Turning Disadvantage Into Success: How Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran Did It


Barbara Corcoran’s story is an inspirational rags-to-riches story that would surprise many Shark Tank viewers.

The now real estate mogul who sold her company, the Corcoran Group for $66 million in 2001, was not always as successful and confident as she is today.

From being a D student all her life in school to working in 20 different jobs by the time she was 23, Corcoran’s story of remarkable success against all odds is a reminder that it is possible to turn hardships into opportunities in both life and business.

From Dyslexia to Dollars

In school, Corcoran had a difficult time reading and comprehending. She failed many times and was confined to the ‘D student’ category. She only found out that she had dyslexia when her son was diagnosed with the reading disorder in his second grade.

Corcoran, who worked at a diner as a waitress in her teen years and early twenties was undeterred by her poor performance in school. With just $1000 borrowed from a boyfriend, she started a small real estate firm in New York City and for 25 years grew the company into a multi-billion brand.

She says if you avoid labeling and seeing yourself as a loser, it is possible to be successful in business. In fact, many of the most prosperous and innovative entrepreneurs on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank never performed well in school.

Lesson: Your ‘weakness’ should not be an excuse for not pursuing your goals.

Dust yourself down fast and grab the next opportunity

Listening to Corcoran speak to her audience or watching her issue tangible, no-nonsense criticism and advice to entrepreneurs on Shark Tank, you would be blown away by her mastery of public speaking and communication.

Barbara Corcoran shark tankBut, she wasn’t always so good at conveying her message. In fact, at the start of her real estate career, she experienced a major blunder during a speaking event. When she got on stage, she was so frightened that she couldn’t get herself to utter a single word. To the dismay of the audience, Corcoran dejectedly slumped into her seat.

Without letting that incident set her back, the following day Barbara proposed a real estate course to a university and she was allowed to teach the course (which involved speaking, obviously) for five years.

Entrepreneurship is not an easy ride—false starts, financing, productivity, operations all these are challenges that are typical to most businesses. Yet, only those who can quickly dust themselves down over and over again are able to get ahead of the game.

Don’t be afraid to use what you’ve got

From just $1000, Barbara was able to build a renowned, multi-billion dollar businesses. Without a doubt, the competition in the real estate scene in New York was competitive—there were many other bigger, established and well known property firms.

But, she was determined to change her ‘not so easy’ life. At that time, Corcoran could only raise $1000 and that’s exactly what she used to fire up her company, the Corcoran Group into a respected brand.

Many times, people give excuses or simply give up because they ‘don’t have what it takes’ or lack the resources. But, there is never a good enough time to get started or to do what is required to push your life or your business forward.

During the 1970s recession, most real estate firms were not ready to expand into newer markets. However, small as her company was, Corcoran took the opportunity to invest and expand where nobody else would dare.

You just need to make do with what you have.

In Barbara’s words, “the meek do not inherit the earth.”

Lessons from Shark Tank

Barbara Corcoran is a testament that failure and challenges often carry with them the fruits of success. The reason why she is utterly prosperous today is that she learnt how to leverage her disadvantages and failures and make the most of them.


  1. Adrienne says:

    Hey Andrew,

    I’ve never watched Shark Tank and am not familiar with Ms. Corcoran but she sounds like an amazing woman. Although I wasn’t exactly a D student, I had issues in school with understanding the text books although I could read what they said. LOL!!! Interpreting was another story though.

    I think that’s a label though that a lot of us get stuck with, thinking we’re stupid because we certainly feel that way. I just think that those who are bound and determined to move forward anyway deserve to be where they are today.

    I’m a heck of a lot slower than a lot of the very successful people I’ve met online since venturing here myself. One thing I am though is very determined no matter how slow I may be.

    Most people have an underdog story to share which to me is the most motivating of all. We can put ourselves in their place and realize that there is a place for us too.

    I appreciate you sharing this with us so thank you for that. I learned something new today and I love when that happens.

    Great blog by the way!


  2. Marcel Spitz says:

    Hi Andrew, a very inspirational story – great for anyone who
    wants to be successful in life but has lost hope or has no hope at all.

    Enjoy your weekend.



  3. Hi Andrew,

    I absolutely love this post. Barbara is brilliant, driven, and focused, and she let go losses to win more quickly.

