10 Famous People Who Overcame Substantial Challenges

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07 July 2012
10 Famous People Who Overcame Substantial Challenges: Blog



Occasionally, we reach obstacles in our lives that may appear insurmountable. Making a life changing decision that may leave you at a crossroads, having to tell a friend something that you know will hurt them, or ending a relationship because you know it is no longer healthy.


Face to face with a roadblock that stands between us and happiness or success, we may feel compelled to retreat or – even worse – give up.


At one point or another, everyone has found themselves without motivation or with no strive to keep going. Whether it was during a deeply personal trauma in your life, or a hardship brought on by work or school, these moments can sometimes overcome us and cut us off at the knees if we let them.


But (and this next sentence is important, so read it multiple times if you need to): difficult and impossible are different words that mean different things, and your difficult challenges don’t have to be impossible challenges if you try hard enough.  In fact, as long as you embrace challenges and not let them overcome challenges, they may actually shape you for the better.


To reinforce this important message, we’ve compiled a list of ten famous people who walked right up to the major barriers holding them back from success – and then they burst right through them. If at ever a time in your life you feel overcome by hardships or need help picking your head up, read these stories for a little inspirational pick-me-up:


10. Marlee Matlin, actress

Marlee Matlin has appeared in a variety of popular television shows: The West WingDesperate HousewivesSeinfeld, Law & Order: SVU, and ER – just to name a few. She also received an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the 1986 movie Children of a Lesser God, and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009. We can all agree that these would be amazing achievements for any actress, but we left something out: Marlee Matlin is also deaf. Her whole life she has had to work through the hardships and difficulties that come with not being able to hear in an industry that is as harsh as it comes. She has shattered people’s preconceived notions of what deafness must mean for a person’s future and she has paved the way for others like herself. It hasn’t held her back from achieving great success in her career, as well as her harmonious personal life with her husband and four children.


9. Stevie Wonder, singer

Stevie Wonder has received 22 Grammy awards over his 51-year music career – the most Grammy awards ever received by a single male recording artist. As you probably know, Stevie Wonder has been blind since birth – but that hasn’t stopped him from releasing more than 30 number one hits and being one of the greatest performers who has ever lived, while also spearheading many political campaigns and becoming an American cultural icon. He has fathered seven children, including the daughter that inspired the uplifting hit, “Isn’t She Lovely," and will go down as one of the most influential music icons of all time.


8. Christopher Reeve, actor

Christopher Reeve achieved fame for his portrayal of Superman - the man that was invincible and a national hero for many - as well as starring in many other hit films. After being thrown from a horse in 1995, however, the actor shattered the first two vertebrae in his spine and was paralyzed from the neck down. Upon first finding out he was a quadriplegic, Reeve stated he was very depressed and contemplated suicide. However, his time in physical and occupational rehabilitation inspired him, and he spent the rest of his life campaigning on behalf of progressive research and was even named TIME Person of the Year. Although he has since passed away from medical complications, the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation still carries on his legacy of advocacy and research.


7. Buzz Aldrin, astronaut

Buzz Aldrin rose through the ranks of the United States Air Force, and eventually became the second man to step foot on the surface of the moon. However, his return to Earth was marred by a slew of personal problems – namely, a struggle with both depression and alcoholism. After a long struggle that would truly test his strength, courage and self-motivation, he recognized and sought treatment for both of his illnesses, and has since become an outspoken supporter of space exploration and has even received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His legacy also inspired the name of beloved cartoon character Buzz Lightyear. His personal troubles had the potential to overshadow his professional achievements, but Buzz Aldrin knew he needed help – and today he’s doing better than ever.


6. Ludwig van Beethoven, composer

Imagine how difficult it would be to write a symphony―to dream up every single note, chord and bar all to form one grand masterpiece. Although we believe in reaching for your dreams, we still admit that most of us are probably not capable of writing the next classical masterpiece. Now think about writing that same symphony, without being able to hear any of it as you go. That’s how Beethoven did it. Beethoven helped shape the future of music, even after he began to lose his hearing at the age of 26. Over the next 20 years, he would be rendered almost completely deaf. However, he kept composing some of his most influential pieces -- including the Ninth Symphony, which is generally regarded as one of the greatest works of music ever written.


5. Jim Carrey, comedian

Jim Carrey is no unknown name (at least to anyone who has ever turned on a TV or gone to the movies). He has performed in many comedic roles (and a few serious ones) over the course of his acting career, is noted for his hilarious portrayals of some of Hollywood's most legendary characters and makes millions of dollars per film. However, his childhood in Canada was a much different story. When Carrey was 12 years old, his father lost his job and the family lived in a van for a period of time. Carrey took a job, working 8-hour shifts after school. It’s a far cry from where the beloved actor stands today, but he’s never forgotten his roots and has openly spoken about his rough road to success in interviews.


4. Richard Branson, CEO

Richard Branson is the fourth richest person in the United Kingdom. He owns the Virgin group of brands, including a record label, an airline, and the mobile phone company. He also owns an island in the Caribbean. As a child, though, he performed poorly on tests in school and struggled with dyslexia. Teachers and authority figures assumed he wouldn’t go very far, but Branson defied the odds, and attributes his success to his people skills – proving that street smarts can take you far.


3. Oprah Winfrey, TV personality

Looking at Oprah today, you’d never imagine that she was born to a teenage single mother in impoverished rural Mississippi, or that she gave birth to a son at 14 (who died in infancy). As a child, Oprah often had to wear dresses made of potato sacks – that’s all her family could afford. And today? That couldn't be further than the woman who defied the odds and made a household name for herself. Today, Oprah is one of the most influential women in the world, with her own media empire and a name recognizable across continents. You’ll never catch her wearing anything made of a potato sack – unless, of course, that’s what’s in fashion.


2. Albert Einstein, scientist

The next time one of your job interviews doesn’t go well, just think about Albert Einstein: the father of modern physics. If you would have told the people who rejected Einstein from college for failing the entrance exam that he would go on to write important scientific theories, they would have laughed you out of the room. Albert Einstein didn’t give up after not getting into college the first time – imagine what you can still do after failing once or twice.


1. Franklin D. Roosevelt, president

FDR is often regarded as one of the greatest American presidents by citizens of all different political leanings. Although he was careful not to be seen in his wheelchair in public, he contracted an illness at age 39 that left him paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. This didn’t stop him from being elected to office four times – making him the only American president to be elected more than twice.


Have you overcome a major life challenge to achieve a goal or dream? Leave us a comment to let us know, or share your story with Masters Channel.


If you enjoyed this blog post of how to overcome challenges you also might enjoy this class on Mastering Your Expectations.



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