21 Role Models for Success

An important key foundation in Neuro-linguistic Programming is modeling. To model, you emulate those who have already achieved success. You observe, analyze and then replicate the factors that contributed to the outstanding performance.

Role Model for Success

While there is no 100% guarantee that you can garner the same results, modeling helps you shorten your learning curve. You learn to avoid common mistakes and apply the essential steps and strategies that have helped your role model succeed. The idea is that it is much easier to follow a previously proven path to success.

The following are well-known examples of people who have succeeded against all odds. They have not allowed their first signs of obstacles deter them. What was remarkable was that many of them were initially told by their detractors that they did not have what it took to make it. However, they have not let their initial disappointment stopped them from trying again and again. Until they succeeded.

1. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hensen. Their book “Chicken Soup for the Soul” was rejected by over 140 publishers. Not one of the publishers thought that it could turn out to be a bestseller. Well, it eventually did. It sold more 100 million copies and launched the Chicken Soup series, making both of them rich and famous.

“You have to believe it’s possible and believe in yourself. Because after you’ve decided what you want, you have to believe it’s possible, and possible for you, not just for other people. Then you need to seek out models, mentors, and coaches.”
– Jack Canfield

2. Thomas Edison. Thomas Edison was an American inventor who developed many life-changing devices such as the phonograph and the light bulb. As a prolific inventor, he had more than 1,000 U.S patents to his name.

However, when he was young, teachers told him that he was “too stupid to learn anything”. In school, the young Edison’s mind often wandered. He only lasted 3 months. He was eventually homeschooled by his mother.

Edison was also hearing impaired. It is ironic that he would eventually be involved in the development of the motion picture camera. For developing the light bulb to great commercial success, he was most famous for the following quote…

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– Thomas Edison

3. Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is known as the greatest basketball player of all time. His persistence paid off after he failed to make it for the varsity basketball team during his sophomore year. At 5’11” (1.80 m) back then, he was deemed too short to play at that level.

“Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it,” Jordan said, “and that usually got me going again.”

Instead of pouting or making excuses over failure, Jordan practiced hard at perfecting his game. His burning desire to win, coupled with his utter refusal to quit made him a legend in his time.

4. Walt Disney.
Walt Disney was fired from his first job because he was told that he lacked imagination. He also had to endure numerous difficulties and challenges while setting up his dream business and ending up with bankruptcy even. He kept up with his persistence. Today, his entire set-up – including moves, merchandise and theme parks – is worth billions.

“To some people, I am kind of a Merlin who takes lots of crazy chances, but rarely makes mistakes. I’ve made some bad ones, but, fortunately, the successes have come along fast enough to cover up the mistakes. When you go to bat as many times as I do, you’re bound to get a good average.”
– Walt Disney

5. J.K. Rowling. The original Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by a dozen publishers; including big houses like Penguin and Harper Collins. Bloomsbury, a small London publisher, only took it because the CEO’s eight-year old daughter begged her father to print the book.

Before she published the Harry Porter series, she was in poverty, severely depressed and a single parent. She went from depending on welfare to being one of the richest women in the world in a span of only five years through hard work and perseverance.

6. Colonel Sander. If you like the taste of Kentucky Fried Chicken, you will wonder why Colonel Sander’s idea was rejected 1009 times over a period of 2 years.

“I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.”
– Colonel Sanders

7. Bill Gates. Bill Gates is an American businessman, author, philanthropist and chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen. He is consistently ranked as one of the wealthiest person in the world.

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to pursue his first idea. However, the business soon failed. He turned around his fortunes with his later work. He was known for being aggressive and persistent in his work ethic.

8. Orville and Wilbur Wright. We need to thank the Wright brothers for their contribution to air travel. They built the first plane that could stay airborne. The Wright brothers succeeded only after numerous attempts, tons of failed prototypes and many years of experiments.

“If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.”
– Wright brothers

9. Ludwig van Beethoven. His teachers thought that he was hopeless and that he would never succeed as a composer or at the violin. Well, Beethoven kept up with his passion. He eventually composed some of the best loved symphonies of all time. Five of these were composed when he was completely deaf.

