15 True Motivational Stories to Inspire Your Success

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Just like other people who have achieved success in life, you are fully capable of reaching your highest goals.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses to focus on to increase their chances of being successful, and everyone will face challenges along the way.

The true motivational stories that we will look at in this article will inspire you and give you a new perspective on some of history’s most famous people.

It’s easy to chalk up other people’s success to a fortunate upbringing or good luck, but in most cases, there is a lot more that goes into people’s accomplishments than we know.

You will see that the people in these true motivational stories had to overcome obstacles to get to where they are now, which is often easy to forget.

These inspirational stories will give you an idea of the challenges that turned these high-achievers into historical figures that we have grown to admire.

You will notice that each person experienced things that may have made other people quit.

But without allowing their failures to define them, they were able to reach their goals and live fulfilling lives.

Let’s take a look.

15 True Motivational Stories to Inspire Your Success

1. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs has an impressive resume, including being a business magnate, inventor, investor, the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple, the chairman and majority shareholder of Pixar, a member of The Walt Disney Company's board of directors, and the founder, chairman, and CEO of NeXT.

But just like most other successful people, his journey had a fair share of hardships and downfalls.

However, he stood up through every rise and fall, taking his setbacks as opportunities to turn things around and move the tech industry towards a better future that he envisioned.

It has been said that as he was growing up, Jobs was smart but directionless. He dropped out of college to start experimenting with various business sectors before co-founding Apple with Steve Wozniak in 1976 in Jobs’s family garage.

Surprisingly, Jobs was actually fired from the Macintosh Group that he had created. But this only brought new beginnings for his success.

He soon went on to establish his new company, NeXT Computer Co., which exemplified his relentless efforts to reinvent himself to succeed.

NeXT eventually merged with Apple, which has given us the iOS system that so many of us use today.

Jobs’s relentless innovation was successful enough to make Apple what it is today. Now, Apple has launched devices such as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad that have changed the lives of millions across the world.

2. Walt Disney

Walt Disney is arguably one of the most recognized names in the world.

This legendary animation magnate is responsible for creating some of the most iconic cartoon characters that exist, including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Cinderella, Donald Duck, and Winnie the Pooh.

But Walt Disney had a rocky road to success that many don’t know about. As a child, Walt Disney lived with his parents and five siblings, where his father allegedly abused each of them.

To find some peace from the trouble at home, Walt Disney started to draw as a hobby.

Walt eventually secured an apprenticeship at a commercial art studio in Kansas City, but he knew he had more potential than his job was offering him, so he left that job to start his own cartoon company with one of his brothers.

However, the company went bankrupt after only a few years, leaving Walt Disney so broke that he survived on dog food to save money. 

After moving to LA to pursue acting, Disney finally got a big break through his creation of a successful cartoon character named Oswald The Rabbit.

However, he soon discovered that his producer had stolen his team of animators away from him, which made him lose all legal rights to the character.

Over and over, Disney’s dreams were being shot down. He went through several setbacks that probably would have caused most people to quit.

But then, he created Mickey Mouse.

Twenty-six Academy Awards and $130 billion later, Disney cannot be denied as one of the greatest film legacies to ever exist. He is now hailed as one of the greatest visionaries of all time.

3. Harriet Tubman

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

– Harriet Tubman

Born in 1820, Harriet Tubman is a former slave who is known for her leadership and bravery as an abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Because of the cruelty of her various masters, she made a goal to escape from slavery from an early age and free others as well.

Harriet overcame a lot of adversity alongside her success. Aside from living as a slave, Harriet Tubman also suffered from epilepsy and suffered from a traumatic brain injury that resulted in hypersomnia.

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Harriet Tubman

Furthermore, due to the headaches that she suffered throughout her life because of her health conditions, she underwent brain surgery without anesthesia to alleviate the headaches she had suffered for most of her life.

But working by night and in secrecy, she made 13 trips to free 70 slaves without failing a single rescue, earning herself the nickname “Moses”.

And, when the Civil War began in America, she became the first woman to lead an armed expedition.

Harriet Tubman’s devotion to her mission to free slaves using the Underground Railroad–and then assisting them with finding work easily allows her on a list of real life motivational stories.

4. Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison’s is an exemplary story of how important it is to experience failure in order to be successful.

Thomas Edison created several inventions before going on to invent the lightbulb, including the carbon transmitter and the phonograph.

After these inventions, he believed he was equipped to take on the challenge that no one had achieved yet–creating a solution that produced safe and inexpensive electric light.

