All posts by Todd Stuart Kaplan

Steven Spielberg: Adversity and Success in Movies

Steven Spielberg’s path to becoming Hollywood’s most successful motion picture director of all time was not straightforward, nor was it without adversity. Before he got his name up in lights for directing 6 of 25 top-grossing films in Hollywood, Spielberg had to come face-to-face with numerous rejection and adversities.Steven Spielberg

“I dream for a living. This is what I’ve done with my life. This is what I want to do with my life.”

Spielberg knew at a very young age that he wanted to become a filmmaker. Inspired by the first film he watched with his father, he created his first motion picture showing two toy trains crashing into each other. This was followed by more films shot at home using his father’s 8-millimeter Bell & Howell wind-up camera, with his friends as actors.

Spielberg also drew inspiration for his films mostly from his life experiences. Some of his greatest movies were drawn from real-life circumstances he had to face while growing up.

In his high school days, Spielberg was bullied because of his religion. He was harassed by his anti-semitic classmates who would sneeze ‘Hah-jew’ whenever he passed by, and who would also beat him up after school. This experience would later inspire him to create the film Schindler’s List, which is one of the top-grossing creations in his career.

Spielberg was in high school when his parents went through a divorce. It was a rough time, and he attributes his film E.T. to this experience. According to Spielberg, E.T. isn’t just about a boy with a friend from another planet; it is about a young boy searching for some stability in his life. This was reflective of Spielberg’s real-life experiences when his parents’ relationship was on the rocks.

With blockbusters like Jaws, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T., the Extraterrestrial under Spielberg’s belt today, one might assume that he graduated top of his class from a prestigious film school. But many would be surprised to know that Spielberg, in fact, got rejected from USC and UCLA film schools due to his poor grades in high school. Needless to say, these rejections did not stop him from pursuing his dreams.

He went to a university near Hollywood, the California State University at Long Beach. Due to his lack of interest in his classes and his burning desire to get started with his movie career, Spielberg dropped out from school and started hanging around at the Universal Studios lot to observe how real TV shows and movies were made. He spent most of his time watching and learning everything he can from these shoots.

Boldly introducing himself to directors, actors, and producers, Spielberg was able to build a network within the film industry. Through these connections, Spielberg got the chance to present his first short film, Amblin, to the studio executives at the Universal Studios. Impressed by Spielberg’s talent and determination, the executives gave Spielberg his first directing contract under Universal Studios. From then on, Spielberg became unstoppable- creating top grossing films for cinema and T.V., and eventually becoming the successful filmmaker that he is today.

From Spielberg’s story, we can learn that we should never allow rejection and horrific experiences from the past stop us from pursuing our dreams. Instead of letting his past experiences haunt him, Spielberg used them as inspiration to create blockbuster films. When he was rejected from his dream schools, Spielberg made the “real world” his own school- the professionals producing real films as his teachers and his experiences as lessons. He knew that there’s no single way to success. When opportunities didn’t come to him, Spielberg sought for other opportunities and created his own path to victory.


Soichiro Honda: Turning Adversity Into Opportunity

A single-minded determination will motivate you to venture into new heights with renewed vigor. Soichiro Honda, founder of the Honda Motor Company, is known to be a man who defied clichés where Japanese businessmen are stringent. An

Honda, Adversity
Soichiro Honda

outsider to Japan’s industrial establishment, he became one of the 20th century’s industrial giants. This Japanese engineer and industrialist went from countless failures, innumerable adversities and threatening bankruptcies for over four decades in search of success. His persistent efforts, dedication and confidence finally paid off when he founded one of the largest automobile companies in the world. He was the first Japanese citizen to be inducted into Detroit’s Automotive Hall of Fame. To this day, Soichiro holds more than 100 patents.

Soichiro Honda was born in a small farming village. The eldest son of a blacksmith who repaired bicycles, he spent his early childhood helping his father in the repair business. At age 15, he dropped out of school to travel to Tokyo and look for work. There, he spent six years as a simple apprentice in an auto-repair shop where he quickly acquired a taste for fast cars. At the age of 21, he opened his own automotive shop. In 1923, however, the Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed Tokyo. It was during this calamity that Honda discovered his passion for motorcycles and the value of entrepreneurship.