    The public speaking failure turned into a success the following day sums up what winners do. They learn, but they let go failure after learning. Many cling to their failures, almost bragging about their losses, as if it’s serving them, or anybody.

    I worked with someone who lost millions in a stock market crash. Because of that he never invested again. He’d brag about his losses, but if he learned, and let go, he’d likely have made tens of millions during the next upturn. You get no rewards for bragging about your failures, and you’ll get no rewards for turning around, when you fail.

    I Blog from Paradise (yes CAPS for branding 😉 because I charged forward after being humiliated more than a few times. Sure I stung in the moment, but minutes or hours later I was back on the success horse, riding forward. All winners went through this stuff so I just patiently paid my tuition, uncovered my blocks, got greater clarity and simply blogged my way from NJ to Fiji, and to Bali, and Costa Rica, and all the other paradises where I’ve lived as a full time blogger.

    Love this Andrew. Tweeting soon.

    Enjoy your weekend my friend!

    Signing off from Savusavu, Fiji.


    • Hey Ryan,

      Thanks for the comment!

      Wow, that is a lot of money to lose. It sounds just like you say though, he had not let go and was still holding something that was dragging him down. The best option is to get back on the horse as soon as possible. It’s what I try to do when I experience setbacks, and I’m getting better at it.

      I think we all experience these setbacks in life and its how we deal with them that defines who we are and the success we will achieve as we move forward. Thanks for sharing my friend!

  4. Carol Amato says:

    Hello, Andrew,

    – I was truly moved by this story – and inspired to keep doing my best no matter the set backs.

    I think my favorite was this quote: “Lesson: Your ‘weakness’ should not be an excuse for not pursuing your goals”

    If I fall, I analyze for a bit before dusting myself off and getting up (probably should be quicker) but quitting is never an option with me. I’m too implanted with my goals and plan to get there. I’ve attained so many of my goals and constantly re-create them to achieve.

    Truly inspirational story, and I thank you for adding such value – a beautifully formatted post to read – truly a delight.

    Hope your weekend is full of your favorite things.

    – Carol 🙂

    • Hey Carol, thanks for the comment!

      I think I’m like you, I feel that I should bounce back from set-backs quicker but as with you, I’ll never stop striving to achieving my goals. It definitely motivates when you hit your goals and inspires me to continue. Some days can be tough when there are problems or setbacks, but this is part of the process that moulds you into the strong person you are becoming.

      Thanks for the kind words, and its really nice to see you here 🙂

  5. UnveiltheWeb says:

    Hi Andrew,

    What a powerful story that illustrates the challenges that while we all have challenges in business; smarts, determination and perseverance pay off big.

    I read several years ago in INC. that over 70% of all millionaires in the US did not go to college. In fact, only 15% of college graduates actually make it into the upper income brackets and most of them are going to be high level executives in corporations.

    What does that tell me? It tells me that college trains people for “jobs”. Is that bad? Not necessarily. What it doesn’t do is train people how to think outside of the box and it certainly doesn’t train people how to understand risk/reward.

    Very few people ever take the time to learn the hardships behind someone else’s success. This is the problem of envy in our society today and the “give me” attitude that exists both in public life and in politics.

    If you show me someone who has success, I guarantee there is a failure story in there. You don’t success your way to success. I have never heard of a story where that happened. No, you fail your way to success. That’s where the real learning and success comes from.

    I loved this post Andrew! Thank you for the inspiration and motivation. I needed that this morning. LOL…

    It’s great to be on your blog. I’m sure I’ll be a staple as I love this kind of content!

    Have a great weekend!

    ~ Don Purdum

    • Hey Don, thanks for the valuable comment!

      You covered some huge points, and I really do agree with you on all.

      There is definitely a big “give me” attitude in today’s society. Many just believe that they are entitled to everything and an expectation that everything will fall into their laps. I like to show that the people that many see as “success stories” didn’t get an easy ride. In fact, in most cases those at the pinnacle of success experienced tremendous amounts of setbacks in their lives. It’s these experiences of course that shape their own life.

      It’s great to see you here, and have a great day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses cookies. Some are essentials and others help us improve your experience. You can click settings for more information and to manage your cookie and privacy settings.

Privacy Settings

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

In order to use this website we use the following technically required cookies
  • wordpress_test_cookie
  • wordpress_logged_in_
  • wordpress_sec

Decline all Services
Accept all Services