'Shark Tank' investor Barbara Corcoran on the surprising person who taught her to succeed

Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Mark Cuban, Kevin O'Leary, Robert Herjavec and Lori Greiner.
Photo by Patrick Ecclesine

"Shark Tank" investor and real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran runs a $6 billion company — but she didn't learn the secrets to professional success in business school.

In an interview with The New York Times, Corcoran explains how it was her mother, a working-class homemaker who raised 10 children in a two-bedroom house in New Jersey, who gave her the tools to be productive and focused throughout her career.

For one, Corcoran's mother made sure she knew that diligence matters.

"My mother would have made a great drill sergeant," she tells The New York Times. "She had amazing organizational systems. She had two sock drawers in the kitchen. The upper drawer had a blue label that said 'Boys,' and the bottom drawer was a pink label that said 'Girls.' Inside the boys' drawer were navy socks, all one size. The girls' socks were all white, all one size."

In her 20s, Corcoran worked long shifts as a waitress and a receptionist before going into real estate, the field that would make her a multi-millionaire.

At age 23, when many people today are still saving to move out of their parents' home, Corcoran took a $1,000 gift from her then-boyfriend and started building a business empire.

"My mother never helped us," she tells The New York Times. "It was like: 'Get over yourself. Get back on the dishes.'"

Though teaching her kids the value of hard work and discipline involved some tough love, her mother always made sure to be kind and encouraging. It's a smart management style that Corcoran says impacted her own.

"She never criticized us," Corcoran says. "All she did was compliment us on what we did well. It taught us to have a positive attitude about ourselves, and it also taught us to look at the light in people."

The only time the "Shark Tank" judge ever felt like she didn't get the right lesson from her mom was when Corcoran first decided to become an entrepreneur.

Kelsey McNeal | ABC

"The only bad advice my mother ever gave me in her lifetime, and she gave great advice, was when I said I was going to start my own business when I was 23," Corcoran tells Inc. Magazine.

"She suggested that I stay as a waitress and build a resume and perhaps hold a job for a while," she recalls.

The advice to stay on a more stable career path was clearly given out of love and parental concern, Corcoran says. She encourages young professionals to pursue their ambitious career goals, regardless of the advice they might be receiving.

"I had a phenomenally motivating mom," Corcoran tells The Times, "who was a good role model for all of us, boys and girls alike."

Check out what Barbara Corcoran does each morning to stay productive all day

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