Early on, Edison hit roadblock after roadblock while trying to create the incandescent lightbulb.

However, he had two key breakthroughs throughout his research that ultimately helped him create the world’s first affordable and long-lasting light bulb in 1881.

Because it has been said that Edison tried over 10,000 different techniques before finding a viable finished product, he is famously known as saying, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

Edison’s perseverance is an inspiring lesson of never giving up.

5. Oprah Winfrey

Despite her early challenges, Oprah Winfrey has built a billion-dollar empire and has even been placed 1st on Forbes’ list of America’s richest female entertainers.

However, she was no stranger to adversity prior to her real life inspirational success story.

Winfrey experienced many disruptive moves as a child, from living with her grandmother in Mississippi, her mother in Wisconsin, and then moving in with her father in Tennessee.

During this time, she lived in poverty and was both physically and sexually abused by her family members.

She became pregnant at the age of 14 and even considered committing suicide. But when the baby was born prematurely and died in the hospital, Winfrey knew she was given a second chance at life.

Oprah worked various odd jobs to make money before she landed a job to anchor the local news at a small radio network. This led to a job at a local TV station, where she was given her own talk show.

She became a favorite among the viewers due to her emotional delivery in this show, resulting in her TV show becoming one of the highest-rated shows ever, which eventually was renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show”.

Oprah went from growing up in poverty to becoming the first black female billionaire in 2003, following the inception of her production company, Harpo Productions, Inc.

She has also been named “the most powerful woman” by CNN and Time Magazine, making her rags to riches journey a truly motivational story.

6. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan’s story exemplifies one of the greatest examples of hard work and ambition overcoming natural talent. He’s one of the greatest NBA players of all-time, having won six NBA championships throughout his career.

But what makes him so remarkable is his incredible story of relentless determination that began with choosing to overcome adversity.

Jordan began his basketball career after watching his brother, whom he admired, play the game. Unfortunately, he was cut from his high school team as a sophomore due to his height of 5’10”.

However, Jordan didn’t take this news well, and his coaches didn’t realize how competitive Jordan was or the amount of drive that he had when they cut him.

By being cut from the team, Jordan’s competitive spirit that began his career was fueled. He decided to channel his frustration into practice and growth.

He still played basketball, although on the JV team, but continued to seek leverage to sharpen his basketball skills.

As a member of the JV team, Jordan went on to put up multiple 40 point games and become the best player on the team. After dominating the season, he took the time to hone his game, training over the entire summer.

As he was still young and growing, he also grew an extra four inches in height. When he came back to play for his 11th grade year, he was ready to make a name for himself.

Jordan eventually became a force to be reckoned with in the NBA, being named the greatest basketball player of all-time.

His success story is motivational because it offers an example of how disappointment and rejection can be transformed into a high level of achievement.

His story also demonstrates the type of mindset required to succeed by highlighting the extra work that you must put into your training and the extreme drive that you must have if you want to be the best.

7. J.K. Rowling

Due to everything she experienced when trying to reach her goal of becoming a writer, J.K. Rowling’s is a story of true inspiration.

Prior to her Harry Potter fame, J.K. Rowling was a single mother suffering from severe depression. But despite everything she was going through, the one thing that remained was her love of writing.

As she was struggling to survive on unemployment benefits, she used all of her time to write her manuscript. And, once completed, she still needed a publisher who would take a chance on her work.

After 12 attempts, Rowling had only been told that her work wasn’t up to par for publishing. After all of these rejections, she was ready to give up.

But it took just one “yes” for Harry Potter to become an international success. Her manuscript went on to sell 500 million copies around the world and was later turned into a movie series that grossed billions of dollars.

Her story makes you wonder how many great writers we have missed out on because they were initially rejected. How many creators have given up without recognizing each failure was just one step closer to success?

Rowling’s journey demonstrates the importance of not letting failures define you. Because of her persistence, many people around the world have enjoyed her work, and she has lived with the knowledge of her talent and success.

8. Sylvester Stallone

As a young struggling actor, Sylvester Stallone was so broke that, at one point, he had to sell jewelry that he had previously gifted his wife.

He became homeless, slept in a bus station, and struggled to afford food. He even sold his beloved dog for $25.

But Stallone decided to take charge of his career by writing a movie role for himself after seeing a boxing match. The script for Rocky soon became one that studios wanted to buy the screenplay for to make into a movie.

He was offered $125,000 for the script, but turned it down because the studios were not offering him the leading role because he “looked and talked funny”.

