The Great Bright Shark: Barbara Corcoran Shares Inspiring Life Lessons

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19 October 2018

ABC, Sunday, October 21, 9:00 PM ET
Special episode, Nov. 18, celebrates women’s entrepreneurship

By Barb Oates

Let me start with a quick Shark warning. This week’s episode of Shark Tank (Sunday on ABC) features one of the most emotional and moving presentations to date, so bring your Kleenex, and then count your blessings.

When Shark Tank’s original and first female Shark, Barbara Corcoran, reflects on her billion dollar rags-to-riches story — a story she’s shared ad nauseam (at least to her) on air, in her book and as an inspirational speaker — she’ll repeat it graciously with exuberance and passion. Corcoran knows she was blessed with amazing parents and credits them for who she is today.

“School was torture for me. I was the only one in my family that didn’t do well in school,” Corcoran shares. “I had a phenomenal mother. She loved every one of her 10 kids and treated us equally, and she told me I had a wonderful imagination. ‘Don’t even worry about school,’ she said. ‘You’ll fill in the blanks.’ She was right. I do have a wonderful imagination, and I’ve made my living with that, really, so it all worked out. … What I had was two parents who really loved me, and where does most of your confidence really come from long-term in life? I just believe it’s about the love your parents give you.”

Before building one of New York’s largest real estate companies — the Corcoran Group — she spent her younger days bouncing between hourly jobs. Working since she was 11, she had 22 jobs before she turned 23. The consistent work ethic she brought to each was hard work and a good personality.

“I don’t think I would have had those jobs if I was a great student. I could study for 10 hours and not get a passing grade, so I didn’t bother. I just gave up on it. … I learned how to finesse, how to cover mistakes. I learned how to negotiate,” Corcoran says. “I know for every 10 smart kids in class, there’s one kid that’s thinking he’s not so smart. I like to just get the message across — there’s all kinds of smarts. Book smarts isn’t necessarily what gets you through life and makes you a fortune. People smarts, a winner. Street smarts, another winner. Fast on your feet is another kind of smart. Book smarts are good for certain occupations, and you can do very well in life and get the accolades that you’ll collect as you go, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be the king of the jungle.”

When we asked her what she wished she knew in high school that she knows today, the amusingly entertaining Corcoran quips, “I wish I knew that the popular, pretty, smart girls don’t necessarily run the world. The plugger and the worker run the world.” And then in true Barbara style, she pauses and adds, “I wish I had known that my acne would go away by 21 — it seemed like a long haul to have acne. I wish I had known that life changes, and the nerd sometimes wins.”

Shark Tank celebrates women’s entrepreneurship in a special episode on Sunday, Nov. 18, in which Corcoran, along with fellow Sharks Lori Greiner and Sara Blakely, inspires others to pursue their dreams.
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