‘Shark Tank’ investor Daymond John reveals the book he's read 20 times

Daymond John
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Daymond John, the founder of the $6 billion hip-hop culture clothing line Fubu and star in the hit ABC show "Shark Tank," grew up in Hollis, Queens, where there weren't lots of models of entrepreneurs for him to look up to.

"We never got to see the heroes. We saw pimps and drug dealers," says John, speaking at Forefront, the first large-scale live event of the I Will Teach You to Be Rich community in New York City.

And those who did get ahead were those who got an education, got a job in a company or factory, and worked hard for somebody else, day in and day out.

"You weren't supposed to work on your dream, you were supposed to work on [your employer's] dream. And hopefully if they succeeded in their dream they would then reward you," says John.

The first individual John saw that broke that mold was Russell Simmons, who was traveling the world selling hip-hop. "How could you actually make money doing something you love?"

Inspired, John educated himself. He read the classic guide to business Think and Grow Rich, written in 1937 by Napoleon Hill.

"The first book I ever read in my life: Think and Grow Rich. I have read it 20 times since then," says John.

How I Made It: Daymond John and the Power of Broke

Hill was inspired to write the book by a challenge set forth by the business magnate Andrew Carnegie to analyze the paths to fortune by more than 500 wealthy businessmen, including the Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller, and document their paths to success.

The secret is fearless, all-consuming determination and faith in yourself, a message that would sound hopeful to a kid from Queens with low funds and big dreams.

"If the thing you wish to do is right, and you believe in it, go ahead and do it! Put your dream across, and never mind what 'they' say if you meet with temporary defeat, for 'they,' perhaps, do not know that EVERY FAILURE BRINGS WITH IT THE SEED OF AN EQUIVALENT SUCCESS," writes Hill.

Not only did John take this advice, he now distributes it widely and with his own brand of inspiration.

"You either think like a shark or you don't. There is no difference with you or I. You have to understand that. Think about it," says John.

"If you think that anything can hold you back, well, I am dyslexic. Some people would [say] that being African American is a challenge. I am short. I got left back in school. I didn't go to college. I don't know anybody with a famous last name. I am not a relic of anybody with a famous last name. I could call Elton John and tell him I am his son, but he probably wouldn't believe me. ... I can't sing rap, I can't shoot a basketball, can't play basketball, or whatever you do with a basketball," says John. All the same: "I am here with you."

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."