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Sylvester Stallone

He refused offers up to $350,000 for the screenplay because studios were not willing to risk the money on this unknown actor.

But Stallone stuck to his guns, and eventually accepted a small amount of money for the script with the studio agreeing to allow him to star in the movie.

The Rocky movie went on to become a global hit. The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Directing, and Best Film Editing.

The original film turned into a series that has grossed over $1.25 billion at the worldwide box office.

Stallone’s story is especially motivational because he wasn’t willing to give up on his dream of starring in the movie just to get a large payout. He did whatever it took to achieve his dream.

9. Steve Harvey

Although Steve Harvey has a rags to riches story, that is not what makes his journey motivational.

Steve Harvey has worked in the entertainment industry for almost 35 years, and is among the most successful TV personalities today with a net worth of over $200 million.

But, according to Harvey, he has pitched over 200 show ideas to executives in the entertainment industry. Out of these meetings, only five of his ideas got picked up.

So with a failure rate of 98%, Steve Harvey ultimately became a great success. Only five good ideas turned Harvey into a superstar.

And while the 195 rejected meetings are a thing of the past, they brought him to where he is today.

This teaches us to remember that failure is a part of the process. Harvey has failed almost 40 times more than he’s succeeded, but he’s still considered to be a very successful person.

So whatever you’re trying to accomplish, you need to maintain the mindset that failing is a critical part of the learning process.

10. Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves, known as one of the most “wholesome” men in Hollywood, is most recognized for his roles in movies such as The Matrix and John Wick.

What many do not know about him is that he had to overcome challenges throughout his life that have created barriers to his success.

After being abandoned by his father when he was three, he was raised by a single mother who remarried four times during Keanu's childhood, which meant that a lot of his childhood was spent with his grandparents.

Because he was constantly moving from school to school and he suffered from dyslexia, Keanu struggled with gaining his education, and was even expelled from school at one point.

He went on to suffer great personal loss with the death of his best friend in 1993, the loss of his child in 2001, and the death of the love of his life, Jennifer Syme.

However, Reeves did not let these hardships dominate his future. Instead, he was able to manage the setbacks that he faced in his life. He teaches us that your past does not define you.

Furthermore, Keanu has had to overcome some of the most devastating circumstances possible, but he is able to speak today in a positive and uplifting tone despite the terrible ordeals he has endured.

His positive attitude shows that life’s negatives can still turn into positives.

Keanu's story of overcoming barriers and adapting himself to new surroundings shows that even personal obstacles can be overcome to achieve ultimate success.

11. Mike Tyson

While he is now among the most feared men on the planet, Mike Tyson wasn’t always an intimidator. Mike was not the chiseled athlete we know today as a child–he was much smaller and had an anxious personality.

However, growing up in a rough neighborhood, Mike knew he had to adapt.

He became involved with gangs at a very young age and developed a unique style of street fighting to avoid harassment from other children.

By the age of 13, he had been arrested 30 times and was enrolled in a reformatory school. Soon after, he met his future trainer who recognized the power and energy that Tyson had.

He agreed to train Mike under the understanding that Mike would stay out of trouble, which Mike agreed to do.

While he was initially believed to have a learning disability, Mike was able to significantly bring up his grades once boxing was on the line.

Tyson got on a positive trajectory, but unfortunately, it was short-lived. He was kicked out of school due to violent outbursts after his mother passed away. Then, after training for the Olympic trials, he lost.

His first professional fight ended in the first round due to his quick moves and impressive defense.

His tough upbringing would have crushed many people’s dreams of reaching their goals; however, Tyson’s ability to overcome hardships are a testament to his grit and determination.

Mike often seemed to be at an unconquerable disadvantage in life, such as when he was a nervous young man, but he managed to improve himself without accepting the hand that he was dealt.

12. Tony Robbins

Tony's story is an example of overcoming immense trauma and becoming someone who greatly excels in life.

Tony Robbins grew up in an extremely abusive household with a drug and alcohol-addicted mother until he abandoned it to follow his own path. He is now a world-renowned public speaker and life coach.

Being addicted to both drugs and alcohol, Robbins’ mom would often turn to him and his siblings to take her anger out on them.

Despite the mental and physical torture that Tony endured, he was the oldest sibling and always looked out for the others.

As his mother moved through several marriages, Tony assumed a caretaker role to ensure his siblings didn’t endure as much stress as he did.

Tony eventually left his home after a domestic dispute with his mother and he never returned. Although he was working low-income jobs, he continued to support his siblings who were still living in the home.

