33 People Who Prove We Are Responsible For Our Own Success

Responsible for our success

Nothing can stop us except ourselves.

We are responsible for our own dreams. But what’s that you say? You’re held back because of your gender? Your race, age, education level, or current financial status?

No, you aren’t. And I’m going to give you concrete reasons why. Below I have compiled a list of people who have taken risks and worked their butts off to get where they are. Everyone from actors who’ve turned down roles (didn’t harm their career, but helped the career of the ones who stepped up), to people who’ve started businesses when others were planning retirement. Everyone from kids who started organizations to people who’ve done amazing things despite fighting disabilities. From people who started out dirt poor and became billionaires to people who had it all and decided less was better.

Let’s clear this up once and for all: Nothing can stop us. No matter our race, our gender, our age, our health, our income level, our living situation, our educational level.  The one thing we need to remember is that we can do it. If someone tells us we can’t, well, sucks to be them weighed down with that leaded blanket. We can. It won’t be easy, we may not have cheerleaders, we may meet resistance, we may fail, we may get up and fail again, we may have to face risks (investing in our business or ourselves by taking a loan to start a business or get the training or education we need), we may have to do things we find utterly horrifying (for me it’s networking and submitting articles – they scare me terribly. For someone else, it may be public speaking or going back to school).

Buckle up. Stand tall. If we really want something, we can do it.

Actors Who Turned Down Great Roles

Turning down a role didn’t destroy any of these actors. Accepting the role as a second, third, fourth, fifth, even sixth choice, didn’t hurt the actors that stepped up. Most of these roles we can’t even imagine without the actor that ended up with the part.

I am a second choice. My part-time job is as a merchandiser. Another lady was chosen first, but when that lady changed her mind, I got the position. Every day I’m grateful for that gift. This job allowed me the ability to bring in extra cash during a pinched time for our family. It also allowed me the ability to do the Mom responsibilities that I wanted to do and it allowed me the ability to continue my writing.

Lesson: Don’t be afraid to step into a role/ job/ position that someone turned down. Step up and make it your own.

  1. Paul Giamatti as Michael Scott in The Office?

    For more information on this and other tidbits about the show, go to The Office


  2. Tom Cruise as Ren McCormack in Footloose?

    For this tidbit and more fun trivia go here: Footloose


3. Christian Bale played Patrick Bateman in American Psycho after 5, five, FIVE other big names passed it up.

Found here:  20 Actors Who Turned Down Big Roles


Mistakes are Made

People make mistakes. Whether they guess wrong, or they just don’t believe in our vision, people will pass on what we offer.

Lesson: It’s okay. We can move on and find someone just as enthusiastic about our talents. Or, we can be as determined as the Supremes, and make the person we want see our talents.

4. Decca Turned down the Beatles

(There are many theories on this, even speculation that Decca would press the records but that the Beatles would have to pay upfront). Even if that theory holds true, they didn’t believe enough in them to risk signing them. And we all know the Beatles did not suffer from that blow. Here’s a great story on it: The Record Company That Rejected The Beatles

5. RSO Records turned down U2

Found at: Business Insider

U2 Rejection Letter


6. Motown Records refused to sign the Supremes. These ladies wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

Found at: 14 Record Labels Who Rejected Big Names They have 13 other bands were rejected.



Just because one person doesn’t like what’s offered doesn’t mean we need to give up.

Lesson: Keep trying

7. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding was rejected 20 times.

8. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was rejected 38 times

9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance  by Robert M. Pirsig was rejected 121 times

10. It took Gertrude Stein 22 years of submitting before one of her poems was published.

Education, or lack of, can’t hold you back

There are a lot of people who flaunt their education level. They went to a private school and then attended some prestigious college and yet, with all those smarts, they still haven’t learned that they don’t know everything.  No one knows everything. And that’s okay.

Lesson: (Bear with me, I’m making this more complicated than it needs to be), we don’t have to know everything about what we want to do. We just need to know that we don’t know everything, but as long as we have a desire to learn what we don’t know we can go out and learn it.  In other words, if you dropped out of school you can still be like Richard Branson. Or you can be like Philip Emeagwali and go back to school.

