As an entrepreneur, you might fear failure more than anything. You might think failure is the worst possible outcome. A dead end.

Think again.

If these entrepreneurs hadn’t pushed past their failures, they may not have succeed to such degrees. Use these famous failures as your inspiration to keep trying:

Bill Gates: Ever heard of Traf-O-Data? Probably not, because it failed fast. Traf-O-Data was Gates’ first business venture in which he thought he was going to transform traffic monitoring forever. But Traf-O-Data did no transforming– it was a great idea, but was poorly executed and quickly started operating on losses. Traf-O-Data may have failed at transforming traffic monitoring, but that failure led Gates to transform the world with Microsoft.

Richard Branson: Richard Branson has launched over 100 companies under the virgin brand. Can you name more than 15? I’d be impressed if you could…Richard Branson himself would probably be impressed if you could. His biggest failures? Virgin Cola, Virgin Flowers, Virgin Pulse, and Virgin Bride. He’s failed more times than he can remember, yet Richard Branson’s successes have led him to maintain a net worth of 4.6 billion and to remain one of the most recognizable faces of entrepreneurship.

Thomas Edison: Everyone knows Thomas Edison’s name. The lightbulb was so revolutionary it even became a trope in cartoons to indicate a brilliant idea. But Thomas Edison was no super-entrepreneur; 10,000 of his attempts failed before he finally lit the bulb. My favorite business quote comes from Thomas Edison on his failures: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Frederick W. Smith: Success doesn’t make you immune to failure. Frederick Smith revolutionized “snail mail” with the founding of FedEx in the 1970’s. The company quickly expanded and began to monopolize the express mail industry. As electronic mail (fax machines, at the time) emerged, Smith tried to anticipate the new market by launching a service within FedEx called Zapmail. However, Zapmail never took off, and  ultimately cost FedEx 350 million dollars in losses. But failure isn’t a dead end, and Smith realized that. He re-focused on what FedEx is best at: express mail.

Have you failed and then succeeded? Succeeded and then failed? Post your failure recovery stories in the comments as inspiration for us all!

[CC photo credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos]