When Sara Blakely was growing up, her father would often ask her the same question at dinnertime.
"What have you failed at this week?" Blakely recalled in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box" n Wednesday. "My dad growing up encouraged me and my brother to fail. The gift he was giving me is that failure is (when you are) not trying versus the outcome. It's really allowed me to be much freer in trying things and spreading my wings in life."
Blakely's embrace of failure has helped make her the youngest self-made female billionaire in America. The 41-year-old Florida native was selling fax machines door-to-door before she came up with the idea for Spanx, the body-shaping undergarments that have become a global sensation.
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Her string of early career failures eventually led Blakely to the Spanx idea. She said wanted to be a lawyer but "basically bombed the LSAT twice," she said. "I ended up at Disney World trying out to be Goofy. They wanted me to be 5' 8", but I was 5' 6". They wanted me to be a chipmunk."