Happy birthday Barbara Corcoran! The Shark Tank investor and entrepreneur just turned 70.
After several successful decades in business in which she’s amassed a net worth in the millions, there’s one question Corcoran gets over and over: What advice would you give your younger self?
Here’s how she answered on a recent episode of her podcast Business Unusual.
Don’t read so much into your GPA.
If she could go back in time, Corcoran would tell her kid self to worry less about being such a bad student. She was labeled the dumb kid because she struggled to learn to read.
Yet Cocoran went from being a straight-D student to building and running a $5 billion company. She says she learned to turn her liabilities into assets. Her fear of being labeled stupid channeled her competitiveness and motivation into over-preparing.
Corcoran doesn’t think school is for everyone. Putting too much weight on someone’s GPA is a bad move. How you perform on the job and how hard you hustle matters more than the grades you got in school.
“If you haven’t done well in school, I’m convinced you’re going to be somebody,” she told Yahoo Finance.
There’s no such thing as playing too much.
As a kid, Corcoran was always playing and inventing games. Adults were always telling her to hunker down and get serious about her schoolwork.
Now she realizes her best strength in school was her imagination. While other kids were learning to read and write, she was daydreaming. In business and entrepreneurship, creativity is a huge asset.
“Keep playing,” Corcoran advises. “You learn a lot by playing. It teaches you creativity. And you can learn to lead the kids in the neighborhood if you’ve got the best games in town.”
Creativity is becoming one of the most sought-after skill sets and personality traits, according to a LinkedIn survey of job postings. Fellow Shark Tank personality Mark Cuban encourages young people to skip learning to code and to get liberal arts degrees instead. Creative and critical thinking is an asset that will serve you well in any career.
Childhood hardships can be assets.
Being a terrible student in school was demoralizing. Looking back, Corcoran describes it as an advantage. She got used to rejection. She was never the popular kid or the one getting all the gold stars.
Instead of being a “good tester,” Corcoran learned how to communicate face-to-face. Instead of wowing people with her intelligence, she learned how to use humor to win people over.
Corcoran also credits her parents for raising her and her nine siblings in a pressure-free environment. “My parents thought that we were just fine, no matter what we did,” she says. They never set the expectation that their kids needed to “be great” when they grew up.
“If you want children to blossom, I say give them freedom,” says Corcoran.