After Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the memo from the testing director of MGM, dated 1933, said, "can’t act! Slightly Bald! Can dance a little!" Astaire kept that memo over the fireplace in his Beverly Hills home.
An expert said of Vince Lombardi: "He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks Motivation."
Socrates was called, "An immoral corrupter of youth."
When Peter J. Daniel was in the fourth grade, his teacher, Mrs. Phillips, constantly said, "Peter J. Daniel, you’re no good, you’re a bad apple and you’re never going to amount to anything." Peter was totally illiterate until he was 26. A friend stayed up with him all night and read him a copy of Think and Grow Rich. Now he owns the street corners he used to fight on and just published his latest book: Mrs. Phillips, You Were Wrong.
Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, was encouraged to find work as a servant or seamstress by her family.
Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him hopeless as a composer.
The parents of the famous opera singer Enrico Caruso wanted him to be an engineer. His teachers said he had no voice at all and could not sing.
Charles Darwin, father of the Theory of Evolution, gave up a medical career and was told by his father, "You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat catching." In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, "I was considered by my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect."
Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas. Walt Disney also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland.
Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was too stupid to learn anything.
Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old and didn’t read until he was seven. His teacher described him as "mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams." He was expelled and refused admittance to Zurich Polytechnic School.
Louis Pasteur was only a mediocre pupil in undergraduate studies and ranked 15 out of 22 in chemistry.
Isaac Newton did very poorly in grade school.
The sculptor Rodin’s father said, "I have an idiot for a son." Described as the worst pupil in the school, Rodin failed three times to secure admittance to the school of art. His uncle called him uneducable.
Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace, flunked out of college. He was described as "both unable and unwilling to learn."
Playwright Tennessee Williams was enraged when his play, Me, Vasha was not chosen in a class competition at Washington University where he was enrolled in English XVI. The teacher recalled that Williams denounced the judges’ choices and their intelligence.
F. W. Woolworth’s employers at the dry goods store said he had not enough sense to wait upon customers.
Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he finally succeeded.
Babe Ruth, considered by sports historians to be the greatest athlete of all time and famous for setting the home run record, also holds the record for strikeouts.
Winston Churchill failed sixth grade. He did not become Prime Minister of England until he was 62, and then only after a lifetime of defeats and setbacks. His greatest contributions came when he was a "senior citizen."
Eighteen publishers turned down Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, before Macmillan finally published it in 1970. By 1975 it had sold more than seven million copies in the U.S. alone.
Richard Hooker worked for seven years on his humorous war novel, M*A*S*H, only to have it rejected by 21 publishers before Morrow decided to publish it. It became a runaway bestseller, spawning a blockbusting movie and highly successful television series.
—Jack Canfield and Mark V. Hansen