5 People Who Turned Career Disaster Into Success

By David Bakke | May 24, 2011 AAA

When it comes to your career and personal life, how you respond to failure has a great impact on your prosperity. There are basically two ways to deal with adversity: put your tail between your legs and hide from it, or dust yourself off, reload and fire back! Take Rep. Anthony Weiner for example. When even President Obama says he would resign if he were you, does that mean it's time to pack it in? Only time will tell what the right move is for Weiner, but here are the stories of five prominent people who suffered extreme setbacks, yet turned around from their failures to achieve, or re-achieve, career success.

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1. Donald Trump
This is probably the most publicized "fall from grace, return to glory" story. Donald Trump is the chairman and CEO of Trump Organization and the founder of Trump Entertainment Resorts, which runs a variety of casinos and hotels throughout the world. He initially made his money from huge property developments in Manhattan, but the recession during the late eighties really crushed "The Donald." He was unable to meet his company's loan payments and in the early nineties, his business went bankrupt and he was almost forced to declare personal bankruptcy.

But, like any true entrepreneur, Trump was by no means down for the count. As early as 1994, he had eliminated a great deal of his personal and professional debt. His return to the top has been bumpy, but he certainly enjoyed new-found fame with his hit reality series "The Apprentice," and he has been able to return to the extravagant lifestyle he once led. Mr. Trump has even considered a run for the presidency. How about that for a comeback? (To follow in Donald Trump's footsteps, check out Find Fortune In Commercial Real Estate.)

2. Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart is an American business magnate, media personality, author, magazine publisher and founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnipedia. During her original heyday, she published a variety of cookbooks and authored many newspaper columns, magazine articles and other pieces on homemaking. In 1990, she developed a magazine, Martha Stewart Living, where she was editor-in-chief. Circulation eventually spiked to more than two million copies per issue.

However, all of this success came to a crashing halt in early 2004 when she was convicted of lying to investigators about a stock sale using insider trading (and thereby avoiding a loss of more than $45,000). Martha Stewart served five months in a West Virginia federal prison camp.

Most experts speculated that her career was over, but they were wrong. Straight out of incarceration, Martha began her comeback. Amazingly, she returned her company to profitability by 2006. She introduced lines of ready-made home furnishings and mass market interior paint. She came back to television, re-inventing the Martha Stewart Show, and released a book during this time as well. She definitely did not let a short prison sentence get in her way! (For more on insider trading, check out Top 4 Most Scandalous Insider Trading Debacles.)

3. Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank
These two bring a whole new meaning to "self-made millionaire." On a fateful day back in 1978, both of these men were fired from their executive jobs at Handy Dan Home Improvement Centers in Southern California.

Rather than sticking their heads in the sand, they envisioned, and ultimately created, a chain of home improvement centers larger than any of the competition. They named it Home Depot. Before long, it became the youngest company to reach $30 billion, then $40 billion, then $50 billion and then $60 billion in sales in 2004. Need I say more? (To learn more about these CEOs and others, see The CEO Dream Team - Walton, Schwab, Marcus And Blank.)

4. George Foreman
You probably know the name. He was an accomplished boxer and now sells personal grilling products for a living. However, the transition wasn't so easy from professional athlete to successful entrepreneur.

In the mid-1980s, George Foreman was near bankrupt, which forced him into a boxing comeback at the age of 45. Even at this age, he was able to regain his heavyweight title (an amazing feat in and of itself). This allowed him to pay off millions of dollars in debt and launch his career as an entrepreneur. Talk about fighting your way back to the top! (To read more about some other great entrepreneurs, read The 10 Greatest Entrepreneurs.)

5. J.K. Rowling
Rowling is the author of the phenomenally successful Harry Potter fantasy series. She has sold hundreds of millions of books that were made into a string of wildly successful movies and profited from a huge amount of branded merchandise revenues as well. Anything with the name "Harry Potter" attached to it is almost guaranteed to sell.

This is truly a "rags to riches" story. When she first conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling was living on benefits from the British government. While she never really experienced a "fall from grace," her story deserves mention when talking about people who have survived and flourished in spite of adversity. (For more information, check out Analyzing Show Biz Stocks.)

The Bottom Line
These stories are certainly interesting, but they can be valuable tools as well. Let them inspire you to reach farther, dream bigger, and jump higher. And when you fall down, think of George, Martha, Donald, J.K. and the founders of Home Depot. Get back up, brush yourself off, and come out swinging. Some of the most successful stories in the world are about people who have overcome adversity. They dealt with crisis head on and rose to the top despite tremendous odds. (To help you make millions, read 6 Simple Steps To $1 Million.)

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