry Seinfeld walked on-stage at a comedy club as a professional comic, he looked out at the audience, froze, and forgot the English language. He stumbled through "a minute-and a half" of material and was jeered offstage. He returned the following night and closed his set to wild applause.
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 spossed 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."
Michael Caine's headmaster told him, "You will be a laborer all your life.
Charlie Chaplin was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because his pantomime was considered "nonsense."
Decca Records turned down a recording contract with The Beatles with the evaluation, "We don't like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out." After Decca rejected the Beatles, Columbia records followed suit.
In 1954, Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired Elvis Presley after one performance. He told Presley, "You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck."
Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him "hopeless as a composer." And, of course, you know that he wrote five of his greatest symphonies while completely deaf.
Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, was encouraged to find work as a servant by her family.
Emily Dickinson had only seven poems published in her lifetime.
18 publishers turned down Richard Bach's story about a "soaring eagle." Macmillan finally published Jonathan Livingston Seagull in 1970. By 1975 it had sold more than 7 million copies in the U.S. alone.
21 publishers rejected Richard Hooker's humorous war novel, M*A*S*H. He had worked on it for seven years.
27 publishers rejected Dr. Seuss's first book, "To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street."
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