I admire people who know what they want. It's inspiring to see their great determination and the cost they are ready to pay to realize their dreams. Here I'll try to collect some examples that I came across.
In 1963, the exemplary schoolgirl Condoleezza Rice was photographed by her father in front of the White House for a keepsake. She said: "One day I will be in this house." Almost 40 years later she gave advise to George Bush there.
In 1923, with 40 dollar in his pocket, the unfinished tape "Alice in Wonderland" and unknown future, Walt Disney took a train headed to Hollywood - the place, where he heard that young film-makers can get their projects funded. When a passenger asked him about his intentions, he replied: "I'm going to direct big Hollywood films"... After "Snow White" was finished, Walt Disney said: "They predicted that no one will endure an hour and a half to watch a cartoon. But we decided that there is only one way to finish it: by pledging everything on a card, even at the risk of bankruptcy. We couldn't allow us to make a compromise with money, talent or time." The film brought Disney $8,5 million gross profit; he was awarded with a large statue, surrounded by seven smaller ones. Then followed "Pinocchio", "Fantasia" and "Bambi"... While Disney observed his two daughters spin on a carousel, he was enlightened by an idea: "I felt that something must be done, something like a family park, where kids and parents have fun together"... "[Disney World] is the most comprehensive project that I have started in the last 42 years."
When his laboratory burned, people were devastated, but not Thomas Edison. After the tragedy, he said: "I'm 67 years old, but I am not too old to start all over again. I passed through many such things". He then renovated the lab and worked for another 17 years... Edison was asked about the secret behind his extraordinary success. He replied: "The ability to steadily direct the physical and mental abilities to a problem without wearing out."
During the Second World War, when nearly all of Europe and North Africa were under Nazi control, Winston Churchill proclaimed: "We are resolved to destroy Hitler and every vestige of the Nazi regime. From this nothing will turn us. Nothing! We will never parley. We will never negotiate with Hitler or any of his gang. We shall fight him by land. We shall fight him by sea. We shall fight him in the air. Until, with God's help we have rid the earth of his shadow."
When surrounded by enemies, general Lewis B. 'Chesty' Puller said to his troops: "All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us... they can't get away this time!"
Albert Einstein was on a train. He couldn't find his ticket after searching through all his pockets and bags. The conductor approached him and said something like: "Dr. Einstein, everyone knows who you are. We know that Princeton can afford to buy you another train ticket". To which Einstein replied: "I'm not worried about the money. I need to find the ticket to figure out where I'm going."
Being a pilot, Sam Walton travelled by his own airplane between Wal-Mart stores in different regions, making quick, regular inspections. From above, he used the machine for scouting purposes—to explore new places, judging factors like vehicle flow and population density. The high integration between stores, regulated with computers from the headquarters in Bentonville, allowed for economical operation of the chain.
Geoffrey Ballard, the founder of Ballard Power Systems (BPS), has tried for 25 years to develop a fuel cell that is a better source of energy than internal combustion engines. He believed in the future success of his invention and his faith inspired a dedicated team to join him in his long journey despite the numerous technical and financial problems. Ballard was ridiculed by scientists for being eccentric, but when his team finally succeeded, BPS reached a market capitalization of billions of dollars.
In 1890, Gottlieb Daimler drew a three-pointed star on a postcard to his family with the words: "One day this star will shine on my work."
In 1519, Hernán Cortés and his army reached the Mexican coast in Veracruz and wanted to conquer its territory for Spain. They were faced with a hopeless situation: a strong opponent, merciless diseases and scarce resources. When they went inland to fight, Cortés sent one of his officers back with the laconic order: "Burn the ships!"
In 1945, at the age of 90, Max Planck attempted to "restructure the science."
At the age of 80, Claude Monet drew pictures 12 hours a day, despite the fact that he could hardly see.
Even when he was shot and driven to the operating room, Ronald Reagan tried to appease others. He said to the surgeons: "Please confirm to me that you're all Republicans!"
Alfred Nobel discovered the dynamite and other powerful explosives. When his brother died, a newspaper mistakenly posted an obituary of Alfred. It described him as a man, who became rich by a discovery that enabled people to kill themselves in large quantities. Shaken by this assessment, Nobel decided from this day forward to distribute his wealth in form of awards for inventions, which benefit the humanity.
William Coyne, former senior vice president of "Research and Development" at 3M, told how an HR manager once threatened to fire a scientist who fell asleep under his table. Coyne brought the manager to the "wall of patents" to show him that the sleeper has developed some of the company's most profitable products. He advised him: "The next time you see him sleep, bring him a pillow."
When Alexander the Great was asked how he conquered the world, he is said to have replied: "By not wavering."
Although Ernest Shackleton died in his fourth expedition at the age of 47, he managed the survival of 27 crew members, despite all circumstances. The man, whose motto was "By endurance we conquer", said to his crew: "In trouble, danger and disappointment never give up hope. The worst can always be got over."
On the age of 12, Wim Wenders filmed with an 8mm camera the cars and the pedestrians from above, located at the window of the house, but he couldn't answer to his father why he did it. Ten years later, he made his first short film in 16mm of a junction from the sixth floor of a building.
After the defeat at Shiloh, the friends of the president Abraham Lincoln asked him to replace general Ulysses S. Grant. But Lincoln said: "I can't spare this man. He fights. He's got the grip of a bulldog, and when he gets his teeth in, nothing can shake him off."
The great violonist Gherardin was asked how long it took him to learn to play. His answer: "12 hours a day for 20 years."
"Bulova" made an offer to buy 100000 radios from "Sony", but its co-founder, Akio Morita didn't want the radios to carry their name. He rejected with the words: "Fifty years from now, I promise you that our name will be just as famous as your company name today."
Vincent van Gogh sold his canvases on the street for food. He wrote before his death: "I cannot help it that my pictures do not sell. Nevertheless, the time will come when people will see that they are worth more than the price of the paint."
In 1859, Karl Marx wrote: "I must pursue my goal through thick and thin and I must not allow bourgeois society to turn me into a money-making machine."
More examples will follow over time.