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11 Inspirational People Who Turned No Into Yes

They had it tough. But these inspirational people turned their adversity into great success, and went on to change the world for the better. They said #YES.

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1. Coco Chanel

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Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel endured a poor upbringing, but where her circumstances said no, the designer said yes. With her impeccable skill and remarkable business instincts, Chanel went on to become a fashion icon, introducing the Little Black Dress into women's wardrobes — among other things.

2. Vincent Van Gogh

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Van Gogh painted over 900 paintings in his lifetime, but only sold one. His nickname was "fou-roux," or "red-headed madman." Poor VVG. But while he never saw success in his lifetime, of course he's now considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time. A bittersweet success story.

3. Rosa Parks

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When Rosa Parks said no to giving up her seat on a bus to a white passenger in 1955, she sparked a widespread boycott of buses in Montgomery, Alabama. This ultimately propelled Martin Luther King, Jr. to the forefront of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, and Park's recognition as the "Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement."

4. Edith Cowan

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At a time when the world was saying no to women in politics, this fierce Aussie co-founded a group that successfully campaigned for the vote for women. She also went on to become the first woman elected to Australian parliament, and is now a shining face on our $50 note. That's one big YES for Edith Cowan.

5. Albert Einstein

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Now universally considered a genius, baby Einstein was considered something of a dud. He didn't speak for his first three years and was often slapped with bad report cards. Teachers said no. Einstein said YES. And look what happened.

6. Errol Flynn

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As a teenager, young Errol was expelled from every school he attended and failed most of his exams. After school, he travelled the world, only to end up in Hollywood, where his charm and good looks propelled him to stardom. He lived a life of debauchery, they say, but despite his wicked ways, he lives on in our hearts as an Aussie icon.

7. Billie Holiday

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Now considered one of the greatest jazz vocalists of all time, a young Billie Holiday endured a painful and difficult childhood. Holiday's moving and unique vocal style greatly influenced both the pop and jazz genres, and her interpretation of the anti-lynching poem "Strange Fruit" changed the history of American music.

8. Walt Disney

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Nobody could say it better than Walt Disney himself: "All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you."

9. Beethoven

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Beethoven may have lost his ability to hear, but that didn't stop him from composing some of the most magnificent pieces of music ever to exist. His ears said no, but the remarkable composer was able to internally hear his music. A true genius.

10. Fred Hollows

When Fred Hollows was trying for a fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons in the early 1960s, he failed his examination twice. But Hollows was determined, and passed on his third attempt. He went on to become a specialist in the eye disease trachoma, and after treating hundreds of thousands of indigenous Australians, he went on to do the same in Africa. A true Australian hero, now recognized the world over.

11. Helen Keller

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Helen Keller was deaf and blind before her second birthday, but that didn't stop this remarkable woman from learning to read, write, and become the first deaf and blind person to gain a bachelor's degree. She campaigned for women's suffrage and disability rights, and changed the life of many for the better.

12. Bon Scott

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It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll. Bon Scott arrived in Australia from Scotland at a young age and was teased at school for his accent and his musical inclinations. But, a true battler, he persevered — and went on to become the lead singer of the beyond-iconic AC/DC. Legend.

Here's to less no, and more #YES.

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