11. Richard Branson dropped out of school at 16? 15?

I’ve seen a few versions of his age. I think we are all well aware of everything this man has accomplished. His story alone serves as a reminder that we can all succeed. All we need is desire and drive and we can accomplish great things.

James Clear wrote a great story on Mr. Branson find it here: Successful People Start Before They Feel Ready

Richard Branson talking on a panel in Moscow, Russia.


12. Philip Emeagwali. He dropped out of school at 14 because the tuition was unaffordable.

(SIDE NOTE: a few of these spectacular people can go into one or more of these categories).   He went on to win a Nobel Prize for computation. Curious how honeycomb and the internet intertwine? Find the story here: Dr. Philip Emeagwali

Dr. Philip Emeagwali

13. Francois Pinault was 11 when he dropped out of school. Part of the reason he dropped out?

He was picked on because his family was poor. He now owns Christie’s Auction House and he’s worth $12.9 billion dollars. Find this and more successful dropouts at: Business Insider 


You’re Not Too Young to Pursue Dreams

Kids do amazing things. I don’t know about anyone else, but at 9 years of age, I was tooling around on my banana seat bike, with my Westinghouse Transistor Radio and was excited every time Diana Ross’ Upside Down came on. The thought of starting an organization was well over my head.

Lesson: (note to self) Kids are incredibly smart. And if they set their sites on something they can achieve it.

14. Dylan Mahalingham – at age 9 he founded an organization.

Peter Horsfield wrote a great piece on Dylan here: The Extraordinary


15. Katie Stagliano was 9 when, just like Dylan, she saw a need and took action.

She started a garden and donated to soup kitchens so they could feed people in need fresh produce.

Check out her whole story and see how one garden turned into over a 100 here: Katie’s Krops 


You Are Never Too Old

This is, obviously, the reverse of the above never too young.

Lesson: If you’re alive, you’re not too old.

16. Carol Gardner was 52, divorced and in debt. She started Zelda Wisdom.

Read her story here: About Zelda Wisdom 


17. Sam Teitelbaum founded AllerAir at the age of 61.

Read more about his story here: Sam Teitelbaum



Whether you’ve been diagnosed, or someone you love has been diagnosed, with an illness, disease, or disability, it is possible to still follow your dreams.

Lesson: You control your desires and goals and dreams.

18. Stephen Hawking

Despite being diagnosed with ALS at the young age of 21, Hawking broke ground in Physics, he’s written books, he was a Mathematics Professor at Cambridge, the guy does not stop.

For a more in-depth look at Hawkings life go to Biography.com 


19. Tim Harris – Owner of Tim’s Place

Tim has Down Syndrome. He’s the first person with Down Syndrome to open and operate a restaurant. He gave hugs at his restaurant. He has since closed his restaurant, but not because it wasn’t doing well, he did it for love, he and his girlfriend moved closer to her family.

For more on Tim Harris check out this piece on CBS.



20. Melissa Reilly

Melissa also has Down Syndrome. Like Tim, she’s passionate about her dreams. She’s a gold medal winning skier, she’s a teacher, and she’s an inspirational speaker.

A great story of hope and encouragement for those with Down Syndrome and those with loved ones who have Down Syndrome. Just a warning, get some tissues, you’ll get teary, in a feel-good way. But still, tear fest. USA Today 

Being an athlete has increased Melissa Reilly’s confidence.

Melissa Reilly was born with Down syndrome. Instead of letting her life’s challenges hold her back, she confronts them head-on and turns them into dreams. Melissa enjoys training and competing in swimming, biking, running and skiing. Being an athlete has increased Melissa’s confidence. She prides herself on being equal to her peers and has strived for inclusion her entire life. Form more on Melissa and others go to Special Olympics



A few other people who didn’t let disabilities hold them back:

21. Peter Kight, CEO of Checkfree has ADD

22. Bram Cohen, who created Bit Torrent (a way to transfer large data over the internet), has Asperger’s

23. David Neeleman is the CEO of JetBlue and has ADHD

Your Gender Doesn’t Hold You Back:

Men are good nurses and parents and nannies and teachers. Women are good doctors and lawyers and CEOs and physicists.

Lesson: Your gender doesn’t stop you.

24. Margaret Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister of the UK

For a nice biography on her go to: Biography.com 


25. Shirley Muldowney was the first woman to receive a license from the National Hot Rod Association to drive a Top Fuel Dragster.

