Connect with us

Success Advice

10 Brutally Honest Success Lessons from Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank



Kevin O’Leary is a Canadian born entrepreneur and TV personality who rose to prominence in the business world after his software company sold to Mattel for $3.65 Billion in 1999. He is best known for his no-nonsense and often blunt criticism of aspiring entrepreneurs and startups on ABC’s Shark Tank.

Also known as “Mr. Wonderful”, Kevin O’Leary has since written 3 best selling books about life, entrepreneurship, and money; and what it really takes to make it in the big leagues of business.

Here are 10 success lessons you can learn from Kevin O’Leary:

1. Business is war

An entrepreneur should be in it to win it – to crush the competition. Kevin has a no nonsense approach to business which is void of emotion. Business is war, and you have to play to win. Don’t let your feelings get in the way. The market will determine who survives and who doesn’t, so play the game with everything you’ve got. Don’t be afraid to lose. Just reassemble your troops and try again with a different strategy.

“Business is war. I go out there, I want to kill the competitors. I want to make their lives miserable. I want to steal their market share. I want them to fear me and I want everyone on my team thinking we’re going to win.” Kevin O’Leary

2. Your dollars are your soldiers

Money is the lifeblood of business. Many will espouse how money is over rated, and shouldn’t be the most important pursuit of business. Kevin disagrees. He likens your start up finances to your soldiers on the battlefield of business. “Here’s how I think of my money – as soldiers – I send them out to war everyday. I want them to take prisoners and come home, so there’s more of them.” If some of them die, that’s bad. If they all die, that means you’re broke.


3. Entrepreneurship = Freedom

Kevin tells a story of when he was a teenager and worked at an ice-cream store in a local mall. One day he was asked to scrape gum off the floor, and when he refused to, was fired. Reflecting on this years later he says that it taught him that being an employee is slavery and being an entrepreneur is true freedom. From that day forward he vowed that he was never going to work for anyone else again.


4. Spend the interest, never the principle

As the chairman of O’Leary funds, Kevin’s entire investment firm is based on this fundamental lesson he learned from his mother at an early age. His mother would always say “Spend only the interest, never the principle.” This means don’t let go of your nest egg. Leave the principle alone to accumulate interest, and send that interest back out into the battle field.


5. Don’t fall in love with bad ideas

Money runs from bad ideas. Entrepreneurs who are in love with bad ideas kill companies and send money running. On Shark Tank, you will often see incredibly passionate entrepreneurs who are infatuated with terrible ideas that either don’t sell or aren’t backed by viable business models. Kevin is quick to bring a dose of reality. “I have met many entrepreneurs who have the passion and even the work ethic to succeed – but who are so obsessed with an idea that they don’t see its obvious flaws. Think about that. If you can’t even acknowledge your failures, how can you cut the rope and move on?”


6. Opportunity comes fast

Known for saying “opportunity knocked, nobody was home”, Kevin shows entrepreneurs on Shark Tank that opportunity comes fast. It also leaves just as quickly. An offer from an investor can arise and expire in moments. You need to think fast, and make quick decisions under pressure.


7. Passion isn’t everything

Kevin started out wanting to be a fashion photographer until his father shot down that idea with some brutal honesty. “You’re just not that good.” his father told him. Kevin realized that to make the kind of money that he wanted to make, his passion of photography just wasn’t going to get him there. He wasn’t prepared to be a starving artist with most of his photos going unsold, so he left his passion behind to pursue business.  Don’t let your passions blind you and lead you away from success.


8. Sales are everything

Many otherwise viable business ideas and startup companies have been harshly rejected in the Shark Tank because they simply have no sales. Sales are everything. You could have the greatest idea in the world with a plan to execute, but if you approach an investor with no sales or tangible purchase orders you will be in for a tough sell. Investors want to see real market demand with real paying customers before they will back ventures. They don’t want to back speculation without actual sales which will confirm that your business model works.

“Do you have what it takes to make the sale?” – Kevin O’Leary

9. Money doesn’t care about you

Kevin once said “Don’t cry about money, it never cries for you.” The lesson here is to keep your emotions separate from your money. Never let your emotions dictate what you do with your cash, especially if you are in the early stages of a start up. If you are losing money, the market is trying to tell you something. Change your model or get out of that business – but don’t cry about it.


10. The price of success is high

“Working 24 hours a day isn’t enough anymore. You have to be willing to sacrifice everything to be successful, including your personal life, your family life, maybe more. If people think it’s any less, they’re wrong, and they will fail.” Kevin is not a believer in the life work balance. There is no balance. You must be willing to give everything to be successful. It is this kind of hardcore work ethic that separates those who fail from those who succeed on a big level.

What do you like most about Kevin O’Leary? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Nick James is the founder of, a Toronto based company that publishes motivational articles and interviews with entrepreneurs. Nick is passionate about entrepreneurship and believes that motivation is the cornerstone to success. He is launching the Massive Success Podcast in early 2016 to pick the brain of successful entrepreneurs from around the world.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Success Advice

Mastering Self-Management for Success: Lessons From Peter F. Drucker

With careers no longer following a straight, predictable path, self-awareness and adaptability are essential for success.