In 1928, Honda returned to his home region and opened a garage of his own. His business prospered to the point of

Honda, Adversity
Soichiro Honda early Years

having 50 employees in several shops. Before long, his company’s motorcycles and cars started to win numerous races, including national and world titles. During his spare time, he built his own racing car using an old aircraft engine and handmade parts. He even used the car when he entered the 1936 All Japan Speed Rally. But as he was approaching the finish line, he had a near-fatal crash, which cut short his racing aspirations. This accident could’ve stopped him from realizing his dream but instead it fueled his desire to pursue his greatest ambition. While recuperating from his injuries, Honda made a decision to get out of the garage business and expand into manufacturing.

He was never one to remain on the sidelines, and although he wasn’t very good at making piston rings, he persisted. He was painfully aware that he lacked basic knowledge of metallurgy, yet this did not discourage him. At the age of 31, he went back to school to learn about metals.  He then applied the theories he learned inside the classroom later on.

After studying engineering, Honda began to invent and innovate. One of his early patents was a cast piston ring, which took him three long years of trial and error. Before perfecting the manufacture of a piston ring, he again faced another hurdle about quality control. When Toyota placed an order for 50,000 piston rings, only three out of 50 piston rings met the specifications during a random inspection. In 1945, he sold his company to Toyota to take a year’s sabbatical.

After the Second World War, Japan’s roads and railways were destroyed. Food shipments were not reaching cities while city dwellers had to walk or bike into the countryside to find food. Automobiles became a major part of postwar business recovery of Japan. Honda saw this business prospect and so he designed his own small engine out of small army engines left by the war. By 1948, the first product of Honda motor was made.

“Looking back on my work, I feel that I have made nothing but mistakes, a series of failures, a series of regrets,” a humble Honda said after he reached the finish line of his career. “But I am also proud of an accomplishment: Although I made one mistake after another, I never made the same mistake, and I always tried my hardest and succeeded in improving my efforts.”

He elaborated on that principle when he delivered a graduation speech to the class of ‘74 at Michigan Technological University. “Many people dream of success,” he said. “To me, success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents 1% of your work which results from the 99% that is called failure.”

Until Soichiro Honda’s death in 1992, the company continues to thrive as the most popular motorcycle manufacturer in the world and remains high in rankings of the world’s leading automobile manufacturers.

Soichiro Honda is the Honda Motor Company and everything he upholds—an untiring quest towards excellence in technology, a deep skepticism towards the status quo, an exceptionally democratic approach to business, and a strong interest with all things new and exciting. These qualities make Honda such a vital and important manufacturer of motorcycles. More than simply founding a successful corporation, Honda’s lasting impact to human history is his greatest achievement.

Honda is a man who turned adversities into success. For him, learning from failure is part of success. Honda held on to his belief that true success lies in one’s willpower to overcome hurdles and take risks. He lived by this principle by exemplifying that failure is where we learn most because failure creates and nurtures innovation. He proved that part of learning what works is also learning what doesn’t. Like Honda, we should count every failure as an essential stepping stone to the pinnacle of ultimate success and adversity as an opportunity to take us to a higher ground.






Colonel Sanders Overcame a Lifetime of Adversity with his Recipe For Success

Colonel Sanders master of adversity
Colonel Harland Sanders Innovator and Master of Adversity

At 65, all Colonel Harland Sanders had was his old Caddie roadster luggage trailer, his small pension check, and a recipe for chicken. Little did he know that all of these were enough to change his life and become part of almost every family in the world. Colonel Sanders was indeed a Master of Adversity.

