14 famous people who failed before they succeeded

Jerry SeinfeldTheo Wargo/Getty ImagesJerry Seinfeld suffered several setbacks before his big break.

Rejection can feel genuinely devastating.

But as some of the world’s most successful people prove, failure is often par for course.

Grit, perseverance, resilience — whatever you call it, many influential people show that the key to success is the ability to embrace failure and adapt to change change with confidence.

For a little inspiration, we’ve put together a list of indisputable successes, from movie stars to scientists, who had to rebound from massive failure before they found fame and fortune.

Scroll on to see the underdogs who went on to change the world.

Rachel Sugar contributed to an earlier version of this article.

Famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld suffered several setbacks before his big break

Jemal Countess/Getty

In Judd Apatow's book, 'Sick in the Head -- Conversations about life and comedy,' Seinfeld recalls that the very first time he performed stand up, he bombed.

Though he had rehearsed his material thoroughly the night before, when he stepped out on stage, he couldn't remember a word of his act. 'I stood there for about thirty seconds ... saying absolutely nothing, just standing there, freaking out. I just couldn't believe it.'

After improving his stand-up act, the comedian earned a small role on the sitcom 'Benson.' But, according to the New York Times, Seinfeld and the show's producers clashed over the character's direction, and he was fired after only four episodes.

Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell Seinfeld he'd been cut, according to 'Jerry Seinfeld: Much Ado About Nothing.' Seinfeld showed up for a read-through of the script one day and found there was no copy waiting for him. The assistant director pulled him aside and told him that they had neglected to inform him he was no longer on the show.

Seinfeld was humiliated, but he went right back to performing at comedy clubs. After one performance, a talent scout for the 'Tonight Show' was in the audience. Seinfeld landed a gig on the show and his career immediately took off.

'Keep your head up in failure, and your head down in success,' the comedian wrote in a Reddit AMA.

R.H. Macy had a series of failed retail ventures throughout his early career

YouTube/A&E Biography

But at the age of 36, Macy launched R.H. Macy & Co., which grew to become Macy's, one of the largest department store chains in the world.

Soichiro Honda's unique vision got him ostracized by the Japanese business community

Getty Images/ The Asahi Shimbun

Honda was a mechanical genius who idolized Edison and rebelled against the norm. His passion for aggressive individualism was more fit for the United States, and he found himself alienated from Japanese businessmen, who valued teamwork above all else. Honda then boldly challenged the American automotive industry in the 1970s and led a Japanese automotive revolution.

Sir Isaac Newton's mother pulled him out of school as a boy so that he could run the family farm. He failed miserably

Getty Images/Portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller

Realising her son was not meant to till the land, she let Newton finish his basic education and was eventually persuaded to allow him to enroll in Cambridge University. Newton went on to become one of the greatest scientists of all time, revolutionising physics and mathematics.

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson was cut by a Canadian Football League team before becoming a pro-wrestler

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Before he was 'the most electrifying man in sports entertainment,' Johnson was a backup defensive lineman on the University of Miami football team.

He tried to go pro after he graduated in 1995, but he was cut from the Canadian Football Leagues' Calgary Stampeders two months into the season. 'That was my absolute worst time,' he later told The Hollywood Reporter.

Johnson responded by persuading his father to train him in the family business of professional wrestling soon after, and he made his World Wrestling Federation (WWF) debut as Rocky Maivia the following year. This pivot catapulted him to stardom and allowed him to cross over to TV and movies in the early 2000s.

Charles Darwin was considered an average student. He gave up on a career in medicine and was going to school to become a parson

AP Photo, File

But as Darwin studied nature, he found his true calling and travelled the world to uncover nature's mysteries. His writings, especially 'On the Origin of Species,' fundamentally changed the world of science by spreading the discovery of evolution.

Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting, 'The Red Vineyard,' in his life, and the sale was just months before his death

Getty Images/Self-Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh

If he had given up his artistic career after it proved to strain his financial and emotional well-being, the art world would be missing hundreds of paintings from a true master.

At the beginning of her comedy career, Sarah Silverman was fired from SNL for being too 'Sarah Silverman'

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The comedian worked at SNL for 18 weeks as a writer and featured player in the early 90s, though none of the sketches she wrote ever aired. She was fired at the end of the season.

Bob Odenkirk, who wrote for the show alongside Silverman, explained his understanding of why she was fired to the New Yorker:

'I could see how it wouldn't work at 'SNL,' because she's got her own voice, she's very much Sarah Silverman all the time. She can play a character but she doesn't disappear into the character -- she makes the character her. She doesn't really do character voices. She puts out stuff that she would appreciate and then you can like it or not -- she doesn't give a shit.'

Now Silverman is a household name in comedy, arguably because of her unabashed Sarah Silverman-ness.

Aerospace engineer Clayton Anderson was rejected by NASA 15 times before finally going to space

According to the book 'Other People's Rejection Letters,' Anderson didn't feel depressed after receiving rejection letters from NASA. He said he actually felt 'hope' whenever he received one: 'Most applicants receive postcards; a letter sent on stationary meant something.'

After getting selected to train as a mission specialist by NASA in 1998, he spent finally shot into space in 2007 to spend five months aboard the International Space Station.

Lucille Ball appeared in so many second-tier films at the start of her career that she became known as 'The Queen of B Movies'

Getty Images/Mondadori Portfolio

Then she got her big break when CBS picked up her and her husband Desi Arnaz's vaudeville act and turned it into the highly influential sitcom 'I Love Lucy.'

While developing his vacuum, Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 failed prototypes and his savings over 15 years

Getty Images/Derek Hudson

But the 5,127th prototype worked, and the Dyson brand became the best-selling bagless vacuum brand in the United States. He is now worth an estimated $4.1 billion, according to Forbes.

NPR icon Terry Gross was fired from her first teaching job after approximately six weeks

A newly graduated English major, Gross did what many of us do: she took a teaching job in Buffalo's toughest inner city junior high. 'I couldn't keep the students in the classroom, I couldn't teach them a lesson, I couldn't do anything,' she told Marc Maron onstage at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Her tenure lasted all of six weeks.

Gross then discovered radio, and her long-running interview show, 'Fresh Air' now reaches more than 5 million listeners on 450 stations.

Lady Gaga got dropped by her record label, Island Def Jam, after 3 months. Upon receiving the news, she 'cried so hard she couldn't talk'

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Now, Stefani Germanotta is a pop icon, the winner of six Grammy awards and a Songwriters Hall of Fame award. She's a regular on Billboard's Artists of the Year lists, is known for her activism (LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS prevention), and is worth $59 million, according to Forbes.

Ang Lee failed Taiwan's college entrance exams -- twice. Then he tried to go to acting school, but his English wasn't good enough

Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

'I was always in shame that I could not focus on books,' Lee told ABC News. 'And I failed the college examinations. My father was my high school principle...That was bad.' In theatre school, he fell in love with the stage, but his English wasn't good enough.

Now, he's an a three-time Academy Award-winning director, and the man behind mega hits like 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,' 'Life of Pi,' and 'Brokeback Mountain.'

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