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Guest Post: Great Leaders Who Overcame Huge Obstacles

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December 1, 2016

As our political process recently played out on both national and state levels, there are even MORE questions surrounding the future of EDUCATION. And while I have to trust priority issues (currently low compensation for educators) will be addressed and effectively dealt with, I thought I would share a recently-posted article by Express Employment Professionals. So until our state changes legislation to have teacher pay equal to or exceeding the national average (and give our educators the respect/recognition/reward that they most certainly deserve), what are some important leadership elements to help you continue your role as “Chairman of the Board of your classroom?"

Fact: The greatest triumphs often come from situations that seem overwhelmingly awful. The way in which you respond to those adversities can be seen as victories themselves. People who have encountered challenges may agree that the factors in overcoming obstacles are determination, focus and self-discipline.

For these incredible leaders the obstacle was the only way.


The familiar story of the Wright brothers is a clear demonstration of willpower in spite of many obstacles. They battled depression and family illness before starting the bicycle shop that led them to experiment with flight. After numerous attempts at creating flying machines, several years of hard work and failed prototypes, the brothers finally created a plane that would become airborne.

This invention changed transportation world-wide. 


Thomas Edison failed 9,000 times before creating the lightbulb. When asked by a newspaper reporter if he felt like a failure and if he should give up after having gone through 9,000 failed attempts, Edison said, “Why should I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I know definitely over 9,000 ways an electric lightbulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp. Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”

This invention changed every industry world-wide.


The bagless vacuum cleaner mogul Sir James Dyson created 5,127 failed vacuum prototypes before achieving success. After being turned down by distributors and manufacturers several years after he successfully completed the final prototype, Dyson formed his own company to market the product.

“There are countless times an inventor can give up on an idea. By the time I made my 15th prototype, my third child was born. By 2,627, my wife and I were really counting our pennies. By 3,727, my wife was giving art lessons for some extra cash. These were tough times, but each failure brought me closer to solving the problem,” Dyson said.

This invention changed hygiene and inspired thousands of replicas.


J.K. Rowling was a single mom living on welfare when she began writing the first Harry Potter novel at the local laundromat. She sold the book's first edition for $4,000. Today, Rowling is the first billionaire novelist.

“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default,” she said.

Rowling created an entire ‘world’ through her literary platform and inspired millions to love and appreciate reading.

Everyone faces hardship. Great leaders overcome hardships and improve themselves in the process. Please share these stories about aspiring entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, mathematicians, inventors, authors and musicians with your students. They must look at their weakest moments as opportunities rather than limitations. Every obstacle and failure is just another step toward one's ultimate destination—personal fulfillment.

Continued blessings to you and your families during this holiday season,


About the Author

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Sarah Julian

Director, Communications

Sarah serves as the Director of Communications for the OPSRC. In this role, she will provide support, consultation, and training on communication plans, social media policies, crisis communications, media relations, and website content.

Sarah has dedicated her entire professional career to Oklahoma public education: over 14 years in communications, technology, and teaching college-level English Composition and Humanities. Sarah holds a Master’s degree in Writing & Communications.

Want to learn some fun facts about Sarah? Click here!

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