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Barbara Corcoran: Why being a bad student can help you succeed in the real world

Natalie Mayrath
Producer/Reporter

Barbara Corcoran, a judge on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and host of the Business Unusual podcast, says you shouldn’t despair if you had bad grades in school. It might even mean you’re destined to succeed in the real world.

Job performance has way more influence on your career than a report card ever will, she says. Corcoran warns students not to fall into the trap of letting their grades define them. “Young people can quickly get defined by their GPA and it's meaningless. You're going to be assessed by how hard you hustle and how well you do the actual job you're doing and that has nothing to do with how well you did in school,” Corcoran recently told Yahoo Finance in an interview around Financial Literacy Month.

The stigma of being a poor student herself has stuck with Corcoran through her multi-decade billion-dollar career in real estate, business, and investing. Corcoran, who has dyslexia, hasn’t ever forgotten being told she was stupid as a young girl. “My fear of being stupid still stays with me but it makes me overprepare, it makes me competitive,” she says. She credits that fear for propelling her forward in her career.

Being a poor student, or a “loser,” as Corcoran calls it, can give a person comfort and space for finding their true skills and value. “There is such a strength when you've grown up being the loser, you're comfortable being an outsider, you're comfortable with people criticising and so you're free as a bird to be whoever you want to be — you can't get that when you've been molded to be an A student,” she says.

Corcoran feels that parents should promote pride rather than shame in the grades their kids bring home. She urges parents to praise report cards and instill pride in their children, whatever the paper says. “I think the question that parents have to ask the kid who's not getting good grades is ‘are you trying your hardest?’ If they're trying their hardest I think you have to commend them for that,” she says.

Overall, Corcoran finds that her most successful entrepreneurs on “Shark Tank” are the ones who did not do as well in school. “If you haven't done well in school I'm convinced you're going to be somebody,” she said.

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