5 Famous Failures In History That You Didn’t Know About

In our journey to overcome perfectionism, one thing we have to accept is that failure is all around us. It’s extremely tough to deal with. At that moment, it feels like we’re less than everyone else. Today, I’ll challenge that negative thought. Let’s talk about some famous failures in history that you probably didn’t know about.

Jonas Hanway – Umbrellas 

famous failures in history

In the 1700s, umbrellas were a popular trend. They were originally used to protect oneself from sunlight but later became used to shield rain. However, it was intended to be used only by females due to its appearance. Males were often discouraged from using them, especially in England. Then, there came Jonas Hanway, philanthropist, and traveller.

He is recorded as the first man to start using umbrellas openly in England. However, he was ridiculed and persecuted constantly for this bold choice. Despite its clear utility, people still refused to acknowledge that men could use umbrellas. However, this didn’t stop Jonas, who chose to ignore the public shaming. 

It takes a lot of confidence in yourself to reject social approval. The public had deemed Jonas as a failure, but he saw it differently. By sticking to his ideals, he was able to push through the negative comments. As we all know, umbrellas are commonplace now, especially in London where it rains constantly.  

So next time you’re called a failure for an idea that isn’t trendy, patience is your ally. You never know how times can change.

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Harry Warner – Movies with sound 

I’ve never been a fan of silent movies. I believe that voice acting and original soundtracks (OSTs) are crucial pieces that elevate the emotional aspect of movies. However, in the 1920s, people thought differently.

”Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”

Harry Warner

This quote was rumoured to have taken place between the Warner Brothers, creators of one of the biggest movie production companies in the world. As technology advanced following the first world war, Bell laboratories were finally able to synchronize film with high-quality sound. A feat that proved to be extremely difficult at the time. They brought the idea to Harry Warner, who initially rejected it.

It wasn’t until his brother convinced him to attend a meeting with Wall Street financiers, that he finally agreed to give it a chance. The rest is history.  

Although originally thought to be a failure, combining video with sound has become a staple in society today. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. YouTube. All the media giants of today’s age would not exist without it. 

The lesson here is that failing once doesn’t mean the end. We must get back up and constantly keep trying.

Catholic Church – Coffee 

I don’t know about you, but I love a good cup of coffee to start the day. However, coffee was one decision away from being banned across the world by the Catholic Church.

In the 1600s, it was extremely popular in the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Once they decided to start sharing it with the world, it ended up in Venice and Rome. Due to its association with Islam, the Catholic Church pressured the Pope to denounce coffee, calling it ‘a bitter invention of Satan’ and ‘the devil’s drink’. 

Luckily, the Pope wished to try it before making his decision. Upon tasting it, he reportedly said, “This Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.”. He blessed the beans and so Catholics around the world were free to drink coffee. 

Just imagine it, the history of coffee could have ended there and then if the Pope chose otherwise. Of course, now we know how valuable coffee is. According to Business Insider, the coffee industry is worth over $100 billion worldwide.

What can we learn from famous failures in history like this? Even the best ideas failed at some point. It doesn’t mean that they failed forever. So next time you fail at something, recognize that it doesn’t mean the end.

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The Wright Brothers – Planes

The thought of flying terrifies me. You’re in a metal box soaring through the sky at hundreds of kilometres per hour. It sounds insane. I’m not the only one who thought like this. When the Wright brothers decided to make the first aircraft, no one believed it to be possible. 

In the early 1900s, countless people had attempted flight but failed. Most people gave up after a single failed attempt but the Wright brothers were different. They persevered time and time again after each failure. With each attempt, came minor improvement to their design until one faithful day in December 1903, they took flight for the first time. 

I believe what set the Wright brothers apart was their addiction to improvement. They saw failure as a way to create a better invention. That didn’t work? Let’s try this a different way. It’s this kind of reaction to failure that makes it a crucial part of success.

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Wright Brothers – HISTORY

Galileo – The centre of the universe 

Science has come a long way. Up until around the 16th century, it was believed that the Earth was the centre of the universe. This theory was heavily supported by the Catholic Church as they taught that God put the Earth as the centre of the universe. However, Galileo had other ideas. 

As he looked up at the universe, he noticed that Venus, one of our neighbouring planets, did not orbit the Earth but rather the Sun. Also, another of our neighbours, Jupiter, had smaller moons orbiting it. He suggested that there was no way that the Earth could be at the center. Obviously, the church was not happy. 

Galileo was imprisoned, tortured and interrogated for his controversial ideas. If he had simply gave up on his theory, he might have been freed. However, he stuck to his principles believing in science and himself. Nowadays, his discovery is one of the most important famous failures in history.

He taught us that your ideas will not always be received well. People will call you a failure. However, as long as you belief in yourself, you can turn the failure into a success. You are the only one with the power to determine if you’ve failed or not.


What did you think? Do you recognize any of these famous failures in history? Did any of the lessons resonate with you? Let me know in the comments below. I’m curious!

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