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7 People Who Made It Big Despite the Odds

When we look at the lifestyle of famous people, we often assume that they have the easiest possible life on earth. But, looking at their struggles and their past gives us an idea that their life was not as easy as it is now. We bring to 7 of such people who made it big despite the odds.


The Failure who became President of The United States

Abraham Lincoln was born in a family who struggled every day to make ends meet. They were forced out of their cabin when he was just 7 years old, shortly afterward his mother passed away. His sister also died before he could come out of his teen years.

Lincoln wanted to become a lawyer but had no money to do so. To survive, he started working as a store clerk but was soon let off. At 23, he started a small general store which failed despite favorable conditions and left him under a huge debt (which took him 17 years to repay).

The business crash didn’t deter him and he pursued his ambitions further by running for the position of state legislature shortly afterward… which he lost. At 27, Lincoln went through a mental breakdown. A couple of years later, he tried his luck for the post of the speaker… but lost again. He then tried to become an elector, even ran for Congress twice but was never able to break his losing spree.

This didn’t stop Lincoln and he kept on expanding his goals, even managing to secure a brief term in Congress but eventually losing the re-election. Soon after… he lost his son, then got rejected when he ran for Senate and even lost the vice presidential nomination. This would have been enough for anybody to call it quits, but it didn’t hamper Lincoln’s goal and by the time he hit 51, the man was running for the President of United States of America… This time, he won!!!


The Abandoned Child who Made it to NFL

Made it Big - Michael Oher made it big in football despite all odds
Michael Oher celebrating Christmas with his Adopted Family.

Michael Oher was one of the 12 children born in Oher family. His mother was an alcoholic and crack cocaine addict while his father frequented prison more than the family dinner. He was placed in foster care at the tender age of 7, but due to the dire circumstance in which he was raised, he received little to no attention and lacked discipline.

Maybe this was the reason why he couldn’t become part of any foster family in which he was placed in, and would always end up running away, preferring homelessness instead. He went through several foster homes before finding the Tuohy family by chance at the age of 16. While Tuohy family was not a foster home, they still allowed Oher to live with them for few days.

It was here that Oher found acceptance and family love. The Tuohy’s eventually ended up adopting Oher and raising him as one of their own. With the love and guidance from his adopted family, along with his unique combination of skills and talent in football… Oher soon became one of the best offensive tackle of the country.

Oher graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice from Ole Miss in 2009. Shortly afterward, he signed a five-year, $13.8 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens and has never looked back ever since.


The Unlucky Man who is Hellbent on Making the World a Better Place

Keanu Reeves has had one of the toughest life you could imagine. He has just 3 years old when his father left him. The money crisis of the family ensured that he went to four different high schools. He couldn’t even get a high school diploma due to being Dyslexic.

Reeves original passion was ice hockey and he was even a successful goalie in one of his high school, to a point that he earned the nickname ‘The Wall’. However, destiny had other plans as an injury all but ended his hockey career. Reeves then went on to pursue acting and saw his best friend die at 23 due to drug overdose.

Reeves found love and some happiness in his life when he married his love, Jennifer Syme. Syme soon became pregnant with Reeves’s daughter, but everything fell apart when Syme delivered a still-born. The grief eventually led the couple to divorce though they remained best of friends, that is until Syme died in a car crash after 18 months.

Nobody would have blamed Reeves if, at this point of time, he would have developed an inherent hatred towards the World and God itself. Instead, Reeves choose to make the world a better place. He started this by earning the title of the most charitable person in Hollywood, and while many would claim that title by self-publicity, Reeves instead prefers to do it quietly.

His acts of kindness includes giving away $80 million to the staff and special effects team of Matrix, giving $20k to a needy friend, running a cancer charity which doesn’t carry his name on it. He has even given away his paychecks several times to accommodate other actors when the directors could not afford them.

Despite the good Reeves has done to the world, his miseries still continue to pile up. He is the caretaker of his sister, Kim who suffers from leukemia and in Reeves’s own words he states ‘Grief changes shape, but it never ends’, yet he continues to believe in the goodness of the world. Some internet folks had compared him to living Jesus and we have to say that we agree.

Made it Big - Keanu Reeves compared to living Jesus
Notice the water in the bottle and how it turned to wine in the glass. All hail Keanu Reeves!

The Homeless who eventually bought a Ferrari

Made it Big - Chris Gardener made it in Stockbroking after years of failures.
Chris Gardener who fought back from living in extreme situations to starting and earning millions from his company.

Chris Gardener was just eight when his mother burned down their home in an attempt to kill his physically abusive stepfather, she was convicted and Gardener was sent to a foster care.

Gardener grew up without any role model or family in life and turned to petty jobs for a living. Young and carefree, things didn’t turn out well for him as he got divorced, had a son with his new girlfriend and ended up supporting his family on a meager annual salary of $8k.