10. Elvis Presley. Elvis Presley may be known as the King of Rock and Roll. But back when he was still unknown, he got fired after just one performance. His manager, Jimmy Denny, told him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

11. Steven Spielberg. Steven Spielberg has proven that he does not need to have passed film school to be one of the best movie directors. He was rejected by the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television not just one but three times.

He eventually attended school at another location, but became a dropout, not long after, in order to become a director. He finally returned to school only after 35 years from the time he first started on his degree.

12. Baby Ruth. Despite having passed on, Ruth continues to be regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in America. He is well known for his home run record of 714 including 1,330 strikeouts during his career. When interviewed, he was reported to have said,

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

13. Harrison Ford. You have seen him in many movie blockbuster hits such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones. There is no doubt that he can act convincingly. In 2003, he received a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

However, in his first ever film, Ford was told by movie execs that he did not have what it would take to be a star. As a struggling artiste, he did carpentry work. He was helping George Lucas for his house that landed him his first starring film role (as Han Solo in the movie, Star Wars).

14. Stephen King. Stephen King is an acclaimed American novelist and short-story writer for horror fiction. His first novel, Carrie (1974), was a tale of a girl with telekinetic powers. King had thrown the first pages of the story in the trash, thinking that his draft was not good enough. Luckily, his wife rescued them and encouraged him to finish the work. Well, he has been churning spine-chilling novels to great worldwide demand ever since.

15. Claude Monet. Monet was the leader of Impressionists, a group of artists who rebelled against the traditional method of painting. His Impressionist paintings were once mocked by the artistic elite, the Paris Salon.

Despite this and having to go through a number of financial struggles, he kept at his style. He painted about 2500 paintings in all. Today, his paintings sell for millions of dollars and hangs in many prestigious institutions around the world.

16. Oprah Winfrey. Oprah has emerged as one of the top role models for today. She is rich, successful and shows genuine care for the people.

Oprah endured an abusive childhood and numerous challenges to get to where she is now. At one stage, she was fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for tv”.

I don’t think of myself as a poor deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who from an early age knew I was responsible for myself, and I had to make good.
– Oprah Winfrey

17. Lucille Ball. Before starring in I Love Lucy, Ball was known only as a B movie star. Her drama teachers didn’t feel she could make it. And so they advised her to try another profession.

Well, she proved everyone wrong. She subsequently garnered thirteen Emmy nominations and four wins, also earning the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors.

18. Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill makes the perfect role model for the advice: it’s never too old to get started. He was defeated in every election for public office until he finally became the Prime Minister at the age of 62.

“I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.”
– Winston Churchill

Churchill wasn’t known to be brilliant as a young child either. He struggled in school, and failed the sixth grade.

19. Charlie Chaplin. Charlie Chaplin’s act was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs. They felt that it was too nonsensical to ever sell. Chaplin obviously had the last laugh.

He did not grow up in the best of circumstances. Chaplin came from a broken family. His parents divorced before he was three. His father was an alcoholic and had little contact with the son. His mother became mentally ill after her singing career faltered when her voice failed.

Well, Chaplin went on to providing the gift of comedy through World War I, the Great Depression and the rise of Adolf Hitler. He is now known one of the most creative and influential personalities of the silent-film era.

20. Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a property magnet, author and television personality. He is listed by the Guinness Book of Records as having engineered the biggest financial turnaround in history.

“In the early 1990s, I owed billions of dollars and many people thought I was finished,” says Trump. “I refused to give in to the negative circumstances and I never lost faith in myself. I didn’t believe I was finished even when the newspapers were saying so. I refused to give up. Defeat is not in my vocabulary.”

21. Christopher Reeve. It is ironic that the actor who played Superman famously would eventually become physically handicapped. The world was shocked when he became paralyzed as a result of a riding accident when he fell on his head. The fall broke his spinal cord.

The former Superman admitted that he cried every day dealing with the reality of being in a wheelchair. “In the morning, I need twenty minutes to cry,” he said. “To wake up and make that shift, you know, and to just say, “This really sucks”…to really allow yourself the feeling of loss…still needs to be acknowledged.”