This info clip below is taken from her website: www.muldowney.com

As a girl, I remember watching a movie about Shirley Muldowney. I was enamored. I would pretend to out-race all the great racers and the bad guys using a plate as a steering wheel and my twirling baton as a shifter. Let me tell you, it’s easy to be fast in your imagination.

26. Beverly Johnson was the first woman of color to appear on the cover of Vogue.

Another woman who understood when she heard the word, “no,” it proved someone was too short-sighted. So she moved beyond the people who didn’t have the guts and kept going. Read the story here at Vogue


27. Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space. Cosmonaut in 1963

Not only was she the first woman, she was only 26.

Find Valentina’s story here: Valentina

28. Jacqueline Cochran was the first woman to break the sound barrier in 1953.

In 1964 she doubled her speed. Read more about Jacqueline here: National Aviation  

29. Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a sniper in the Soviet Union in WWII and advocated for women in the military.

We can all imagine a female sniper nowadays, but in the early ’40s that was nearly unheard of…nearly, because Lyudmila was a female sniper.

Read more about her here: Eleanor and the Soviet Sniper

Your Race, Your Nationality, Does Not Hold You Back.

We are all human beings. We all have brains and abilities.

Lesson: What we look like on the outside is merely a descriptor (tall/ short, black/ white, thin/ round, green-eyed/ brown-eyed, female/male), everything inside is the same (well, there are a few internal differences between the sexes, but brains and abilities are the same regardless).

29. Alexander L Twilight was the first black person to graduate from a U.S. college.

“Twilight would also be elected to the state Legislature and represent the county in attempting to stop the state from stripping its school of its funding.”

Learn more about Alexander Twilight here: New England Historical Society

30. Bessie Coleman was the first black civilian to become a licensed pilot.

She went to France to get her license and when she came back she gave speeches and she would only perform for desegregated crowds. Learn more about Bessie Coleman at Notable Biographies

Bessie Coleman. Reproduced by permission of the Corbis Corporation.

31. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first black author to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Read more about Gwendolyn


32. Condoleeza Rice was the first woman National Security Advisor and the first African American woman U.S. Secretary of State.

Here’s a little biography from the Office of the Historian on Condoleeza.

Money is not everything.

Money can’t buy you a true friend or a loyal spouse. It can’t stop Alzheimer’s, it can’t remove Diabetes, it can’t bring a loved one back from death.

Lesson: Money really can’t buy happiness. Sure it can lesson financial worries such as doctor bills and food and shelter. But it can’t stop pain; physical or emotional. It can’t stop tragedy from striking.

33. Yevgeny Pushenko built his wealth and then he walked away. Literally, walked away.

He left everything. He gathered his friends and literally handed over the keys to his factory. Read more about Yevgeny

His parents were even more shocked to hear that within a few days Yevgeny would be setting off on foot for Jerusalem on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Three days later, he set out from Vladivostok on a journey that was to take three years before he reached his destination, having covered 15,000 kilometers.


All these people broke barriers, succeeded where others didn’t believe they could. Despite gender, race, age, education, or financial background. Despite the current rules and laws in place. Remember Bessie Coleman wanted to be a pilot and had to go to France to accomplish that. She had a goal and she achieved it.

No dream is too small. If you want to be the best parent you can be, that’s not small. Do it well.

UNDERSTAND – it’s not easy. We don’t get where we want to be by blaming others. The above people didn’t. They shut down unbelievers by succeeding.

If you find yourself making excuses, stop and take stock of where you are and why you aren’t ready to take the necessary steps. Because people, that’s what holds us back. US. We stop because we aren’t ready to give up something we currently have or we are too scared to take the next step. Even when we are in the worst possible place, we are afraid to take the next step because of the unknown. We’d rather stay in the worst-case because it’s familiar.

In order to succeed with whatever we desire, we must first be ready to accept what we must change. And if we’re not ready at this point, that’s okay. As long as we acknowledge that we are capable, we’ll do it when we’re ready.




About the author
Diane DeMasi is a freelance writer and author. As a freelancer she writes articles, blog posts, newsletters, web content, catalog copy, and more. As an author she writes dark, twisted, creepy short stories and novels.