All Greatness Comes from Suffering

Struggle 1: Silently Heartbroken 💔

Right: Mao Zedong — future Chairman of the Communist Party of China (CC0)
Marie Curie — first woman to win a Nobel Prize and only woman to win it twice (CC-BY-SA-4.0)

Struggle 2: Crazy Families 😵

Elon Musk — the richest person in the world in 2021 (Steve Jurvetson, CC-BY-2.0)

The creator of history’s second largest empire started off with a single mother and six siblings (pg. 3)

Oprah had to wear dresses made of potato sacks in this poverty. (pg. 9)

Oprah Winfrey — Actress, TV show host, author, and philathropist. (Newhouse, CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0)

Struggle 3: Young and Broke 💸

Genghis Khan literally foraged for fruits and carcasses to avoid starvation (pg. 19–23)

Joseph Stalin (left) — Leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CC0)
  • For example, Sakichi Toyoda was the founder of the enormous car manufacturer, Toyota. But the founder of Toyota started as a carpenter in a poor village, trying to make ends meet. From age 18 onwards, he tried many inventions that could help people around him and failed for 6 years. It was only after all that toil that he started the company that would go on to be Toyota. (Source)
  • Similaly, take Henry Ford. He had simple origins before starting Ford, one of the world’s largest car makers. Henry Ford was born on a small farm where he toiled away at everyday repairs. 💪 He didn’t like the lifestyle. Due to hardships like regularly walking 6.5 km to church. (pg. 308)
Henry Ford — The founder of one of the world’s largest car manufacturers (CC0)
  • Or in more modern times, how about Richard Branson? These days, he’s known as the billionaire owner of airlines, radio companies, and even a space tourism company! But he didn’t start off successful.

The man who has literally been to space started his career ‘squatting’ in a basement with 20 others. (Source)

Struggle 4: The Inevitable Fall 💀

J.K. Rowling — Author of the famous Harry Potter book series (Tracy Lee Carroll, CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)
  • As mentioned earlier, Genghis Khan’s father died when Genghis Khan was 12. This led to his family being outcast from his tribe. (pg. 19–23)
  • The famed Roman General and Dictator Julius Caesar had his father die when Caesar was 16. This forced him to suddenly start working in the Roman state. But that would soon go awry due to a civil war. (Source)
  • The first black President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, lost his father when he was 9. Mandela felt “adrift” and “rebellious” due to this. Also, he was soon sent to live away from his mother for years. (pg. 8, 20–5)
  • The Nazi Leader Adolf Hitler had his father die when Hitler was 14. Still, Adolf was never close to his father. But his brother, Edmund, died of measles when Adolf was 9. (pg. 8) This impacted him a lot, turning him antisocial and ill-tempered. 😠 (pg. 22)

Martin Luther King tried to commit suicide twice before the age of 13.

Martin Luther King Jr. — the symbol of the American civil rights movement (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Struggle 5: Discrimination 😠

A statue of Genghis Khan—founder of the Mongol Empire (CC-BY-SA-2.0)
  • French leader Napoleon Bonaparte was bullied in school due to his short height, Corsican accent, and Corsican origin. (Source)

Two-time-Nobel-Prize-winner Marie Curie had to attend an illegal school because women weren’t allowed in universities. (Source)

  • The famed entrepreneur Elon Musk was the youngest in his class. And socially awkward. Musk was beaten up so often, he had to learn martial arts to defend himself at age 15. 👊 (Source)
  • Similarly, the Chinese-American actor and martial arts fighter Bruce Lee had to defend himself. Bruce Lee was involved in several street fights by age 13. (pg. 14) So he tried to learn martial arts. But he was mixed race. So many refused to teach him or picked fights with him. (pg. 14)
Bruce Lee — Actor and martial arts fighter. (Left: CC0, Right: CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0)

Struggle 6… School 😱

  • Let’s continue with the actor and martial arts fighter Bruce Lee. He only got through school by “coercing” other students to do his work 😁 When Bruce Lee ended up in jail after a fight one day, his parents pulled him out of school in Hong Kong and sent him to the US. (pg. 28)
  • The great scientist Marie Curie had to take a year off in high school at age 15 due to a collapse. It may have been due to depression. (Source)
  • The entrepreneur Steve Jobs isn’t known for agreeing with people. Turns out that was also true in his childhood 😀 He was a trouble-maker in school. Steve Jobs was often suspended for bad behaviour and pranks. Like the time he set off an explosive under his teacher’s chair 😮 Still, he was intellectually bright so he skipped a grade. But he had a very tough time making friends with older kids. (pg. 10–3)
Steve Jobs — founder of Apple. (CC-BY-SA-2.0)
  • Speaking of entrepreneurs, consider the founder of the Virgin Group: Richard Branson. Branson had dyslexia, which made him struggle in school. He dropped out at age 16. That’s when his headmaster told him that he’d either end up in prison or become a millionaire. 👀 Well, he took option three (becoming a billionaire)! (Source)
  • And to continue the long list of drop outs, take the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Stalin was expelled from priest school after he joined a forbidden book club and read Marx’s ideas. (pg. 18–20) That’s what led him to the Communist movement 😮
  • Similarly, take the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

Hitler dropped out of high school at age 16 with no plans for the future. (pg. 20) His single mother died of cancer two years later. This left him homeless. He made money selling paintings and doing odd labour. (pg. 30–33)

  • Other politicians passed school… but barely just. British prime minister Winston Churchill was never academically gifted. He barely passed his exams in childhood. (pg. 17–9) Churchill needed 3 attempts to pass the military entrance test, where he’d make his career. (pg. 32–3, 37)
  • And finally, let’s not think politicians are just bad at school. The world’s most iconic scientist, Albert Einstein, hated school! He couldn’t stand wrote learning in high school. Einstein even faked a mental illness so he could get out of school to go to Italy 😂 (pg. 30–1)

Don’t forget the outliers

  • That doesn’t mean these historical figures didn’t suffer later in their life.
  • It could be that their childhood suffering is unknown to the public.
  • And I may not have looked at the right resources about their childhood.

Ie. Suffering is not some secret ingredient for success.

Remember that broken people just like yourself have reached unbelievable greatness.

Cofounder at The Plastic Shift. Learning how to create a sustainable planet. Linkedin:

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Madhav Malhotra

Madhav Malhotra

Cofounder at The Plastic Shift. Learning how to create a sustainable planet. Linkedin:

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