Not only was Oprah Winfrey born into abject poverty to a teenage single mother who worked as a maid, a testament to which was getting her first pair of shoes at the age of 6 but she also experienced rape and abuse as early as age 9. She also became pregnant at 14 and lost her son within two weeks of birth. Oprah’s mother eventually sent her to live in Tennessee with her father, a period during which she became open to an onslaught of sexual abuse. She was first raped at 9 by her nineteen year old cousin who was babysitting her. The sexual abuse by her cousin continued even while other family members and friends imposed themselves upon her. Her mother’s boyfriend and her uncle raped her as well during her stay in Milwaukee. As a result Oprah ran away from home at the age of 13. But these disadvantages and emotional challenges didn’t stop Oprah from dreaming and becoming what she wanted to be. Oprah kept reading, educating herself and persisting. Her first job was at a local grocery store.
Oprah Winfrey went on to receive an honorary doctorate from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, an honorary doctorate from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina in 2009 and an honorary doctorate from Harvard University in 2013, among at least six others.
No one book can chronicle the philanthropic work and trickledown effect of what Oprah Winfrey has done. Suffice it to say that she has indirectly touched the lives of an untold number of people around the world and will by extension continue to do so ad infinitum. She is conservatively worth $2.6 Billion.
Born July 1946, Stallone attended school in suburban Philadelphia where he first started acting and was a star football player for the school. By 1973, Stallone had auditioned for almost every casting agent in New York and had gone on “thousands of acting calls,” with little success. His persistence kept him writing during this period and he churned out numerous screenplays while waiting for his acting break. Prize fighter Rocky Balboa was born and given life in a script Stallone wrote in longhand. Several producers offered to buy the screenplay but they wanted to cast a “name star” in the title role, which Stallone insisted on playing himself. Although his bank balance was barely $100, Stallone held fast and his perseverance finally paid off. He went on to write and act in many more movies. He is worth $400 Million.
When Meryl Streep auditioned for King Kong and was told she was too ugly for the part she took that as one opinion in a sea of thousands of possibilities and moved on to achieve 18 Academy Awards.
“This one rogue opinion could have made me derail my dreams of becoming an actress or force me to pull myself up by the boot straps and believe in myself,” she said. She chose the latter. Over the ensuing course of 37 years, Meryl has been nominated for 19 Academy Awards and holds the record for most Oscar nominations by any actor. She and her husband Don Gummer, whom she married in 1978, have four children together. Meryl Streep is worth $150 Million.
Mark Cuban, now multi billionaire, started working at 12 selling garbage bags to collect money for expensive basketball shoes! Not to say that he grew up in poverty, but apparently his parents wanted to teach him the value of money. Mark held a number of different jobs while still attending school. He was a bartender, dance instructor, party promoter and salesperson, among others. When he was fired for a decision he made, instead of looking for another job he simply started his own software company MicroSolutions. The fact that he already had experience selling software helped tremendously.
The takeaway from this is that if you are an employee, it pays off to do your best and try to understand ins and outs of the business even if your job doesn’t require that. One day you might use this information and experience to open something of your own. Mark sold MicroSolutions for $6 million. The rest is history. His net worth is $4.3 Billion.