Before he became an icon printed in buckets and KFC fast-food chains from all corners of the globe, he was first a baby-sitter to his siblings. His father died when he was six, obliging his mother to take a full-time job in order to support the family. And because young Sanders was left to look after his siblings and cook for them, he learned to make many different dishes at a very young age. It was during this time that he discovered his passion for simple yet delicious recipes. However, challenging life circumstances did not allow Sanders to pursue his calling until much later.

A sixth-grade dropout, Sanders jumped from one job to another for 30 years; from a farmworker, to an army mascot, an engine fireman, a railroad operative, an insurance seller, a steamboat pilot, a tire salesman, an amateur obstetrician, a country lawyer, a defeated political candidate and finally, to a gas station operator. He often teased by his own brother: “no good fellow… who can’t hold a job.” But although he failed to consistently pursue all of these professions, his passion for cooking never wavered.

When Sanders opened up a service station, he began to cook for travelers who stopped by for gas refills. He didn’t own a restaurant, so customers only ate on the dining table he set up in the station. He then started selling meals to families. It was through this small business that he formulated and completed his famous recipe for fried chicken. Sanders slowly made a name for himself, and Governor Ruby Laffoon even made him a Kentucky Colonel to recognize all of his contributions to the state’s cuisine. He had a short taste of success, but his business was closed down when a highway was built on his restaurant’s location. He retired and received his pension amounting to $105. This marked the beginning of his new life.

Proving that it’s never too late to reach one’s dreams, Sanders travelled everywhere with his trailer in hopes of getting his chicken recipe sold. Many restaurant owners turned him down yet he remained undeterred. He received several positive responses after his long search, not only because of his delicious chicken, but because of his interminable spirit.

Earlier in his life Sanders was involved in several failed business ventures and got fired from numerous jobs. When he finally made up his mind and decided to invest in his trusted chicken recipe, he refused to give up, even in spite of repeated rejection. He knew that if he kept on seeking, and knocking on doors, someone would eventually say yes. He once said, “I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, no amount of labor, no amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it.

Sander’s business voyage is the same as with many other businessmen who have bounced from one business concept to another before reaching that one winning idea. The key ingredients have always been to never give up, to believe in one’s self, and to always trust the success waiting to be achieved as one reaches his full potential.


Business Mogul Sheldon Adelson’s Adversity-Ridden Journey To Success

Sheldon Adelson, American business magnate and self-made billionaire, Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, was

Sheldon Adelson Wiki
Sheldon Adelson Wiki

born to a poor Jewish family in Boston in 1933. His father was a taxicab driver while his mother had a knitting shop. When he was 12, he borrowed $200 from his uncle to sell newspapers at busy street corners. What followed was a seemingly endless journey to success of a strong-willed and business-minded young man.

At sixteen, he owned and managed his first business – a small candy-vending machine company. Later on, he began selling ice cream bars from the nickels he collected. He attended college to major in corporate finance and real estate, but decided to drop out later on. Sheldon joined the Army and, afterwards, took a job as a secretary to the owner of a financial magazine in New York City. In the years that followed, he worked as a financial consultant for advertising, a mortgage broker, a real estate investor, and a tour business operator. You can tell that although he had the spirit of a real businessman, he still had to work hard as an employee until he had enough to invest in his chosen ventures. However, it wasn’t a smooth ride.

Sheldon’s financial empire fell as some of these business ventures failed; and it didn’t help that the stock market during that time was experiencing a massive decline. He started recovering when he entered the real estate business by converting apartment buildings into condominiums. He did very well for a while but this venture failed as well. The drastic ups and downs of his businesses could have stopped him but Sheldon relentlessly and actively sought the next big thing. “I have had a couple of set-backs but I have never failed,” Sheldon said in one of his interviews.

 Sheldon is a self-made businessman who didn’t know when to quit. The beginning of his ultimate success was when he went into the media business by acquiring a small publishing company in 1972. One of the magazines he purchased from the company was the Communications User magazine. Once, while attending a condominium-conversion trade show, he had a life-changing vision. He visualized trade shows as “living magazines” and recognized the need for trade shows (for computers) in the communications industry. Sheldon quickly sold his condo business to concentrate on the trade show business. He formed Interface Group Inc. in 1972 and seven years later, Sheldon staged his first high-tech trade show. The company, COMDEX or Computer Dealers Expo, was conceived while the personal computer was emerging.