Gardener’s motivation to change his life came when one fine day, he saw a man coming out of a Ferrari. Intrigued by this scene, he asked the man about his profession and that’s when he first discovered Stockbroking. Determined to turn his life around, Gardener applied for Stockbroking training programs neglecting his ongoing sales job.

Gardener had to attend several interviews which led to piling of unpaid parking tickets. Things seemed bright when he landed a paid internship but quickly turned sour as he was fired the day he joined his stockbroking internship. The unpaid parking tickets well over $1200 also came back to haunt him as they earned him ten days in jail.

Bad luck has an uncanny habit of coming in streak as Gardener’s girlfriend soon left him, he was left alone to fend for himself along with his son and came literally on the road. The will of Gardener however was apparently stronger than steel as he applied and worked for an unpaid internship in another stock brokerage company, all the while living on streets using public toilets yet still making sure to look after his son’s need.

In the end, Gardener turned out to be the best intern in the firm and was hired after a month. A great feat in itself considering the hardship he faced in comparison to other interns. However, Gardener wasn’t done yet… he went on to start his own company and earned millions out of it… eventually buying the Ferrari from Michael Jordan making sure that he lives the moment which inspired him to succeed.

Made it Big - The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith is based on Gardener's life.
The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith is based on Gardener’s life.

The Physicist who defied Death itself

Stephen Hawking was just an average student growing up. That is until he was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 21. Lou Gehrig’s is a non-curable disease in which the body’s muscle start to shut down and the person usually only survives 3-5 years after the onset of first symptom.

While most people would resign from their life at this instance, most people are not Hawking. Hawking with his increasing inability to move or speak decided to use the only functioning part of his body, his mind to escape. He stunned the world with his theory about black holes and the creation of the universe itself.

He didn’t let his disability affect the other parts of the life and even got married, traveled around the world and by most accord is known as the most popular physicist… appearing in TV series such as Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, Star Trek among several others.

And by the way, Hawking even defied death. When doctors gave Hawking just 5 years to live, he was only 21. But Hawking managed a little bit more than the doctor’s predictions by making sure that he is still living at the age of 73 now, retaining both his sense of humor and his intellect.


The Deaf Boy who is known as the most Famous Classical Composer

The German, Ludwig van Beethoven had a troubled childhood to begin with. While growing up, Beethoven had an abusive father, who would often beat him and sometimes even his mother if Beethoven was unable to practice music properly.

It is widely rumored that Beethoven decided to become a great musician at that age to protect her mother from the beatings. Fate is often cruel when you try to challenge it, which is what happened to Beethoven as he started losing his ability to hear from age 20 and eventually turned deaf.

Did this make Beethoven put up his boots and call it quits? Well, not quite. Instead, he kept on generating music compositions with his masterpieces coming in towards the end of his life. Turns out that this music prodigy trained his mind and developed the ability to feel and listen to the music in his head. An amazing example of mind over body and… over fate as well.


The Man who Created The Disney Empire

Mad it Big - Disneyland was built in 1955 under the supervision of Walk Disney.
Mr. Walt Disney standing in front of Disneyland, California.

It may come as a surprise that Walt Disney, the name which makes every kid’s eye sparkle had to go through extreme hardships when he was growing up.

Disney was just eight when his father asked him to distribute letters and advertisements, and took away any money that he earned from it. His two brothers had already left home because of their father’s aggressive personality, even Disney wanted to leave and he tried so by applying in the army but was rejected as he was underage.

Eventually, Disney was able to join Red Cross in France as an ambulance driver. It was here that his skills started to develop. He used to draw cartoons on the ambulances which soon became popular, to the extent that people could recognize his work in the entire town. Disney then came back to Kansas city where his brother got him a temporary job in a studio.

Made it Big - Walt Disney worked as a Ambulance driver in WWI
Mr. Walt Disney along with his cartoons drawn on the ambulance.

At this studio, he met a fellow cartoonist with whom he started the company “Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists.” It didn’t perform well and both Disney and Iwerks found themselves working for another company shortly. It was during this period that Disney became interested in animation, which he learned by borrowing the camera from the owner of the company and experimenting with it after work.

Soon after, Disney formed another company and hired Iwerks after making tasting some success. However, the company soon went bankrupt due to the profits not matching the salaries paid. This led him to relocate to California with Iwerks. Disney, not the one to call it quits, formed yet another studio by pooling money with his brother Roy.

This time, Disney got everything right from the start. The company changed the entire movie industry and brought in the golden age of animation forever making Walt Disney a household name.

[Cover Image Credit]

Do you know of anyone else who made it big against all odds? To inspire you more, here are some celebs who once had a mundane jobs.

You might also like 6 Famous Celebs Who Once Had Mundane Jobs and 8 Brutal Killers Who Were Under 16.
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