After graduating from high school by the skin of her teeth, it's likely that few people were betting on Barbara Corcoran's success. She went on to earn a degree in education (barely), but she taught for just one year before deciding it wasn't for her.

Starting a role and then moving on quickly would become a trend, and Corcoran reports having worked 20 different jobs by the time she turned 23. Ultimately, she could have responded to this string of failures in any number of ways, but she believes that the mindset she acquired along her journey has defined her success, not sabotaged it.

"The difference between successful people and others is how long they spend time feeling sorry for themselves," Corcoran says. "When they take a hit, they don't take long to get back up."

Turning rejection into opportunity

Even after she started on the real estate path that would secure her financial future, she experienced numerous major setbacks.

When her business was still small and struggling, her co-founder at Corcoran-Simone and boyfriend of seven years left her and told her he was going to marry her secretary. It was a painful blow, but Corcoran explains that she immediately got to work dividing the business--the business that would eventually grow to be worth around $70 million when she sold it in 2001.

Thinking back, she is clear that "My biggest successes in life have all happened on the heels of failure." If that sounds like a series of fortunate coincidences, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Shark Tank star's secret to success is precisely her incredible knack for turning rejection into opportunity: "All the best things that happened to me happened after I was rejected. I know the power of getting past 'no.'"

When Corcoran was told she had a seat on Shark Tank, she was understandably ecstatic. Then came the call that producers had changed their minds and decided on someone else. Most people would be devastated and downtrodden, especially after having shared the news with family and friends.

Instead of wasting time with self-pity, she emailed the executive producer and said she had already booked a plane ticket and she was coming to compete for the spot on the show. One determined email was all it took, and her seat was secured next to the likes of billionaire Mark Cuban.

Set aside self-pity

Corcoran grew up as one of 10 kids living in a two-bedroom house, and her parents struggled to provide for the family. Without many advantages growing up, she could easily have decided that she wasn't meant to succeed.

Instead, she set aside self-pity and grabbed her life by the horns, persevering whenever possible.

No matter where you come from or what you're up against, you face a similar decision.

Never waste time bouncing back from failure, rejection, and obstacles, and view them as important wakeup calls. In the words of Corcoran, "The best time to expand is when your competitors are asleep at the wheel."

Published on: Nov 12, 2019
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.