#3. Abraham Lincoln
The Rags to Riches Story:
We know what you're thinking. "Lincoln? You found a way to put Lincoln on a list with fucking Jewel?"
Relax; Lincoln is not complicit in this. American History did it for him.
Everybody who went to school in the USA (or reads inspirational email forwards) has heard about Lincoln's dirt-poor childhood and climb to the top:
1. He grew up in a small cabin, doing his homework by scratching the equations into his dirt floor;
2. His family was forced out of their home and he had to work to support them;
3. His business failed repeatedly;
4. He ran for Vice President, but got only 110 votes;
5. He overcame his long, long string of hardships and failures and finally was elected President of the United States.
Why it's a load of Crap:
Yes, he did grow up in a small cabin. Just like most everybody else whose father decided to make their mark on the great American frontier. Your choices were farming on the frontier or slaving in the factories of an increasing industrialized society. Lincoln's father decided he'd rather rough it than, say, get his arm melted off in an iron smelting furnace.
So while Lincoln didn't have a flushing toilet or a plasma screen TV, he grew up in a reasonably normal home for the time. His father was a successful farmer and the only reason they left Kentucky was over a legal issue with the land title.
As Snopes points out, once Lincoln was on his own, he did have one business go under (a general store in Illinois) but the very next year after opening it he won a seat in the Illinois legislature. So his long hard string of business failures actually consisted of a few months in 1833-34, after which his political career bloomed.
"It took courage, but I eventually overcame my temporary and painless unemployment."
Then there's the retarded thing about him running for Vice President and getting "only 110 votes." One, this wasn't a popular election, these are delegate votes (and there were only 363 of them). And Lincoln didn't run for the office, he was nominated without his knowledge. The votes he got came despite the fact that he didn't campaign and was barely known outside of Illinois. That's actually pretty impressive. He was a rising star; the very next election put him in the White House.
Again, we're not saying Lincoln wasn't a great man. He was. But tell the story in context, guys. Besides, why are we focusing on that "log cabin" bullshit when we should be talking about how he could have become a professional wrestler if he had wanted.
#2. JK Rowling
The Rags to Riches Story:
Every single article and every single Harry Potter book jacket seems to work in JK Rowling's humble beginnings as a single mother on government assistance. She then pulled herself up by her bootstraps and wrote one of the most successful series of books in the history of words.
Why it's a Load of Crap:
It's one thing to be born into poverty and claw your way out of it. However, it's a whole different game when your two-year stint on welfare is part of your business plan. Welcome to the Rowling School of Writing.
Rowling's welfare assistance wasn't out of total desperation, it was out of choice. She was an educated teacher who left her job when she had a child. After that, she chose not to work and, instead, collected welfare to get the time to write her book.
While we are not denying for one moment that trying to care for a child, write a book and work full time would be very difficult, we will say that it's not impossible. People do it. Instead, she basically got her book advance courtesy of UK citizens. She also got a generous arts grant (unprecedented for an unknown author) to complete her work when the welfare check wasn't cutting it.
So this was a person who did spend a very brief time in rags, but she went to the store and hand-picked the rags she chose to wear.
And now she has a throne.
#1. Kurt Warner
The Rags to Riches Story:
We've all gotten the email about a young man named Kurtis and a pretty girl named Brenda, who worked at a local super market together. They met, got married and the (twist) ending is that Kurtis became Kurt Warner: The man who went from stocking groceries to winning a Superbowl MVP!
So all you dudes out there, grinding away long hours in the stockroom stacking dog food and altering the expiration dates on the sour cream; you used to play some ball in school, right? This could be you! Hanging onto those dreams doesn't make you like that sad uncle in Napoleon Dynamite! You're just the next "Kurtis" Warner!
Why it's a Load of Crap:
You know how long Kurt Warner actually stocked groceries for? According to Warner himself, "A few weeks." So how did he have time to meet his wife, and reenact the entire plot of a romantic comedy? He didn't. The tale is just as fictional as the above rags to riches stories. And even worse, the real story is actually more interesting.
More interesting than he looks, somehow.
Just like Gates, Warner was incredibly gifted from a young age. He was his college conference's offensive player of the year as a senior. He and Brenda met when he was a promising college quarterback, and when he couldn't land a job in the NFL, he went to the Arena league and was a star there. He went to play in Europe, starred there, then got picked up on an NFL roster.
So he was never "Kurtis the Stockboy." He was always Kurt Warner, that guy waiting for a roster spot to open up in the NFL. Finally, he got his chance with the Rams thanks to the inspirational drive and determination of safety Rodney Harrison, who destroyed the knee of the guy starting ahead of Warner (Trent Green) in an exhibition game. The rest is history.
But as Deadspin recently pointed out, the real tragedy of this particular heaping spoonful of sugar-coated bullshit is that it downplays what the couple--particularly Kurt's wife--really went through.
In reality, Brenda caught more bad breaks than most blues musicians sing about in an entire career. She's a former Marine, and was married to another Marine before she met Kurt. Her first husband developed a brain tumor that would cause immense seizures. So much so, that one attack caused him to drop their newborn baby, resulting in permanent brain damage. Their marriage fell apart.
A few years later, her parents were killed by a goddamn tornado.
Brenda, in a rare moment of not getting shit on by life.
The fact that she didn't collapse into a drunken heap--or go on a shooting spree--means she should have a fucking email forward of her own, instead of being the female prop for Kurt's tale. She's the one who made it to hell and back; he's just one of countless dudes who "persevered" as a pro athlete because he wasn't qualified to do anything else (see: grocery bagging job).
Also, they appear to be aging in reverse like Benjamin Button.
But now he's set to play in the Super Bowl--again--and they're both filthy rich. Good for them (and by them, we mean Brenda). It's not like they don't deserve it. But like with Mr. Gates, the real moral of the story is that talent and hard work are great ... but success may never have come without a whole bunch of help along the way. We just hope that every Christmas the Warner family sends a very large gift basket to one Mr. Rodney Harrison.
For riches to rags stories, check out 6 Famous People Who Pissed Away a Fortune. Or find out about some crazy stories that are actually true, in The 6 Most (Certifiably) Insane Tales of Rock Star Behavior.
And find out more about our rags to riches story in Cracked.com's Top Picks (it's loaded with boobs).