4 Self-Made Millionaires Who Failed and Bounced Back

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“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius

As children we are programmed to believe that failure is bad. If you fail a test it negatively impacts your grade for the course. Fail enough tests and you will fail the course. Teachers call parents, parents yell at child. When we become adult we get bad grades in life by taking risks. As a result, we avoid taking risks in life in order to avoid failure.

Well most of us. The ones who don’t shy away from taking risks that could lead to failure are called self-made millionaires. Self-made millionaires somehow are able to re-program their minds in order to see failure as a good thing, learning experience, rather than as a bad thing. Failing, for self-made millionaires, helps them learn what what works and what does not work.

I thought I’d share some real-life stories of millionaires who failed and whose failure brought them to the brink of financial ruin, only to rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of failure.

Elon Musk

In 1995 Elon Musk, one of the founders of ZIP2, sold his interest for $22 million. He immediately invested what was left after taxes into a company that became PayPal. In 2002, he sold his interest in PayPal for $250 million. He took what was left after taxes and invested this windfall into three ventures: SpaceX ($100 million), Tesla ($70 million) and Solar City ($10 million).

At the end of 2008, Musk was on the verge of bankruptcy. His Falcon 1 rocket had failed to reach orbit for the third time in early August, 2008. His Tesla business was hemorrhaging millions of dollars. He had gone through most of his millions funding SpaceX and Tesla plus he had gone through most of the hundreds of millions venture capitalists and the government had invested in his companies. Musk literally did not have enough funding to carry SpaceX through the next month. In August 2008 it seemed Elon Musk was no better than a gambler on the wrong side of a bet. Most would have thrown in the towel. Only Musk didn’t. He never wavered in his faith in succeeding to make history by being the first private company to launch a rocket into orbit.

Success or failure, in September 2008, came down to one moment – the fourth flight of his Falcon 1 rocket. If it too failed, Musk was done. Only it didn’t fail. The first privately built rocket made orbit.

Thanks to the success of that fourth flight, Musk was able to cobble together enough money to get SpaceX through the end of 2008. Then, on December 28, 2008 NASA awarded SpaceX with a $1.6 billion contract. Musk’s gamble had paid off and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, Musk is estimated to be worth $10 billion. His companies are changing the world. SpaceX now regularly flies its rockets into space for NASA and other governments. Miracles happen when fearless leaders meet overwhelming adversity and refuse to quit. Life rewards those who stare adversity in the eyes and survive.

Donald Trump

In 1989 Trump was facing a complete and total collapse of his financial empire. Three of his senior executive died in a helicopter accident. Among those killed were Stephen F. Hyde, 43 years old, chief executive of the Trump casinos; Mark Grossinger Etess, 38, president and chief operating officer of the Trump Taj Mahal casino hotel, and Jonathan Benanav, 33, executive vice president of the Trump Plaza casino hotel. All three were lost in one day. In less than a year after their death, Trump’s casinos were losing millions of dollars a month. On paper Trump was insolvent and the nervous banks were putting pressure on him to liquidate his assets in order to meet his debts. It looked to most as if his entire world was on the verge of collapse. The newspapers and the pundits at the time were administering last rights to Donald Trump. But Trump did not panic. He did not cave in to the demands of the bankers. Instead, he renegotiated his bank debt, buying Trump the time he needed to right his ship. Trump not only survived, his casinos eventually began to turn around. Soon they were making millions of dollars a month, proving all of the pundits wrong.

Like him or not, Trump is fearless brash, tenacious, confident, unrelenting and intelligent. And Trump needed every one of those success characteristics to survive. Most would have waived the white flag under the stress he faced every day. But Trump was able to dig in and attack each one of his problems until they were resolved in his favor. Fortune favors the brave and the courageous and life rewarded Trump’s fearlessness by transforming him from bankrupt to billionaire in the blink of an eye.

Conrad Hilton

Hitlon acquired his first hotel in Mobley, Texas. By all accounts it was a broken-down, dingy and much neglected establishment. But Hilton believed he could transform it into a thriving business. And after a much needed facelift, the hotel became a success. Hilton went on to purchase other fixer-uppers in Texas: The Melba Hotel and shortly thereafter the Waldorf in Dallas.

Hilton’s first “new” hotel broke ground in Dallas, Texas in July, 1924. He continued n this new path of building, rather than refurbishing hotels. And then the Depression hit in 1929. Hilton’s fortunes reversed almost overnight. He was unable to pay his creditors due to evaporating revenues. Hotel bills went unpaid.

Within a year, Hilton’s hotels went into foreclosure and were taken over. By the time 1931 ended Hilton had lost everything. But Hilton was, if anything, perpetually optimistic and nimble. He convinced a company who took over one of his hotels to allow him to manage all of the company’s hotels. They agreed. within a few short years Hilton was once again buying and building hotels.

Hilton used bonds as a means to fund the purchase of NYC’s historic Waldorf Astoria hotel. The financial experts on Wall Street considered the purchase foolhardy. But Hilton proved them all wrong. He went on to transform the Waldorf Astoria into one of the finest hotels in the world.

