As one ventures out in life and faces risks and adversity, it is helpful to learn from people who have traveled the road before you and have navigated the journey. The list below includes a few people from a variety of backgrounds who have overcome tremendous hardship and have been able to thrive.
Eddie Murphy – at the age of eight, his father, a police officer, was murdered. Just a year later his mother became ill and was unable to take care of him and his brother. They were placed in foster care while she recovered, and he went on to become one of the highest-grossing stars in Hollywood. Movies that he is known for include Beverly Hills Cop, the Klumps, and Shrek movies.
Steve Jobs – his mother gave him up in 1954 when he was born. His foster experience was spent with his soon-to-be parents adopted parents until they could make it official. Jobs was one of the most successful businessmen in modern history. He created Apple Computers, started Pixar Animation, and ran one of the largest companies in the world. Some products that he championed the creation of include the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
John Lennon – he was raised by his Aunt Mimi, who took him in when neither parent was able to take care of him. John Lennon was a part of the famous band, The Beatles. The Beatles was regarded as one of the most influential bands of all time.
Marilyn Monroe – while her mother was dealing with her mental illness, Marilyn spent hear early years in the care of foster parents. Her birth name was Norma Jeane Mortenson. She later became a model, actress, and singer. She has become one of the most enduring and iconic figures in history.
James Dean – his mother died when he was only nine years old. After he and his father moved to Indiana, he was mostly cared for by his aunt. He starred in several movies, and is still one of the most recognizable actors in the world.
Willie Nelson – he was born during the Great Depression, and was abandoned by both parents. He was fostered by his grandparents, who introduced him to music. He became one of the most famous country western singers of all time, best known for his songs On the Road Again and Always On My Mind. He continued to find success through late adulthood, whether through producing songs or going on tour.
Ice T – he was born as with the given name Tracy Morrow. Both of his parents died of a heart attack when he was young. He was then fostered by two of his aunts in LA. He then went on to become an actor, rapper, songwriter, author, and record producer. He is has played a police officer on Law & Order: SVU for 17 years.
Louis Armstrong – his parents were unable to care for him when he was young, so he lived with various relatives in New Orleans. He went on to become one of the greatest trumpet players of all time. His musical career spanned over five decades and he continued to have record sales.
Cher – her given name is Cherilyn Sarkisian, and her mother was ill when she was younger. She was fostered by her grandparents, and she grew up to become one of the most successful singer and songwriters of all time. In addition, she also became an actress and won an Oscar.
Alonzo Mourning – his parents divorced when he was younger, and he went to live with a family friend who had experience fostering children. He was a very successful basketball player and spent most of his career with the Miami Heat. He was twice named NBA Defensive Player of the Year, an was so successful that after he left the sport that his number was retired. His specialty was defense.
Simone Biles – her birth mother suffered from drug addition and she was removed from her mother’s custody when she was only three years old. She was in the foster care system for some time and was eventually adopted by her grandfather and his wife. Simone has gone on to become an Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics.
Tiffany Haddish – she was 12 years old when she was placed in the Foster Care system, after he mother became mentally ill after a serious car accident. She and her siblings were placed in a variety of foster families. She has gone on to become known for her comedy and has also become an actress.
Coco Chanel – she was 12 years old when her mother passed away. It was the late 1800s and her father sent her and her sisters to an orphanage. She was never adopted, and learned to sew during this time. She went on to become an iconic designer and paved the wave for high fashion and was a designer regarded for her timeless style and glamour.
Rosie Perez – she was admitted to a catholic home for boys and girls at the age of 3 because her mother was mentally ill and could not care for her. She longed to reside with her aunt, but she became a ward of the state for nearly a decade of her childhood. Rosie went on to become a writer, actress and TV personality.
Cheryl Sandberg – while she was the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, her husband suddenly died. She ended up writing a book about overcoming hardship, which is called “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.”
Oprah Winfrey – this tv icon experienced a tragic childhood. When she was young, she was molested by her cousins, uncles and friends. She gave birth at age 14 and lost the child. She was fired from her first job as a TV anchor in Baltimore because she was ‘too emotionally invested in her stories.’ She then went on to create a multi-media empire.
Walt Disney – he was fired from his job at the Kansas City Star Paper because ‘he lacked imagination.’ His first business venture, Laugh-O-Gram Animation Studio, went bankrupt. Rumor has it that he was turned down 302 times before he finally secured financing for the Walt Disney Company.
Harrison Ford – he was a self-taught carpenter in his 30s, working to make ends meet in order to take care of his family. He ended up building cabinets in the home of George Lucas, who later created the Star Wars series where he was cast.
Sylvester Stallone – this Hollywood actor used to be a deli counter attendant. One of the lowest points of his life was when he had to sell his dog for $25. After making the film Rocky, the first thing he did with his paycheck was to buy his dog back, for $25,000.
Donald Trump – this businessman was once $1 billion in debt. He is said to have once pointed out a homeless man to his daughter, and said that someone who owned nothing had $1 billion more than he had. He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest financial turnaround in history, later earning multiple billion dollars with his business ventures.
Michael Jordan – when he was a kid, no coach would take him on because he was too short. He was rejected from his high school’s varsity basketball team. He kept persevering however, and these setbacks only further solidified his passion for basketball, and he kept pursuing it. Jordan is widely regarded as one of the best basketball players of all time.
Albert Einstein – as a young kid, he had a very hard time learning to speak and read. He could not speak until age four and could not read until age seven. He was expelled from school and identified as mentally handicapped. He is now a household name and highly regarded for his ‘genius’ inventions such as the refrigerator. He also led scientists to understand new ways to look at energy, matter, gravity, space and time.
Abraham Lincoln – young Lincoln grew up in a very poor family. In the military, he was returned to a lower rank after he became a captain. He lost several runs for public office before later becoming President of the United States.
Jim Carrey – growing up, his family was so poor that he had to drop out of high school in order to find a job. He was once homeless, living out of a van with his family. He later took a job as a janitor. He says that it was during these tough times that he developed his sense of humor, and has become an accomplished actor and comedian.
Thomas Edison – his teachers are once quoted as having said that he was ‘too stupid to learn anything’, after which point his mother decided to homeschool him. He was later fired from his first two jobs for not being ‘productive enough’. Edison had over 10,000 attempts to develop a commercially viable light bulb. He is now considered to be one of the greatest innovators of all time, and is a good example of human perseverance.