Albert Einstein reportedly mused that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. If that’s the case, some of our most admired celebrities must be nuts! While rejection stings sharply, the following superstars prove worthy of the proverb that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.
1. Stephen King
Stephen King’s first book “Carrie” was reportedly rejected 30 times by various publishers before being picked up in 1974. "We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell," noted one rejection letter. When it was finally published, it had a print run of 30,000 copies. The paperback edition released 12 months later sold more than a million copies in the first year alone.
2. Anne Frank
"The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level," wrote one of the 15 publishers who didn’t accept "The Diary of Anne Frank" for publication. Seriously?
3. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan was denied a spot on his high school varsity team at first. (Photo: Basket Streaming/flickr)
By his senior year of high school, the “greatest basketball player ever” proved himself a star, but he was initially denied a spot on the high school varsity team when he first tried out.
4. Jim Lee
The comic book artist who penciled and co-wrote the best-selling comic book of all time, "X-Men #1," received numerous rejection letters before getting his lucky break. Among other critiques, Lee was told that his figures were stiff and unrealistic, his work looked like it was drawn by four different people, and he needed to learn how to draw hands. He is now co-publisher of comics giant DC Entertainment.
5. Anna Wintour
It’s hard to imagine Anna Wintour anywhere but at the top and in charge, but she was once a junior fashion editor at Harpers Bazaar — and she was fired after a brief nine-month stint.
6. James Joyce
In 1914, a publisher decided to accept a collection of short stories titled “Dubliners.” The author, the one and only James Joyce, had received 22 rejections of the manuscript prior to this. Although less than 400 copies from the 1,250 print run were sold in the first year, Joyce went on to become one of the most influential authors of the century.
7. Col. Harlan Sanders
Colonel, we hardly knew you! Harlan Sanders was a feisty one. He lost his job as a fireman due to brawling; then lost his job as a lawyer and insurance salesman for the same. He went on to make a string of unfortunate business decisions before opening up a Shell service station in Kentucky. He began selling fried chicken there which began a very rocky career in the restaurant business. But by the time he died at age 90 in 1980, there were around 6,000 KFC outlets in 48 countries globally, with $2 billion in sales per year.
Disney was reportedly let go from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because his editor found him lacking in imagination and “good ideas.” He then started an animation company that went out of business before going to Hollywood to strike it rich. Even in Hollywood, his ideas were met with rejection. He was warned that Mickey Mouse would flop because the mouse would “terrify women.” The Three Little Pigs was rejected by distributors because the cast was too small. Pinocchio was shut down during production and Disney had to rewrite the storyline, and other characters from now-classic films like Bambi, Pollyanna and Fantasia were panned by the public.
9. Mary Higgins Clark
In the 1950s, Mary Higgins Clark received a total of 40 rejection letters over the course of six years for her first story. She finally sold it for $100. Forty years later, the author of dozens of best-selling thrillers signed a $64 million book deal with Simon Schuster
10. Andy Warhol
In 1956, Warhol gave the Museum of Modern Art in New York City a drawing titled “Shoe.” They declined the gift and asked him to come pick it up. The museum now owns 168 pieces by the artist.
11. James Patterson
Thirty-one publishers sent rejection letters to Patterson for his first novel, “The Thomas Berryman Number.” Once it was finally published, it won the lofty Edgar Award for mystery writing and he’s been turning out best-selling tomes ever since.
12. Jerry Seinfeld
Funny funnyman Jerry Seinfeld was fired from his first television job, a recurring role on the sitcom "Benson." A few years later, he created his eponymous show, which became the most successful sitcom on American television by its fourth season.
13. Steven Spielberg
Nothing says success like being immortalized in wax at Madam Tussaud's. (Photo: Prayitno/flickr)
Steven Spielberg applied to the University of Southern California film school three times, and was denied acceptance just as many. Undeterred, he took an unpaid internship in Universal's editing department … and went on to direct more than 50 films and has won three Oscars to date. Forbes Magazine says he’s currently worth about $3.6 billion.
14. J.K. Rowling
It’s hard to imagine a publisher not being completely charmed by the magic of Harry Potter, but it happened. And in fact, it happened 12 times! Woe must be the word for those who penned Rowling a “no thanks” letter. All told, Rowling wrote seven books in the Harry Potter series, which have sold more than 400 million copies. They have all been turned into feature films, along with more than 400 licensed products, 11 video games and two theme parks. The Harry Potter brand is worth a whopping $15 billion.
In her 2011 Harvard commencement speech, Rowling said, "Failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default."