"My fellow sharks, there is no difference between you and I," John said to the audience at Inc.'s GrowCo conference on Thursday. "The only difference is I have a TV camera all the time and I sit next to an a-hole named Kevin O'Leary."
John is a co-founder of the clothing brand FUBU, as well as the brand management agency The Shark Group and the co-working space Blueprint + Co. He's also known as the "people's shark" on Shark Tank, where he's invested in all manner of successful startups during the show's long run.
But John's road to success wasn't smooth. He outlined his entrepreneurial journey to the audience while giving them his "Shark Points," or tips for achieving goals.
The first step in his process, he said, is to set the goal. John determined his at an early age, when he realized he could sell things to people and make a profit. He started with pencils, then began making hats, which turned into the foundation of FUBU.
He cautioned the crowd not to set the goal of simply getting rich. "Money is not success," he said. "I know a lot of filthy rich people who are miserable bastards."
"Kevin O'Leary, for example," he couldn't resist adding.
John's next tip was to make sure that you do your homework. He said that while some entrepreneurs think they've created something fresh, this is rarely the case. You need to focus on maximizing your idea by doing due diligence.
Additionally, entrepreneurs must stick with what they love. (John called this third point "Amor," the Spanish word for love.) "I loved what I was doing," he said. "Every other business that I tried to do for money, I never made money."
Being passionate about what you do every day helps with the fourth Shark Point: "Remember, you are the brand."
Lastly, John conveyed a message of perseverance to the audience. He said he recently conquered one of his fears by diving into shark-infested waters for an upcoming special on the Discovery Channel called Shark Tank Meets Shark Week--something he was inspired to do after a Stage 2 nodule was found on his thyroid last year. He said he wants to keep going so he can walk his three daughters down the aisle one day.
"Whether in business or whether in life, you have to have faith," John said. "Just like a real shark in the ocean, we just have to keep swimming."