There are many of them.
Elizabeth Gilbert was once an “unpublished diner waitress”, devastated by rejection letters. She was rejected hundreds of times. Her books are now massive, worldwide bestsellers.
Before she became the star of daytime TV, Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as an evening news reporter at Baltimore’s WJZ-TV because she was “unfit for television news” and couldn’t separate her emotions from the stories. She was given a daytime TV show as a consolation and, well, the rest is history.
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series was rejected again and again before becoming an international bestseller. The author was also fired from her job (well before Harry Potter) at the London office of Amnesty International because she wrote stories on her computer instead of working.
Thomas Edison worked at Western Union where he used to secretly conduct experiments. Then, one night in 1867, he spilled acid and it ate through the entire floor. He was fired and subsequently decided to pursue inventing full time.
When Marilyn Monroe was trying to start her career, modeling agencies told her she should consider being a secretary.
During his lifetime Vincent Van Gogh received hardly any acclaim for his work. While alive, he sold just one of his paintings, and that was to a friend for a very small sum. Despite this, he continued painting throughout his life, never seeing success, though his paintings now are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Steve Jobs was fired from his own company (Apple).
Rudyard Kipling, author of the world-famous Jungle Book was fired as his role as a contributor to the San Francisco Examiner in 1889 because he was told by an editor, “I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”
When The Beatles were just starting out, a recording company told them no. Decca Recording studios, who had recorded 15 songs with the group, said “we don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out. They have no future in show business.”
Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theatre, Film, and Television three times. He did get accepted by another school but then dropped out to pursue directing.
Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four and didn’t read until he was seven. He was subsequently expelled from school and was not admitted to the Zurich Polytechnic School.
Stephen King received lots of “nos” for his first short novel, Carrie. He actually tossed the book in the trash, which his wife then rescued and convinced him to re-submit it.
In 1954, Elvis was still a no-name performer, and Jimmy Denny — manager of the Grand Ole Opry — fired Elvis Presley after just one performance telling him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”
Isaac Newton was a wiz at math, but he did not excel when it came to other subjects. He never thrived in school and when he was put in charge of running the family farm, he failed terribly.
Anna Wintour, one of the biggest names in fashion, was fired after just nine months working at Harper’s Bazaar as a Junior Fashion Editor because her shoots were considered too edgy.
Winston Churchill struggled in school and failed the sixth grade. After school, he faced many years of political failures. He was defeated in every election for public office until he finally became the Prime Minister at the age of 62.
Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because, his editor said, he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
When he first started acting, film executives told Harrison Ford he didn’t “have what it took.”
When Abraham Lincoln was young and entered the war, he began as a Captain but came back as a much lower ranking Private. Later on, he tried to start up several businesses, all of which failed. Before becoming president, he lost several runs for public office
Madonna dropped out of college and was fired after working one day at Dunkin’ Donuts. Trying to make it as a singer in New York, one record company rejected her saying the thing “missing from this project is the material”.
It’s hard to imagine film without the iconic Charlie Chaplin, but his act was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because they felt it was “a little too nonsensical” to ever sell.
Actor Jim Carrey grew up in a lower-income family with a father who struggled to keep jobs. They were so poor that he had to drop out of high school at the age of 15 and get a job as a janitor to help support the family. On his first comic stand-up at a club called Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto, he was booed off the stage. Later, when he auditioned for Saturday Night Live for the 1980–81 season, he failed to land the part.