A few weeks ago, Mark Cuban dropped by the University of Pennsylvania for the Authors@Wharton Series to share some stories and insights from his life as a billionaire serial entrepreneur, an active investor and Shark, a father, the vocal owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and the author of the book How to Win at the Sport of Business. Here are some of the lessons, insights, and takeaways from the one and a half hour session he had with us, including his biggest piece of advice: "No balls, no babies."
1. The American Dream is alive
"I don't do the show (Shark Tank) to get deal flow. I do the show because it sends the message that the American Dream is alive and well. Shark Tank is the No. 1 show in all of television watched by families together. And everyday people come up to me and say, 'I watch the show with my 12-year-old, my 15-year-old, and for the first time they're interested in business.' And to be able to get kids excited in business ... I call it the new-age lemonade stand. It sends the message that anybody can start a business, anybody who works hard can be successful, and that's why I do it."
2. Learn the language of business
"If you are not taking up business now, getting an MBA is fine. If you don't understand the basics of accounting, finance, marketing, it's the same thing. For me, my goal is to always carve my own destiny and reduce my dependence on others as much as possible. If you don't know the language of business and you always need somebody to translate for you, that's a problem."
3. Be relentless
Cuban was asked whether or not he would have invested in the young Mark Cuban, and his reply was, "I think I would, simply because I was relentless, whether it was selling powdered milk, buying stamps, whether it was the bar business. No matter what it was, there was no question that you would get effort from me. There was no question that I was going to do whatever it took to try to get you your money back, and so I probably would."
4. Learn how to learn
"The skill that was most important to me that I learned in Indiana was to 'Learn how to learn.' The one thing that is essential that you need to take out of going to school here is that you should never stop learning if you want to be successful, because none of us live in a world we're born into ... the beauty in technology and why I love it so much is there's the people who invent something, then there's everybody else. Everybody else starts at the exact same point learning those same technologies. And so, if you know how to learn and if you're excited about learning, you're willing to invest your time to learn, you can move forward. If you don't, you will fall behind."
5. The very worst judge of your abilities is you
"It's very, very hard for entrepreneurs to be self-aware. We lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves that this idea is the best. I'm able to do this thing better than everybody else. Or this is faster, better and we find ourselves describing our ideas with an -er and -est without realizing that the competition is looking at themselves in the same way. So as an entrepreneur, as somebody looking at any type of business environment, you have to be looking at yourself from a different perspective. You have to understand what you suck at in order to fix it, and you have to understand what you're very good at in order to get better at it."
6. Know what you're good at
"I know what I'm good at. I'm not a perfectionist. I'm disorganized. I'm like ready, fire, aim and so I try to partner with people who complement that skill set so they can keep me organized. I try to take advantage of my being disorganized and try to move fast. Sometimes I move too fast, and that leaves some holes, so I have to go back and fill those gaps."
7. Be nice
"Being nice pays. Would you rather have business with somebody nice? One of the ways to be incredibly successful no matter what you do is to reduce the stress of those around you. If I have the chance to be nice to somebody, I'll do it, because the best branding in the world, the best customer service and best customer connection, and the best employee connection is just being nice and reducing stress. Sometimes just being nice makes all the difference, because everybody wants to do business with somebody who is nice."
8. You only need to be right once
"It doesn't matter how many times you fail. You hit it once and you're an overnight success. No one keep tracks of your failures. No one remembers. No one cares. You guys don't think less of me because I tried to sell powdered milk. It doesn't matter. The beauty of being young is you can just go out and try starting a business and try something new."
9. No balls, no babies
"My favorite saying is, 'No balls, no babies' ... you've just got to be there and you just have to go for it. There are going to be times when you take the chance and just think to yourself, 'No balls, no babies.'" You can view the full video of Cuban saying it here.