Peter f drucker lessons
Image Credit: Midjourney

In today’s dynamic professional world, self-management has become increasingly important. With careers no longer following a straight, predictable path, self-awareness and adaptability are essential for success. (more…)

Continue Reading

Success Advice

How to Ignite the Spark Within for Future Success

All of us come to this world with our own reserve of magic unfortunately, not everyone can unleash it



Igniting your spark
Image Credit: Midjourney

What is it that makes some people great leaders while others remain followers? What magic do they have that others don’t? What special blessing gives them the power to bring significant change?  (more…)

Continue Reading

Success Advice

How Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success

Your life is dictated by beliefs and biases that drive your thinking, behaviors, and decisions



Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success (1)
Image Credit: Midjourney

Pause for a moment and ponder two pandemic-era beliefs: First, closing schools will control the spread of a serious virus. Second, the consequences of such school closures—particularly social interruption and the prevention of immunity—are worse than becoming sick with the virus. (more…)

Continue Reading

Success Advice

How to Break the Cycles of Mediocrity and Manifest Your Greatness

There is no greatness without becoming and there is no becoming with authenticity



Image Credit: Midjourney

In just a few weeks, we will be wrapping up 2023. Can you believe it? This year has been absolutely incredible for me.

I have seen amazing doors opened, new relationships formed and I am seeing dreams realized in my life. While this seems like the hallmarks of a great year, this has also been the most challenging year of my life. With all of the change happening in my life, I have been forced out of my comfort zone and challenged to grow in every area of my life.

I can truly say that I have made the most of my moments this year and I have used everything as a catalyst for maximizing my greatest potential.

As a revolutionary leader, I have the pleasure of consulting and advising leaders around the world to fulfill purpose, realize their greatest potential and make an impact.

I want to share some insights with you that will help you to break cycles of mediocrity and manifest your greatness

Everything legal must come through the matrix

I am sure that some of you are wondering why I am using the term matrix. However, what you have to understand is that I am trying to make a highly complex spiritual principle practical to understand.

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, every life has an origin and I believe that origin is divine and begins with eternity. You are birthed from eternity and into time to fulfill a unique purpose and assignment in your lifetime and generation.

The matrix is simply the portal or vehicle that brings something out of the invisible realm and into tangible form. The problem with much of the teaching today is that it excludes the matrix. We are told to believe that success is instantaneous and overnight.

Nobody talks about how a dream progresses through stages beginning with visualization and ultimately culminating in manifestation. Without a matrix or portal then everything that you attempt to birth and build will be illegal.

The matrix not only makes you legal but it gives you the authority and power to function as the greatest expression of who you were created to be. 

Every matrix has an incubation process

While many people admire and respect me today, I remember a time when nobody knew who I was or the significance of my message. How did I get to where I am today? I got here through an incubation process.

In other words, everything that has been destined for your life is incubating and awaiting a set time of manifestation. The problem is that most people live their entire lives idle and never initiate the incubation process.

What do I meany by that? Most people are living reckless and very few people are living intentionally. I am amazed at the number of people I have conversations with that have no vision, goals or strategies for their lives. They show great promise and they have undeniable potential.

However, without development they will die with their dreams still in them.

Everything that has been destined for your life must be incubated and converted to become realities born to time. 

“Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin to build.” – Robert Collier

You must give expression to that which is not yet born to time

When you think about a matrix or a prophetic incubation process, you have to understand that potential is often unrealized and untapped. In other words, your potential is in raw form and your potential cannot serve you as long as it is untapped.

The thing that makes me valuable is that I have the ability to convert potential into power. I have done it in my own life and I have empowered leaders around the world to do the same. How do you convert potential into power?

First, it is important to note that you have to perceive potential. If you cannot perceive your potential then you can never cultivate your potential. In addition, you must take the time to cultivate your potential. We often get excited about our capabilities; however, we never expand our capacity in order to realize our greatest potential.

In other words, the strength of your potential is only discovered through your willingness to stretch. The more we are challenged the more we are empowered to expand our capacity for greatness. Most of all, you must begin to express your potential. The expression of potential is different for every person.

For example, the expression of my potential is best demonstrated through the thoughts, ideas, products, services, books, etc.

For another person the expression of potential may look like a screenplay, artwork, sports, scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, etc.

Regardless of the form of expression, I know that you will live empty and unfulfilled until you make the decision to express your potential. The expression of your potential gives voice to your dreams, life to your vision, significance to your moments and activates your true power.

You must manifest your greatness

As a revolutionary thinker and leader, my work has impacted people around the world. I am grateful that my life is a source of empowerment to so many people. However, before anyone could ever benefit from my life, I had to make a non-negotiable decision to become who I was born to be.

I wish I could tell you that this journey is easy and that you will get there overnight. However, in a world that celebrates us for doing we are often criticized for being. As a result, I wasted a lot of time trying to be who other people wanted me to be instead of being who I was born to be.

There is no greatness without becoming and there is no becoming with authenticity. It is through our bravery to be vulnerable that we ultimately manifest our greatness. We do not bless the world by being a duplicate. We bless the world when we honor our difference. When you honor your difference you honor your potential.

Ultimately, your difference is how you manifest your greatness.

When you present anything but your authentic self to the world, you are playing small and you are robbing the world of your significance. Manifesting your greatness requires you to master your gifts.

Continue Reading