Have Fun Time In Your Schedule – Barbara Corcoran

From real-estate mogul to angel investor on the hit series Shark Tank, Corcoran Group founder Barbara Corcoran has seen many a business rise and fall. Her own success story is one of scrappiness and external drive.

Corcoran learned a solid work ethic from an early age. Her mother was a homemaker that kept a household of 10 kids with almost military precision and her father worked two jobs. In her teens and 20s, even though her dyslexia made school difficult, she poured herself in a series of odd jobs that ultimately led her to her big break.

She famously borrowed $1,000 and quit her job as a waitress — a gig which she says gave her a crash course in how to sell — to start a small real-estate firm in New York City. Over the course of the next 25 years Corcoran took that loan and grew her company into a $5 billion real-estate business.

Since selling her eponymous business for $66 million back in 2001, the bestselling author and speaker has made helping other entrepreneurs achieve their dreams her mission, both as a Shark and with her own firm, Forefront Venture Partners. She also still has a foot in the world of real estate, connecting homeowners with the best agents.

1. How do you start your day? 
I start my day focused on my daughter. Then I sit on my chair and make a quick cup of coffee. That’s when I get my luxury 15 minutes. Then I go downstairs, meet [my trainer] Margaret and work out for an hour and then go to work

The coffee gives me a prize of sitting by myself for 15 minutes. I do not have my phone with me. I daydream. The workout is in lieu of a psychiatrist. I find that when I work out, I like my husband more, I appreciate my life more. What seems to be an inordinate amount of pressure doesn’t seem so bad at the end of the hour.

2. How do you end your day and how does this help you wind down?
I end my day reading gardening books and catalogues and daydreaming about the garden. It just winds me down and puts me out.

I think the more important thing than the gardening book or the catalogues is I’ve eliminated my phone from my bedroom. That is key. I used to use my phone to wake up in the morning. Now I actually bought a battery-operated white clock and use that to wake up. What a difference that’s made to get my phone out of my room.

What I used to do a year ago is spend the end of my day setting my alarm on my phone and then seeing a text and then another and then I went down the rabbit hole. Two hours later I’m going to sleep at midnight, even though I jumped into bed at 10:30. I don’t do that anymore. The best thing I’ve done is to get my phone out of my room.


3. What’s a book that changed your mind and why?
Not a book but a quote from Nelson Mandela. He said “having resentment is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy dies.” I thought if he’s not resentful, why would I be resentful? I saw the stupidness of that and dropped my resentment toward the person I was [angry with].

4. What’s a book you always recommend and why?
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a powerful book that especially gets young people’s heads on straight. It keeps its eye on the ball as to what’s important for succeeding in business, which is people and how you work with people.

There’s so much written on the dollars and cents, the left brain analysis, making the business plan and such hogwash out there. It sounds cool when you’re reading it, but I don’t think it makes a big difference for anybody trying to figure out who they want to be in that life.

5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
It’s hard. I used to be the most focused person I’ve ever met. You couldn’t sway me off what I was after.

Yet, I would describe myself in recent years as having a touch of ADD, which is not me or never used to be me. I think it’s a result of all the technology. I’ve declared technology my enemy to a large degree. I have a need to answer everything properly and not to forget anybody. I don’t have a computer on my desk; I just do everything on my phone. And what I did is I took my email off my phone. So rather than looking at God knows how many I got in a day — all very important of course, until I realized none of it was important. I probably went from maybe 150 emails to none. I bought myself a lot of time. I feel so much better. I actually [have time to] reflect after I’ve had a meeting or conversation now.

6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up? 
I had no idea what I was going to be. I just wanted to see what was outside the little town where I grew up. It was two miles long and two blocks wide — not very big — and everybody knew everybody.

7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
Milton Schweitzer. I worked for two and a half years in high school as a sales clerk in his little department store in a town away from my house. I learned not to be cheap and pay attention to people’s ego or face.

I worked my buns off, and he was just a critical boss. One day, he asked me to go up to the attic, take all of the men’s socks and label them based on the color. With a magic marker I labeled them black and grey. The next day he had me come in and brought me up to his office. I thought he was going to compliment me, because I had them in perfect order. I came into his office, and he said “look at this.”

He showed me a box that said “grey.” He said go up relabel those boxes you spelled grey wrong, [it’s gray]. I was mortified. I hated him. I thought of quitting. Instead, I went up and relabelled all the boxes. That night I went home and my father was a meticulous speller.

I said, “guess what Milton had me do?” I relayed the story, and he went and got the dictionary and looked up the word. He said you can spell it both ways. I went in and told him that and quit. I felt so good about that. I learned from him why be critical and not let somebody stand with pride?

8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
My mother without a doubt. She was a housewife with 10 kids. My mom’s house was like bootcamp. Everything was in order. It was like an assembly line.

Everything I do I’m just like my mother — from the way I organize myself to the way I create systems instantly in anything that’s chaotic. The way I shortcut things the way she does, the way I see the positive things in people that my mother did with each of us. She never never told us what was wrong; she always told us what was right.

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