1. Sean Connery
Connery grew up poor and had to drop out of high school to work various jobs and briefly join the army. When he was discharged on medical grounds, he began working backstage at the King’s Theatre in 1951. Since then, he’s won an Oscar, been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and been dubbed the “greatest living Scot.”
2. John D. Rockefeller
Dropping out of high-school just two months before graduation, Rockefeller began working as an assistant bookkeeper and ultimately went on to found Standard Oil. Considered one of (if not the) richest American in history, his net worth at his death in 1937 was $1.5 billion.
3. Richard Branson
At just 16 years old, Branson founded The Student, a magazine he distributed to his fellows at Stowe School in England. He barely graduated and chose not to attend college, instead opting to sell popular records out of the church in which he ran the magazine. And thus, the start of Virgin Records.
4. Abraham Lincoln
Although Lincoln later said he regretted not receiving a formal education, he also estimated that he attended school for less than a year in total and had to teach himself grammar when he was 23.
5. Rachael Ray
Despite evidence to the contrary, Rachael Ray had little to no formal cooking training. Instead of heading off to college after high school, she spent most of her twenties working various food service jobs in NYC and Albany. Ultimately she settled there and began teaching classes about how to cook full meals in less than 30 minutes, shortly thereafter a local TV station asked her to do a segment—and that was that.
6. Bill Gates, et. al.
We’re using Bill Gates as the prime example here, but this list would have to be its own post to do it any kind of justice. From the earliest pioneers of Silicon Valley to its contemporary counterparts like Mark Zuckerberg, these guys all went to top schools and then dropped out to revolutionize the tech industry.
7. Will Smith
Smith was admitted to a pre-engineering program at MIT, but turned it down in order to pursue a career in music. Starting in the mid-eighties as the MC of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (you can guess which one he was), it quickly became clear that he had made the right decision.
8. Henry Ford
Ford has one of the most outstanding stories on this list, as he essentially figured out how to mass produce the basis of the modern car on his own—and he started by dissembling a watch his father had given him when he was 15.
9. Dave Thomas
Driven from a young age, Thomas started working at restaurants when he was just a teen, quickly realizing that food was his passion. When his family decided to move while he was in tenth grade, he instead chose to stay and dropped out so he could work full-time. He eventually befriended and worked closely with KFC founder Col. Sanders and used his knowledge to open the first Wendy’s in 1969.
10. Pete Cashmore
On top of having a super sweet name, Cashmore is the CEO and founder of Mashable, one of the most widely read blogs in the world. Instead of continuing his studies in Scotland, he chose to found the top-ten tech blog when he was just 19. Since then, he’s gone onto write for CNN and in 2012 Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.