But after his long, hard cry each day, he would tell himself, “And now, forward!”

Despite his handicap, Reeve was an exemplary model of courage. He continued to travel, gave public appearances, raised funds, became a director and served as a voice for the quadriplegics in the United States.

Your Success Role Model

Which role model most inspires you? Share in your comments below on which quality makes you such a big fan of this person.

Don’t forget to bookmark this post on role models. And go break a leg!

Abundance Always,

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Author. Adventurer. Life Artist. More About Me.

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The Vizier - June 14, 2011 Reply

Hi Evelyn,

Having role models is certainly important in life. It was with the help of role models that I managed to change my thinking for the better. By choosing role models that had the qualities which I lacked and wished to emulate, I slowly acquired those qualities for myself as well. As you rightly point out, it is easier to follow and adapt a previously proven path to success than to pave one of our own from scratch.

I enjoyed looking through the fine list of role models that you have put together. I like Michael Jordan for his incredible persistence and the simple fact that practice makes perfect. J K Rowling’s rags to riches story is also inspirational because it shows how human effort can turn our fortunes around. Finally, I love Christopher Reeves for his remarkable courage. It is definitely not easy live with paralysis especially when he used to be so active.

I personally have quite a number of role models since there are so many admirable people in this world. But the one that comes readily to mind is Tokugawa Ieyasu the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan. He was so determined to fulfill his dream of becoming Shogun that he patiently persevered until he achieved it at the age of 60. He only did so because he outlasted all his brilliant rivals to found a dynasty that lasted 250 years. From him I learned the value of patience and perseverance.

Thank you for sharing this lovely article! 🙂

Irving the Vizier


Evelyn Reply:

Hello Irving,

It’s great that you’ve sought out appropriate role models to aid in your transformation. Thank you for sharing your role model, Tokugawa Ieyasu. I have not heard about him before. So reading about his journey has been rather interesting for me. Perseverance and patience are certainly priceless values!

Wishing you all the best in your journey to success,


Elmer - June 14, 2011 Reply

I like Edison and Bill Gates, very inspiring I’ve learned a lot about the life of Edison in Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich. Gates, Silicon valley and the Microsoft story always boost my spirits!

Keep it coming Evelyn! Your success is surely a role model story.


Evelyn Reply:

Hello Elmer,

It seems that you really enjoy reading inspiring true-life stories. That’s great!

Thank you for your lovely feedback. I continue to work on my journey and hope to share what I’ve learned.

Abundance always,


Kelly - June 15, 2011 Reply

Thank you as always Evelyn, I enjoy your articles so much!


Evelyn Reply:

Hi Kelly,

You are welcome. I am blessed to receive your feedback 🙂

Abundance always,


David Stevens - June 15, 2011 Reply

Hi Evelyn,
there are many fine role models to choose from if you wish to go down that path. Choose the one’s that you see as ‘the best fit’ for you otherwise disappointment awaits. Thank you for this Evelyn, there are some good ones there. (Where’s Richard Branson?)
be good to yourself


Evelyn Reply:

Hi David,

Indeed, there are many role models. We choose the ones that best speak to us. Does the energy of Richard Branson resonate with you?

Success and abundance always,


Galen Pearl - June 16, 2011 Reply

This is one of my favorite posts ever. All the reasons given for why these people would fail seem ludicrous now in the face of their huge success. At the time, I’m sure all those reasons seemed perfectly legitimate, but the people themselves did not listen. They succeeded in spite of predictions of failure.

The opposite has also been true. There are successful people who have told stories of that one person who believed in them, who told them that they would achieve their biggest dreams.

So I have learned two things from your post. First, don’t dismiss someone’s potential. You don’t know what that person is capable of achieving. Second, we can lift someone up or set up obstacles with our words. These people you profiled clearly got over whatever negative energy others were sending them, but we often have an opportunity to give postitive energy to someone. Who knows how that might help them along the way? And if they do make it big, we won’t look silly for having told them they’d never make it!

As for my own models, I would add Bruce Lee to your list. He came to the US with nothing and became a role model not only in martial arts, but also as a philosopher and as an activist against discrimination in many forms.

