Inspirational Stories of Perseverance


Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail." Stories of how other people persevere in the face of obstacles can serve as inspiration to anyone struggling in the face of failures, lack of support from the outside world or other obstacles. Many people with success stories achieved their goals only after experiencing a series of difficulties and setbacks.

Milton Hershey

  • Milton Hershey started three different candy companies in three different cities, only to see each of these ventures fail. With this track record, he could not attract loans or investors for his fourth attempt. He barely scraped together the funds to start the Lancaster Caramel Company. His caramels became so popular that he was able to sell that company in 1901 for $1 million. He then concentrated his energy on his chocolate company, although chocolate was not a popular candy in America at the time. The company became so successful that the town where it was located changed its name in honor of Hershey Chocolate.

Thomas Edison

  • The teachers of hearing-impaired young Thomas Edison labeled him "stupid" and "unteachable." As a child, he accidentally burned down the family barn. As a young man, he was fired from his first job working for the railroad company when his inattentiveness to his work resulted in a train derailment. Even after he began his career as an inventor, his work did not earn him recognition. A British Parliament committee in 1878 described Edison's inventions as "unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men." Asked in his later years about the many detours and roadblocks on his road to success, the famous inventor said "I never failed once. It [success] happens to be a 2,000-step process."

Frida Kahlo

  • Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter, suffered physically debilitating conditions for much of her life. As a child, she had polio, leaving her right leg and foot damaged. While she was a young woman attending art school in Mexico City, a steel handrail drove through her pelvis during a collision between the bus she was riding and a streetcar. She had several miscarriages as a result of this accident. As physicians attempted to heal her shattered body, she underwent more than 30 surgeries. She painted even while most of her body was immobilized due to being bedridden or wearing a full-body cast. She drew on the physical and emotional pain she experienced as the subject of several of her 143 paintings. One of her paintings hangs in the Louvre, and she has been depicted on postage stamps in both the United States and Mexico.

David Seidler

  • Although the movie "The King's Speech" tells the story of one kind of perseverance as George VI overcomes his stutter through speech lessons, the story behind the film tells a more modern tale. David Seidler, the 73-year-old screenwriter for the film, is the oldest winner of an Oscar for best original screenplay. Prior to the Oscar-winning film, only one of his screenplays was ever produced, and there was more than a 20-year lull between that script, "Tucker," and "The King's Speech." He was inspired to write the story of the stammering king because he suffered from the same disability as a child.

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