The timing was perfect. By the 1980s, COMDEX was the leading computer show in the world and one of the largest trade shows in the United States.

The success of his trade shows led to his next logical steps. He decided to build his own convention facility upon recognizing that Las Vegas did not have enough convention space.  He went from renter to owner when he bought the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and redeveloped the property. He then built a shopping mall, resort and convention facility to house COMDEX and other shows. After years of successful shows, he sold COMDEX to a Japanese company for $862 million in 1995. A year later, the Venetian Hotel and Resort Casino was constructed. Not resting on his laurels, he expanded his hotel and casino franchise in Asia by opening Sands Macao in China and Marina Bay in Singapore.

Devout giving

During the 2000s, Sheldon has given millions of dollars to various charitable organizations which support Israeli and Jewish causes. He has been philanthropic in funding for education, religious, cultural, and medical research projects.

Rags to Riches

 Sheldon’s story could be aptly described as a rags-to-riches story. Despite investing and losing a multimillion-dollar fortune twice, Sheldon did not give up. Many a time his ideas failed but he continuously kept his attention on the next big thing. To date, Forbes magazine declares Adelson as the 8th richest person in the world with a net worth of $38 billion. Not bad for a college dropout who started out with a borrowed $200, who jumped around numerous day jobs as a middle-aged man, and who was terribly bankrupt a number of times. Adversity was Sheldon’s constant adversary and Sheldon always won.

Sheldon’s forward and outside-of-the-box mentality is what led him to his enormous success. The self-made billionaire’s inspiring words: “I look at every business and ask, How long can this last? How can I identify the status quo and change it?”




Simon Cowell: Overcoming Adversity in the Music Industry

“If you had lived 2,000 years ago and sung like that, I think they would have stoned you,” says Simon Cowell as a judgesimon-cowell1 in one of the episodes on the television show, American Idol. Cowell is a record producer but has been known as a commentator—even more famous for his bruising words. What most people don’t know, however, is that behind this strong character is a roller coaster ride to success.Simon Cowell is a master of adversity.

What guided Cowell to fame and victory was his father’s advice. “My dad said to me, ‘Work hard and be patient.’ It was the best advice he ever gave me. You have to put the hours in.” He jumped over the barriers and courageously faced adversities that came his way.

Being a son of a music industry executive and a former ballet dancer, music has been a constant part of his childhood. However, entering the music industry has not been as easy for him as you may think.

Cowell attended school at Dover College but dropped out at 16. He went for several jobs and bounced from one unsuccessful career to another.

Being trapped in a vicious cycle of unemployment and a relatively low educational attainment as compared to his peers was never reason enough for Cowell to give up. With the help of his father, he got a job at EMI Music Publishing as a mailroom clerk. He worked hard, remained humble, and successfully built a strong network of influential people in the music franchise. This eventually earned him a position as an assistant to an A&R executive at EMI. Later on, he was promoted as a talent scout. Cowell then left EMI and formed E&S Music together with Ellis Rich (Zeleznock, 2008).

Cowell was courageous and always willing to take risks. Partnering with Iain Burton in 1985, Cowell bravely put up their own company, Fanfare Records. Unfortunately, the venture folded in 1989 due to financial difficulties. Although this tragic event buried Cowell in debt, he remained undeterred and worked as a consultant for BMG Records that same year. From there, he slowly propelled to success by signing up a number of great talents for the company. It is said that he was able to sell more that 150 million records and 70 top-charting singles in the UK and United States alone.

 No matter how hard life hit him, Cowell managed to stand back up. Indeed, he has been a pop icon despite his fair share of serious obstacles. Personally, I would say that he inspires people to be a more resilient and determined. Cowell knew what it felt like to have nothing—so he is wise enough to know how to live life now that he almost has everything. He once said, “Money brings you security and choice. You can make decisions in a different way if you have a lot of money. But when you have nothing, you have a naiveté and a more fearless attitude because you have nothing to lose.”

