Most people who know my story, or who have read my now bestselling book LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), also know that while I am the proud recipient of several collegeate and university awards, as well as an honorary doctorate, I actually received a GED degree from high-school. Comedian Chris Rock calls a GED, a "Good Enough Diploma."
And while I encourage every young person to get as much education as they possibly can in the knowldedge economy world we live in, I also want young people to know my story, and countless others like me (and better) who have succeeded against the odds. The most important thing in life, is to never, ever give up.
Read the examples below, and be inspired….
Ansel Adams… Photographer, author.
Dhirubhai Ambani… Billionaire Indian businessman.
Anne Beiler, multimillionaire co-founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels restaurants. High school dropout.
Richard Branson… Billionaire British businessman.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell, U.S. representative and senator. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to join the U.S. Air Force, where he earned his GED. Later attended and graduated from San Jose State College.
Winston Churchill, British prime minister, historian, artist. Rebellious by nature, he generally did poorly in school. Flunked sixth grade. After he left Harrow, he applied to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, but it took him three times before he passed the entrance exam. He graduated 8th out of a class of 150 a year and a half later. He never attended college.
Walt Disney, producer, director, screenwriter, animator, developer of Disneyland. Winner of 26 Oscars and 7 Emmy awards. While attending McKinley High School, he also took night classes at the Chicago Art Institute. He dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to join the army. Rejected because he was under-aged, he joined the Red Cross and was sent to war in Europe. Upon his return from war, he began his artistic career.
George Eastman… Founder of the Kodak company.
Albert Einstein… Mathematician.
George Gershwin… Composer
Amadeo Peter Giannini, multimillionaire founder of Bank of America. High school dropout.
Peter Jennings… News anchor and reporter.
Steve Jobs, billionaire co-founder of Apple Computers and Pixar Animation; Disney's largest shareholder. Dropped out of Reed College after six months and went to India before returning to Silicon Valley. As he said, “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and how college was going to help me figure it out.”
Cathy Lanier, Chief of Police of Washington, DC. A 14-year-old pregnant high school dropout.
Harper Lee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, To Kill a Mockingbird. Dropped out of college during her senior year. Moved to New York to become a writer.
Abraham Lincoln, lawyer, U.S. president. Finished barely a year of formal schooling. He self-taught himself trigonometry (for his work as a surveyor) and read Blackstone on his own to become a lawyer. Of the 43 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
Barbara Lynch, chef, owner of a $10 million group of restaurants in Boston. Dropped out of high school to be a runner for local bookies. Later worked for celebrity chef Todd English. "I started my first business venture in high school, placing bets for some of my teachers with bookies in Southie…. I never did homework. I was failing everything. Senior year, they said I would have to go to summer school. There was no way I was doing that, so I dropped out."
Rosa Parks, civil rights pioneer. Dropped out of high school.
Sidney Poitier, Oscar-winning actor. Only finished a few grades. Could only read at the fourth-grade level until a friend taught him how to read better when he was a struggling actor in New York City.
Wolfgang Puck, chef, owner of 16 restaurants and 80 express bistros. Quit school at the age of 14 and got a job as a cooking apprentice at a hotel. When he told his father, he said, "Well, you're good for nothing. Cooking is for women."
John D. Rockefeller Sr., billionaire founder of Standard Oil, philanthropist. History's first recorded billionaire. Dropped out of high school two months before graduation. Took some courses at a local business school.
Thomas Sowell… Economist, author and political commentator.
Dave Thomas… Founder of Wendy's restaurant chain.
George Washington, U.S. president, general, plantation owner. Ended his education after a few years of elementary school. Of the 43 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
Sidney Weinberg, managing partner of Goldman Sachs, aka Mr. Wall Street. Dropped out of the seventh grade in Brooklyn.
Wright brothers… Inventors of the airplane.