Ten inspirational entrepreneurs share quotes from their biggest doubters

Meet ten of the most influential celebrities and entrepreneurs who chose to believe in themselves and proved their critics wrong by excelling in their chosen fields. We take a look at the quotes that beat them back and how they responded.

What does it really take to become an influential and successful leader? What do the biggest entrepreneurs do that you don’t?

“Unfit for TV and too emotionally invested” – that’s what Oprah was told upon being fired from a news show.

“Too stupid to learn” is what teachers declared a young Thomas Edison.

“This guy is terrible. He is nothing” was the response Jay Z was given when he was trying to get signed with a record label.

What do these people have in common? They did not let their failures stand in the way of achieving their goals and became some of the most successful business people and entrepreneurs of all time


Quote: “Unfit for TV and too emotionally involved”

People are calling for Oprah 2020 after she spoke out against sexual harassment in the entertainment industry at the Golden Globes.

But can you believe the talk show host and media proprietor was once fired from a news show because she was “too emotionally involved” in the stories she was reporting about?

Thomas Edison

Quote: “Too stupid to learn anything”

Far from being stupid, Thomas Edison became one of the greatest inventors of all time with over 1,000 patents held in his name in the US alone, revolutionising everyday life with inventions such as the light bulb and the phonograph.

Anna Wintour

Quote: “You’d never understand the American market.”

Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue and artistic director at Condé Nast, was fired from her position as a fashion stylist at Harper’s Bazaar after only 9 months.

However, the fashion icon believes that setbacks are just another part of life and recommends that everyone go through this experience at least once.

James Dyson

Quote: “You must be mad.”

20 years ago, James Dyson developed a revolutionary vacuum technology. The only problem was that no manufacturer wanted to sell it, as it didn’t include the traditional technology of bags and filters and was seen as bad for business.

After perfecting the design for 15 years and selling his first device model in the Japanese market, Dyson founded his own company in 1993 – and the rest is history.

J.K Rowling

Quote: “Get a day job. It’s impossible to make a living writing children’s books.”

Not many people have ever been as wrong as the person who told J.K Rowling that she would never be able to make a living out of her biggest passion.

Over 400 million copies of the Harry Potter novels have been sold, making them the best-selling book series of all time.

Rowling went from depending on welfare to one of the richest women in the world and is now the UK’s best-selling living author.


Quote: “This guy is terrible. He’s nothing.”

At the beginning of his career, no record label was willing to take a chance on a young rapper from Brooklyn named Shawn Corey. Little did they know that he would grow up to be one of the best selling musicians, eventually founding his own entertainment company Roc Nation.

In 2017, Forbes listed Jay-Z as the second-richest hip hop artist in the US with a net worth of $810 million.

Sheryl Sandberg

Quote: “I would never hire anyone like you.”

It is hard to not get discouraged when the CEO of a tech company tells you he would never hire someone like you, but that is exactly what happened to Sheryl Sandberg during an interview.

In 2001, she was struggling to establish herself in the tech industry – since 2008, she has been Facebook’s chief operating officer.

Steve Jobs

Quote: “Hey we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.”

When pioneers of the personal computer Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak presented their ideas to Atari and HP, the rejection was immediate and indisputable.

One company argued that Jobs hadn’t even graduated – not knowing that they had just dismissed the future co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc.

Arianna Huffington

Quote: “This website venture is the sort of failure that is simply unsurvivable.”

Arianna Huffington is no stranger to rejections and failure: her second book was rejected by publishers 36 times and she suffered humiliating results during her 2003 run for governor in California.

Likewise the launch of the Huffington Post blog was accompanied by lots of ill-wishes and expectations of certain failure, but Huffington surprised everyone by co-founding one of the most influential media outlet of recent times.

Rob Law

Quote: “You think you have something. I tell you, you don’t.”

Upon presenting his idea of a ride-on suitcase he called Trunki, Rob Law was told by BBC Dragons’ Den judges that the invention was absolutely worthless.

How did he respond? By celebrating 10 years of successful business in 2016 and bringing his latest invention into the market by expanding the usability of his product to teenagers.

Owen Gough

Owen Gough

Owen Gough is a reporter for SmallBusiness.co.uk. He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...

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