We all need a little bit of inspiration from time to time, especially when we’re in a bad mood and things didn’t work out the way we hoped they would and we’re kind of throwing a pity party for ourselves. If you need a little pick-me-up, this list of amazing human beings who built amazing lives for themselves should help.

Here are 10 people with modest upbringings, who didn’t have a great start in life but became successful against all odds:

#1 Jay-Z

“Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week.”

Jay-Z grew up in Marcy Projects in New York, among other kids from low-income households. He found refuge in hip-hop. He remembers he’d often run to the corner store to get a paper bag on which he’d write his words and ideas, so he could transfer them into his notebook when he got back home.

By the time he got to record his first album when he was 26 y.o. he didn’t need pen and paper anymore: “my memory had been trained just to listen to a song, think of the words, and lay them to tape.”

Net worth: $810 million


#2 Do Won Chang

“You can’t go into business thinking that success will come to you in just one or two years.”

Do Won Chang and Jin Sook Chang moved to the United States almost four decades ago and like many immigrant families, they struggled in the beginning. To make ends meet, Do Won Chang worked as a janitor and gas station attendant. Now the couple doesn’t have to worry at all about money, they’re the owners of Forever 21, the international fast fashion brand with over 600 stores all over the world.

Net worth: $3.2 billion


#3 Peter Dinklage

“I feel really lucky, although I hate that word — ‘lucky.’ It cheapens a lot of hard work. [..] Saying I was lucky negates the hard work I put in.”

The actor who is now making half a million dollars per Game of Thrones episode didn’t have enough money to rent his own place for a very long time. He had to sleep on the couches of his friends or on the floor. He worked in cleaning and data processing, couldn’t get a girlfriend, had massive student debt and he only had his cat – Brian. At 29, he decided he’ll quit his data processing job as soon as he gets an acting gig, but it still took him years before finally breaking into the movie business.
Net worth: $16 million


#4 Francois Pinault

“There’s a strength to being able to look at your products through a customer’s eyes, but it is also dangerous.”

Francois Pinault‘s name probably doesn’t come to mind when you’re thinking about Yves Saint Laurent or Gucci, but he’s the one who owns these high-end fashion houses and many more. Don’t let that fool you, he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Actually, he stopped going to high school because he was bullied for being poor.

Net worth: $14.2 billion


#5 J. K. Rowling

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.”

K. Rowling has now just become another name synonymous for success.

She’s the most prosperous novelist ever, but that wasn’t always her reality.

In fact, as a mum getting out of a failed marriage, she had so little money she was just one tiny step away from homelessness. That’s when show wrote ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, the first Harry Potter book.

Net worth: $650 million


#6 John Paul DeJoria

“The difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that successful people do all the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do.”

The man behind Patron Tequila and the Paul Mitchell hair care products, John Paul DeJoria is a very, very rich man.

As a kid, he had to sell newspapers and Christmas cards to help his family survive and later ended up in a foster home. While he was living in his car, he took a $700 loan to create a shampoo that he sold door-to-door. That was the start of the John Paul Mitchell Systems company, and of his success.  Net worth: $3.4 billion


#7 Chris Pratt

“If you wait for things to be perfect you’ll just miss out on life.”

The Guardians of the Galaxy’s Chris Pratt wasn’t always a big-shot movie star. He was a college dropout who slept in tents and a van on the beach in Hawaii, and while the scenery was breathtaking, he was practically homeless. And that’s not all, after playing dorky characters, he changed his lifestyle and started working out and eating better and he became a top choice for action movies.

Net worth: $28 million



#8 Ralph Lauren

“You have to create something from nothing.”

At 23 y.o. Ralph Lauren went to serve in the US army, after dropping out of college. When he came back after two years, he worked as a sales assistant and a salesman. At 28, he convinced the tie manufacturer he was working for to let him start his own line of men’s ties, selling $500,000 worth of ties, and just a year after that he launched ‘Polo’.


Net worth: $5.8 billion


#9 Oprah Winfrey

“Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.”

Let’s face it, there was no way I was going to not include Oprah on this list. Her story is beyond inspiring.

She had the highest ranking television show in history. She is a legend, but her childhood and teenage years were traumatic. She grew up in poverty, raised by a grandmother. She was sexually abused as a child. She ran away from home. She even had a baby who died soon after birth. At 14!!! After she was discovered by a radio station she moved up to work in TV, and her boss at the time told her she won’t make it in television because she gets too emotional.

Net worth: $2.8 billion

#10 Ingvar Kamprad

“Making mistakes is the privilege of the active. It is always the mediocre people who are negative, who spend their time proving that they were not wrong.”

You might not know this guy, at least not by his name, but I’m sure you have some of the products his company sold in your home. He started working at just 6 y.o., selling matches to the people in his small rural Swedish village. He sold stuff door-to-door for some time, helping his family. Even though he was dyslexic, he had good grades and his father scraped some money to reward him when he was 17. He used the money to start a small business making low-cost furniture. The name of his company? IKEA which came from ‘Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd (the farm where he grew up), Agunnaryd (his hometown)’.


Net worth: $58.7 billion


Are you feeling inspired yet?  Who is your favorite? What adversity did you have to overcome so far in building your success? Let me know in the comments below!