However, great things were in store for Tony when he decided to contact well known motivational speaker, Jim Rohn. Jim was inspired by Tony's story, and he helped him get to where he is today.

With Jim’s help, Tony went on to travel around the country, spreading the message that your past does not determine your future.

Tony is now worth in excess of $500 million, and he is helping those in need through his worldwide charities.

Despite struggling with his own demons during his childhood, Tony always sought to help others in need, starting with his siblings. His responsibility and knack for assisting others in need continued into his adult life through his charitable work.

13. Stephen King

Stephen King is known as one of the most renowned writers worldwide. However, he has faced several failures and misfortunes during his lifetime.

Growing up in poverty, King faced struggles with drugs and alcohol. He also tackled several rejections and setbacks from a young age. He worked several low-paying jobs while engaging in his writing hobby.

He worked from a homemade desk in his double-wide trailer, and reached several points where he was on the verge of giving up. But his wife motivated him to keep writing.

After putting in his full efforts, King eventually completed his first book. However, this was followed by a lot of rejections. While he was torn down, he didn’t let this set him back.

In fact, he displayed all his rejection letters in his room. After 30 rejections back to back, he could have easily given up, but he believed in himself and kept trying.

He concentrated on his writing and even developed new writing styles and copywriting mechanisms to professionalize his hobby. Everything changed one day when a small publishing house accepted his work.

Stephen King didn’t let failure define him. He believed in himself and achieved success by never giving up. He stayed motivated and persistent throughout his journey and he used his failures as lessons to refine himself.

14. Barack Obama

Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, achieved the unthinkable when he became the first African American president. However, despite his great success, he experienced setbacks throughout his life that he had to overcome.

Obama grew up with a single mother after being abandoned by his father. He struggled with his identity, as he was stuck between two cultures, with connections to several communities, including the white community, black community, Hawaiian community, and the Indonesian, Catholic and Muslim communities.

While he could have hidden away in fear of all the cultures he faced, he instead embraced them and educated himself as much as possible through new experiences.

As an adult, Obama decided to live his life as an African American man, despite his connections to various cultures. This caused him to be confronted with self-doubt and confusion as to what it meant to live as an African American man.

His struggles continued when in office, including the fact that the republicans continued to run the state senate. However, as he had done before, he attempted to adapt.

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Barack Obama

Obama faced the differences that he encountered in life head on and educated himself on these cultural variations instead of fearing them.

He achieved great things during his time as president aside from his initial milestone of being the first black president.

He passed almost three hundred bills to assist children, the elderly, and the poor. He also played a big part in recovering the country's economy after the 2008 crash, reducing the unemployment rate by more than half throughout his term as president.

Obama's life accomplishments could go on forever, and many have learned to adapt and overcome obstacles from his story.

From family and cultural issues to presidential conflicts, Obama has managed to overcome many challenges in his life. He adapted to life’s situations regardless of the challenges he faced. His inspiring story is one of defying the odds.

15. Steven Spielberg

As a film director, producer, and screenwriter, Steven Spielberg has grown to become one of the most successful and influential filmmakers in history.

He has won three Academy Awards for Best Director, and numerous other awards and honors throughout the years. However, his 50 years in the film industry have not come without their struggles.

Spielberg struggled with dyslexia as a student and couldn’t cope with his studies. He dropped out of grade school and he even got suspended from college three times.

He followed his passion for filmmaking, but hit several roadblocks along his way. Although he had some flopped films that made him feel ashamed about his work, he persevered to continue to pursue his dream.

Steven Spielberg refused to give up and was known for working day in and day out and being persistent, which led him to create great movies such as Jaws, Schindler’s List, The Color Purple, and Jurassic Park.

A major lesson to take away from Steven’s life is to dream big–to take an idea and make it your life. Stay focused and consistent in achieving your goals.

He also shows us that rejections and failure are both a critical component to success. 

Things don’t happen quickly and you have to be prepared to step out of your comfort zone to be successful.

Final Thoughts on Motivational Stories to Inspire Your Success

Most people believe hard work will lead to success, but it also takes persistence and a strong belief in oneself.

Hopefully, you were able to gain some valuable insight from these stories and they offered you a real perspective on success.

Success will require you to navigate a windy road, so as you’re trying to reach your goals, recognize that you will need to overcome times when you want to give up.

It is in these moments that you need to maintain your perspective and realize failure is a part of your success.

If you want to know how successful people make major decisions in life, then watch this video to learn how to do it:

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