Thanks for an excellent post. I’m going to read it again!


Evelyn Reply:

Hello Galen,

It’s awesome that you’ve enjoyed the post and shared your takeaways. Thumbs up to saying never to dismiss someone’s potential. We would never know. And we sure wouldn’t want to be named as the ones who have predicted doom and failure.

Thanks for sharing about Bruce Lee. He was certainly an inspirational model. It’s too bad that he’s passed away. But still, he has changed the lives of many.

With love and inspiration,


Keith Davis - June 16, 2011 Reply

Hi Evelyn
I’ll go with “Christopher Reeve”.
What an inspiration. That guy just never gave in.

It was ironic that the man who played Superman should have such a tragic accident and yet he always appeared in good spirits.

A role model to us all.


Evelyn Reply:

Hi Keith,

You’ve chosen a great model. Christopher Reeve has not lived in vain. He had transformed the lives of many through his own journey.

Abundance always,


Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition - June 16, 2011 Reply

Hi Evelyn,
This is a great list of wonderful role models. When I was growing up I love Walt Disney. He would speak to his audience before each Walt Disney show on Sunday evenings. I wanted to be like him- imaginative and creative. I even wrote and illustrated comic books starting at age 9 because of him. When he died I was so very sad. I also wanted to be like Lucille Ball because she was so funny. But, I’m inspired most by Thomas Edison for his persistence.


Evelyn Reply:

Hello Angela,

You’ve just demonstrated that we can choose various role models for different values that we hope to emulate. I like your choices very much 🙂

With love,


rob white - June 16, 2011 Reply

wonderful list, Evelyn. There is something there for everyone to model. I like to say that all of the above mentioned people can fry an egg. If you can fry and egg then you have what it takes to succeed with the scenes of successful achievement you play in your head!


Evelyn Reply:

Hello Rob,

Most certainly, when we can creatively visualize what we want and have every belief in our hearts and minds, we have got what it takes to create success LOL!

Abundance always,


jonathanfigaro - June 16, 2011 Reply

I love Lucy is the SHOW! It was sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo…ahead of it’s time it’s not even funny. You can still curl up on the couch and watch a few episode of it without throwing up ( he-he). I never knew she was told that she couldn’t act! Whew….great she took her own advice and kept going. She is a soldier INDEED!!


Evelyn Reply:

Hello Jonathan,

It’s great that you’re such a big fan of Lucy! Oh yes, she makes an awesome inspirational model.

All the best,


Stuart - June 17, 2011 Reply

A wonderful list of people Evelyn, and they all serve to inspire us to move us forward, and to help us realise that no matter how bad things can get (and they will get pretty bad if you want success), there’s always a way out. There’s always a way forward.

The great thing about this list though, is that all the traits that these wonderful people have exhibited, we also have those traits. They’re human traits, which we all have deep down. We’re all capable of extraordinary feats of courage, perserverance and strength. We all have what it takes to get where we want to go. These people have done it.

So we can do too 🙂


Bojan - June 18, 2011 Reply

This article was interesting and fun to read… Inspiring also. believing is important part of success.


Evelyn Reply:

Hello Bojan,

Thank you for your feedback. Indeed, the power of our beliefs is important for success.

Abundance always,


Michele - June 19, 2011 Reply

Very Inspiring post..takeaway message for me, is to don’t stop pursuing your dreams, regardless of what “they” tell you.


Evelyn Reply:

Hello Michele,

“They” can mean external parties or even the critical voices in your head. Oh yes, don’t let these ever stop you!

Success always,


neerja - March 24, 2012 Reply


it was really great to read all of them. I am really impressed by Rowling work. Nice to learn how days can change and dreams can come true if we stick to them.


Prakash - July 24, 2012 Reply

Nice article.
Found this Wright brother’s story very inspiring.
Their quote is sooooo true:
“If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.”


joseph ephraim - August 2, 2012 Reply


Thanks for the rich and inspiring post.
Reeves, Jordan, Wright brothers etc are examples of persistence.
I am currently having in one of those lowly moments. It can be depressing.
I seem to know what to do but lack the will power to start and remain consistent.

