The Pursuit: 5 Ways to Make Your Dream a Reality, the Barbara Corcoran Way

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June 8, 2016

Barbara Corcoran is one of the most successful women in business. A serial investor and judge on the ABC hit series Shark Tank, she has an estimated worth of $40 million. But her dream life started more like a nightmare.

Related: 7 Steps to Achieve Your Dream

Corcoran was D student in high school and college. And she job-hopped a lot, holding more than 20 different positions by the time she met her first boyfriend—at the time, she was a diner waitress. A couple years later, he became her first business partner. He saw her potential and loaned her $1,000 for a 51 percent stake in her first real estate business. But the relationship ended badly—and he told Corcoran she’d never succeed without him. It was the fuel she’d needed to grow her small firm into a $6-billion business.

The Pursuit: 5 Ways to Make Your Dream a Reality, the Barbara Corcoran Way
COURTESY OF ABC SHARK TANK

In this episode of The Pursuit, Kelsey Humphreys sits down with Barbara Corcoran to discuss business building blocks, smart growth and capitalizing on your strengths.

1. Learn to bounce back.

Before anyone achieves success, first there will be failures—many failures. Corcoran is a firm believer that behind every failure or setback is an opportunity.

“The ability to bounce back takes experience,” she says. “Every time you push through failure, there’s always some prize for you on the other side. And so all you have to really do to get good at that is to keep doing it. And eventually you become a believer.”

2. Listen to your intuition.

Corcoran credits much of her success to her intuition. She has passed on multiple opportunities because they didn’t “feel right”—and listening to her gut hasn’t let her down yet.

“I think intuition is what you can pick up between the lines—it’s the gray area of life,” she says. “If you are naturally intuitive to some degree, you can get really good at it by paying attention.”

3. Lean on your strengths.

Corcoran transitioned from a failing student, to a successful realtor, to one of the largest real estate brokers in the country, to a successful venture capitalist, to a widely-known TV personality. She says success begins with recognizing your strengths.

“I think what you have to do to succeed in different fields and to keep moving forward is to make an honest assessment of what your gifts are—and everybody’s got gifts,” she says.

Want to get out of a slump, to feel enthusiastic about your work again? She suggests making two lists, one of what you love (usually what you’re best at) and one of what you hate, doing the things you love and delegating the things you don’t.

4. Love the work.

There’s simply no substitute for hard work if you want to be successful. How many hours did she put in in the early days? As many as she puts in today; as many as it takes, which she described as endless.

“When you’re working [those hours], what you give up is quiet time. Even when you’re in the shower, you’re thinking of the to-do list and what you need to get done that day. You also give up the sense that the job is done…. That’s the curse of being aggressive and hungry.”

So make sure you love what you’re doing—and never be satisfied.

“When I sold The Corcoran Group, I knew I wanted to continue working and building another business, because I love business—it’s fun…. It’s my blast in life.”

5. Learn to stay grateful.

Humility, integrity, gratitude and a healthy dose of self-awareness are not just qualities Corcoran looks for in her entrepreneurs, but also in herself. It explains her matter-of-fact style, her self-deprecating humor and her authentic charm. Are there downsides to the kind of lifestyle one must maintain to become a multimillionaire? Sure, for example, Corcoran had to wait until late in life to start a family. But you won’t find her dwelling on those things; she insists it’s all been worth it.

“What you get for being able to actually have the power and the experience of making your dream come true—just like you see in the movies—is such a gift in life and not one that a lot of people get to realize. I would give up so much rather than give up that—that’s tremendously satisfying.”

Related: The Shark Tank Guide to Surviving the Treacherous Waters of Entrepreneurship