Posted on: October 6, 2011

In Conversation: Kevin O’Leary

Before becoming one of the star investors on CBC’s Dragons’ Den and ABC’s Shark Tank, Kevin O’Leary founded the software firm SoftKey, which later became The Learning Company and merged with Mattel in a deal worth more than $4 billion. He now heads the investment firm O’Leary Funds and also co-hosts CBC’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange. His new memoir Cold Hard Truth hit shelves last week.

Q: You offer a lot of lessons in your book about how to succeed in business. Can entrepreneurialism be taught?,

A: I actually think being an entrepreneur is a state of mind. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, my thesis is that you have to sacrifice everything for some period in your life to be successful. You have to be myopic and completely focused and unbalanced in every way. Once you achieve success, you’re free to do whatever you like.

Q: You write about being steered into business by your stepfather and mother.

A: Well, my mom’s attitude was, you’re going to find your own path, and life is serendipitous. She wasn’t as rigorous and hardcore as my dad, who looked at me one day and said, “You’re going to amount to nothing. All you do is party and you want to be a photographer. That’s the most competitive industry on Earth. You’re not that good.” The guy was giving me the truth: you should go back to school and at least get some tools.


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