Hilton eventually began building hotels outside the U.S. and took his company Hilton Hotels public, making it, at the time, the first publicly traded hotel company in the world.

Conrad Hilton was a dreamer and eternal optimist. He was also a fanatical self-help student. He consumed self-help books like Hummers consume fuel. Hilton also believed in his gut. Intuition guided almost all of his business decisions.

A dreamer, optimist, self-help student and evisceral decision maker, Hilton embodied the classical definition of the American entrepreneur. When he passed away on January 3, 1979, Hilton was worth $1 billion, which made him, at the time, one of the world’s wealthiest individuals.

Napoleon Hill

In 1928 Napoleon Hill had made it. Thanks to the royalties from his first book, The Laws of Success, Hill was able to buy a large estate in New York’s Catskills Mountains. He had achieved his dream of becoming a millionaire.

But the Great Depression of 1929 happened. The flood of royalties became a trickle and then stopped. Hill’s estate went into foreclosure and in October of 1930. At age 57 Hill was homeless and penniless.

But nobody bounced back from failure like Hill. Hill’s next book, Think and Grow Rich was a huge success and returned Hill to fame and fortune. Unfortunately, Hill spent his royalties as fast as they came in and within two years after the book’s release, Hill was once again broke.

In 1951 W. Clement Stone, head of Combined Insurance Company, hired Hill to teach his 1,000 insurance agents Hill’s Think and Grow Rich principles. Hill did and sales soon exploded. Stone’s company’s revenues exploded and Stone rewarded Hill with an ownership interest in his company, transforming Hill into a multi-millionaire once again.

Finding individuals who buy into the same dream and the same goals is not easy. Those who succeed are able to cobble together a team of like-minded people, single-mindedly focused on the same dream and the same goals. Self-made millionaires are able to find apostles for their cause. No one makes it on their own and Hill’s ability to find such apostles was the key to his enormous success. The Stone-Hill partnership made both enormously wealthy. 

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley understands the difference between being rich and poor: at age nine, his family went from being multi-millionaires to broke in just one night, due to a catastrophic fire that destroyed his Dad's thriving business. For fourteen years they struggled with poverty. There were eleven in Tom's family, and they lived in constant fear of losing their home.

Driven by the desire to unlock the secrets to success and failure, Tom spent five years studying the daily activities of 233 rich people and 128 poor people. He discovered there was an immense difference between the habits of the rich and the poor. During his research he identified over 300 daily activities that separated the “haves” from the “have nots.” Tom decided to write a book to share what he learned. That book, Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals (1st Edition), went on to become an Amazon Bestseller in the United States forty times over a three year period. To give you some perspective, in order to be a true Amazon Bestseller in the United States, where you actually receive a specific Bestseller designation from Amazon, you need to be in the top 100 of all books sold by Amazon in the United States in a given day. Rich Habits did that for nearly thirty straight days, rising as high as #7, eclipsing such Bestselling authors such as Stephen Covey, Robert Kiyosaki and J.K. Rowlings. Imagine that - an unknown, first-time, self-published author selling more books than J.K. Rowlings!

Tom now travels the world, sharing his Rich Habits and motivating audiences at industry conferences, corporate events, universities, multi-level marketing group events, and global sales organizations’ presentations and finance conferences. He has even spoken on the same stage with famous entrepreneurs and personal development experts, such as Sir Richard Branson, Robin Sharma, Dr. Daniel Amen, and many others.

Tom has shared his insights on various national and international network, cable, and Internet television programs such as CBS Evening News, NBC News, Yahoo Financially Fit, Money.com, India TV, News.com Australia, and a host of others. He has been interviewed on many prestigious nationally syndicated radio shows, including the Dave Ramsey Show, Marketplace Money, and WABC.

Tom has been featured in numerous print magazines—such as Money magazine, Inc. Magazine, SUCCESS Magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, Fast Company magazine, More magazine, Epoca Magazine (Brazil’s largest weekly) and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine—and various online publications, including USA Today, CNN, MSN Money, SUCCESS.com, Inc.com, and the Huffington Post. Tom is a frequent contributor to Business Insider, Credit.com, Bankrate.com and a few other media outlets.

National publicity has garnered international media attention for Tom and his Rich Habits research spanning 23 countries. Broadcast media, online publications, and television throughout Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the United Kingdom, and Central and South America have shared his powerful message.

In an effort to help parents, grandparents, teachers and adults become success mentors to the younger generation, Tom released his second book, Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to be Happy and Successful in Life in 2014. This book was the self-help category winner of the 2015 New York Book Festival and Runner-up in the prestigious 2015 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards Contest. In 2016 Tom released his third book, Change Your Habits, Change Your Life. This book provides the latest science on habit change as well as more of Tom's unique research on the specific habits that helped transform 177 ordinary individuals into self-made millionaires.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, and hold a master’s degree in taxation. As president of Cerefice and Company, CPAs, Tom heads one of the premier financial firms in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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