Barbara Corcoran shares the No. 1 trait her best employees have: ‘They drove me crazy, but I admired my superstars so much’

Wealth

The key to a “good life” is the ability to learn from your mistakes, according to Barbara Corcoran.

It’s a trait Corcoran shares with all of her biggest “superstar” employees, the 74-year-old investor on ABC’s “Shark Tank” told author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss on the latest episode of his podcast.

“Recovering from failure, in my book, is 95% of life,” Corcoran said. “If you’re going to have a good life, you’d better be really good at getting back up, like a jack-in-the-box, boom, boom, boom. Just get back up.”

Corcoran is the founder of real estate brokerage The Corcoran Group, which she sold for $66 million in 2001. Her top-performing employees all shared the ability to not be deterred by mistakes, she told Ferriss.

“That really was the only difference between the superstars that I had making two, three million dollars a year and people who made an average of $45,000, which was the norm,” she said. She “became a student” of those top employees, so she could figure out their recipe for success and look for the same traits in future hires.

“When it comes down to it, it’s how well you get back up and how long you take to feel sorry for yourself,” she told Ferriss. “They drove me crazy too, but I admired my superstars so much because of that ability … You could punch them around. They’d go, ‘Ha ha,’ [and] get back up.”

Indeed, research shows that people who can reframe failure as a learning opportunity, and who are resilient enough to rebound from mistakes without losing their motivation, are more likely to be successful in the long run.

“We forget failure really is a path to success,” Yale psychology professor and happiness expert Laurie Santos told CNBC Make It last year.

Corcoran has previously credited much of her success to her own resilience, noting on TikTok last year that her experiences in school — she struggled with dyslexia, while her classmates would “breeze through” assignments, she said — helped her hone that skill.

″[I] learned how to rebound,” she said. “Get through any obstacle. I try harder than the next guy, and I work twice as hard as the next guy. But that’s OK — that’s exactly what built my business and got me rich.”

Those obstacles can teach you lessons, too. Corcoran admits she’s made, and learned from, many mistakes over the course of her career. In one case, she told Make It last year, she gained an important lesson about negotiating when she lost out on a deal by not responding soon enough with a counter-offer — leaving her prospective buyer feeling disrespected.

“Unfortunately, the only way to really learn is … by tripping up and making many, many mistakes,” said Corcoran.

Other successful entrepreneurs agree, including Corcoran’s “Shark Tank” co-star Mark Cuban. The billionaire Dallas Mavericks co-owner teaches young people that “there’s no such thing as failure,” because you can discover more by trying new things and taking lessons from setbacks, he told “The Thrive Global Podcast” in 2017.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

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