More than this, being open to criticism is one of Cowell’s best qualities. He inspires people to be more comfortable with the possibility of rejection. As a judge of the most popular singing competitions of this generation, Cowell is not afraid to be hated as he throws out such honest criticism to the shaking contestants of American Idol. This commitment to being true and transparent is a trait that I find deeply admirable.

Cowell’s struggles as he climbed the ladder of success serve as a reminder that life is never a smooth-sailing ride. One has to be fearless for him to achieve his dreams. Cowell’s story also tells us that we must boldly conquer our dreams and think less of what other people may think. The trials he encountered made him a strong man and this quality makes him invincible—he does not get thrown off easily. We as individuals must take his story as an inspiration to never give up on becoming a better and more successful individual despite all odds.


Simon Phillip Cowell. (2014). The website. Retrieved 05:30, Sep 16, 2014, from.

Zeleznock, T. (2008). 7 Entrepreneurs Whose Perseverance Will Inspire You. Retrieved Sep 16,2-14.

Simon Cowell. (2014). Feeling website. Retrieved Sep 16, 2014. from

Edison: Adversity and Vision, Changed the World

Thomas Edison was perhaps the most prolific inventor of his time and was recognized for his ability to overcome adversity. Todd Kaplan has often said “We have come to know him by his successes however it is important to note that Thomas Edison was in fact a person who beat adversity over and over again”. Many of his designs and products failed to catch on. Products like concrete furniture and concrete houses. His successes however were fantastic electricity and phonograph to name a few. Todd Kaplan has a special place in his heart for the “Wizard of Menlo park” who once said:

Our Greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

Thomas A. Edison

More info on Thomas edison can be found on wikipedia

Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. Dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park”,[2] he was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production and large-scale teamwork to the process of invention, and because of that, he is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.[3]

Edison was a prolific inventor, holding 1,093 US patents in his name, as well as many patents in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. More significant than the number of Edison’s patents, are the impacts of his inventions, because Edison not only invented things, his inventions established major new industries world-wide, notably, electric light and power utilitiessound recording and motion pictures. Edison’s inventions contributed to mass communication and, in particular, telecommunications. These included a stock ticker, a mechanical vote recorder, a battery for an electric car, electrical power, recorded music and motion pictures.

His advanced work in these fields was an outgrowth of his early career as a telegraph operator. Edison developed a system of electric-power generation and distribution[4]to homes, businesses, and factories – a crucial development in the modern industrialized world. His first power station was on Pearl Street in Manhattan, New York.[4]



Ray Kroc Master of Adversity

Most folks follow sports and music stars, Todd Kaplan has been an avid fan of business leaders. Particularly those who innovate and reshape the world. When asked about adversity and the “never give up spirit” Todd Kaplan quotes Ray Kroc.

” If you are not a risk taker you should get the hell out of business”

-Ray Kroc


Adversity never stopped Ray Kroc – he thrived on it. Kroc was a door-to-door salesman for 17 years before he founded McDonald’s. Kroc’s tremendous resolve to hang in there even when sales were down allowed him to view adverse situations as mere potholes on the road to success. He was able to stay focused on winning because he knew that, somehow, every pothole could be filled.

Setbacks happen in every business. Possessing the tenacity to “grind it out,” to see problems through and to overcome obstacles requires enormous strength of will. That will is powered by perseverance.

If you persevere, troubles can always be resolved, and your will to succeed will strengthen you and your business. Even if your business never grows to reach the levels of worldwide domination such as McDonald’s, your chances of success are far greater than if you throw in the towel.


Mentorship is a Two Way Street with Todd Kaplan

Todd Kaplan is always looking for opportunities to meet in mentorship settings with leaders in business, entertainment and in sports. His career as a businessman has provided him with great opportunity to meet and learn from people who have set goals and acheived great things. Often the road to success is paved with adversity. Todd Kaplan would tell anyone Never Give Up, Never Give UP, Never Ever Give Up!