I need help PLEASE…


Dana - August 11, 2012 Reply

Greetings Evelyn,

I’m working on my lesson for Sunday School based on Ephesians 5:1-2. It’s mostly teaching the children about living a life of love (being a good role model). When one is not so self-absorbed, and can reach out to others to be kind, accepting, patient, obedient, forgiving, kind to oneself, passionate, respectful, trustworthy, hard-working all the while keeping a joyful spirit and remaining true to their ideas, beliefs, dreams – success is bound to happen.

However, success can mean a myriad of things to different people. For many, success is correlated with money, “He who has the most toys wins.”
Unless one knows how to share their toys – they are not truly successful and usually are very poor role models albeit popular.

The role models I try to emulate are definitely givers – the do-gooders. I’m always amazed by what one can achieve by having strength of spirit and the tenacity to not give up. Plus, as a giver myself, I sometimes feel that I receive so much more back from what I’m able to achieve – whereas my cup truly overfloweth (special moments which are priceless that are stored in my heart – my true riches).

There are many ‘now famous’ people, that once you have learned their back story, have failed, and failed, and failed … but picked themselves up, brushed themselves off, and started over again.

One person that I’m especially surprised that you do not have on your list is President Abraham Lincoln. The losses this man endured as a child, and as a young man and father … his many rejections, still did not make him bitter or hard, and yet … he never gave up.

People can be cruel. Words can be cruel. But I view these people with a life that is devoid of love. For those I admire, and it can be from one of my students or from someone achieving whatever success is to them, they have risen above the naysayers trying to pull them down. Love won out.
The love they had for whatever they were trying to achieve – having the strength of spirit to follow their dreams, listening to the voice of “I can” vs. “You can’t.”

It’s dreams and imagination and these special people following their inklings that have made our world a wonderful, diverse place to live.
I’m constantly grateful.


Ike - May 2, 2013 Reply

“you can`t sing. Go back to driving trucks”. Yet Elvis became a star. I’m inspired. I left a lucrative law practice to be a pastor. Some people are laughing but I will have the last laugh


Maxx - May 10, 2013 Reply

Hi Evelyn,
Thank you for sharing these magnificent stories. It really inspired me. Thank you!


Cinta Meyrick - April 15, 2014 Reply

Hi Evelyn,

This article really helped me for my character studies project. it give me ideas who should i do. One more time, Thank you so much!

– Cinta Meyrick


Phil Menciano - July 22, 2014 Reply

Greetings from the Philippines!

Certainly, success can mean a myriad of things to different people. For many, success is correlated with money, fame and power.
For me, I emulate boxer Manny Pacquiao. He was a fourth grade drop-out from a public school. Extreme Poverty forced him to stop schooling. At 9, he owned only a cart business, vending fruits, pushing the cart under the heat of the sun (in the streets of Gen. Santos City in Southern Philippines).
He finished elementary and high school education though Acceleration Tests which he patiently worked hard to pass.
Now, Manny is a multi-millionaire! God has blessed him because he has been a giver. As a renewed Christian, Manny knows the secret of receiving is through giving.
The measure of true success for me is when you have helped yourself first, and then you have helped others achieve their own success.
Manny has shared his BLESSINGS with the many poor Filipinos, in both MATERIAL AND SPIRITUAL FEEDING.


????? ????? ?????? - August 29, 2014 Reply

Awesome article.


www.youtube.com - August 31, 2014 Reply

Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok.

I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look
forward to new updates.


One Step Forward, Two Steps Back | Just one more game... - January 4, 2015 Reply

[…] Give your projects the time you can, when you can and don’t worry about the time you can’t. Everything works out in the end. You just have to remember that there’s an end you’re working towards.  Why make the journey […]

is telekinesis real - November 5, 2015 Reply

Gregory Daniels’ choreography is powerful, giving the cast a great workout. There is also a chance that a person may be hurt by objects that are moved around a room. You must change your negative thinking into a positive one continually just like Sarah and stop putting off pursuing your God given destiny.


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