The Top Three Things To Remember When You’re Facing Adversity

I have been writing these posts for several weeks now, but the truth is, I’ve been doing the research for these posts since I was a child.   A long time ago, someone told me that readers are leaders, and I knew I wanted to be a leader from a very young age, so I read as much as I could.  Stories about successful people and how they achieved their success have always been of great interest to me.  It’s amazing how successful people have many traits in common with each other and how these traits help them persevere and overcome the adversity they face.

As I go forward I will try and connect what these traits are and how we (inducing myself) can put them to work when we find ourselves or someone we know facing an adverse situation.  The beginning of what will eventually be a much longer list starts here:

1-      It Can Be Done. (Ronald Reagan)  I believe that this simple statement is one of the most important things to

Ronald Regan
Ronald Regan

remember when you are facing adversity.  Successful people always keep fighting because they know they can do it, and believe that it’s just a matter of time before they overcome the adversity they’re facing.

2-      People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. Successful people have a plan, and they continue with their plan until they overcome the adversity they face. Plan your work and work your plan.

 3-      You have the right to dream.  I heard this when I was having a conversation with someone that I will be writing about soon who was facing two life sentences.  During an interview with a large TV network about his case, he was talking about what he was planning to do when he got out of prison. The reporter was surprised that he was thinking about getting out considering two life sentences. His answer, “I still have the right to dreams.”  No matter what was taken away from him, he still had dreams, and he told me all about this not long after his case was overturned and he was set free.

There are many other tools that can be used to help you stay focused and overcome adversity, but starting with these three is paramount.  I will add more to the list over time, but until then, just remember that it all starts with the 10 Magic Words: Never Give Up, Never Give Up, Never Ever Give Up!


Failure, is simply the opportunity to begin again

I began writing this just days before the passing of William Clay Ford, grandson of Henry Ford.  While I was William Clay Fordresearching details of Henry Ford’s life, news of the death of his last remaining grandson filled the internet.  It really makes me think of what an impact Henry Ford had on the world.

Only a month into this Overcoming Adversity blog project and I’ve already had my first failure.  I gave myself a deadline to have a new post each week, and I missed it.  Even a little setback like this can make the doubt creep up.  I think to myself that maybe this project is more than I can handle long term.  I’m always busy and these posts take me a long, long time to write, maybe I should just give up.  Luckily, I did not forget the 10 Magic Words, and in fact, this little failure is what inspired this week’s post.

Henry Ford is a name that is synonymous with the automotive industry, and many people mistakenly believe that Ford Motor Company was the first car manufacturer, but it wasn’t even close.  In fact, it wasn’t even Henry Ford’s first car company.  Ford Motor Company began in 1903, but in 1899 Henry Ford opened the Detroit Automotive Company, which failed about a year and a half after it opened, then the Henry Ford Company, which he walked away from after only three months.

Ford’s determination and his ability to not give up in the face of failure is what made him so successful.  One of his greatest quotes, ” Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” is important to remember in the face of your own failures.  Sometimes the experience and knowledge you gain in failing at something can become a great asset for the future, or give you newfound inspiration for your current project.  It’s only when you give up that your past efforts become worthless.

One of the other great lessons we can learn from Ford is that he always tried to surround himself with smart people.  This is something I’ve been preaching for a long time.  I know that there are certain things that I do well, but there are other important and necessary skills that I simply don’t have.  That’s okay, I focus on my strengths and find others who are strong in the places I am not.  I like to say that I’ll always be successful if I am the least intelligent person in the room, because I know I have surrounded myself with smart people.  Ford worked closely with Thomas Edison, Wilbur and Orville Wright, Charles Lindberg, James Couzens, and many other experts in engineering and business, and he gives many of them, especially Edison, credit for encouraging and inspiring him.

My plan is to always close with the 10 magic words to overcoming adversity, but this week, I’d like to also add Ford’s version. “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” This is something we should all believe and remember to never give up, never give up, never ever give up!