Entrepreneurs

Sean 'Diddy' Combs and Mark Wahlberg share 5 pieces of advice for building success

Friends Mark Wahlberg and Sean "Diddy" Combs are on top this year.

Combs landed the number one spot on Forbes' list of the highest paid celebrities in 2017, grossing $130 million the past year, and Wahlberg won the top spot as the highest paid actor, grossing $68 million.

The pair is also working together to dominate in a different industry — bottled water. Combs and Wahlberg are co-owners of enhanced water brand, AQUAhydrate, which sells alkaline water with electrolytes and minerals. And they have big plans to disrupt the space, Combs tells CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"In this category we're number two," says Combs, "and we don't like being number two. We're going to use our marketing powers, things that other brands don't have, to really take this brand to number one."

AQUAhydrate, which raised $10 million in venture funding in 2011 from billionaire Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Companies, is just one of the many businesses each star is involved in.

A post shared by AQUAhydrate (@aquahydrate) on

Among Combs' other endeavors are his music company, Bad Boy Entertainment, his famous partnership with Diageo's Ciroc vodka and his Sean John clothing line. He sold a majority stake in the clothing business last November for an estimated $70 million, according to Forbes.

In addition to acting, Wahlberg is invovled in producing movies (like "Patriot's Day"), he's co-owner in his family's burger chain, Wahlburgers, and has a health and supplements company, Performance Inspired Nutrition.

Both moguls have gleaned lessons on their way to the top. Here are five things the duo have found critical to success.

1. Asking for help

With AQUAhydrate, Wahlberg says he needed help navigating the new industry.

"I had no knowledge of the beverage business," Wahlberg tells CNBC. So one of the first people he called was billionaire Nelson Peltz whose hedge fund, Trian Fund Management, once held a large stake in Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. (Peltz's daughter played Wahlberg's character's daughter in the 2014 movie "Transformers: Age of Extinction.")

"I knew he was very involved with Dr. Pepper Snapple," says Wahlberg, "so he would introduce me to people, and introduce me to other people."

That is key to getting ahead, he says: "I'm never afraid to pick up the phone, and I'm never afraid to ask questions."

2. Have a purpose 

For Combs, remembering the motivation behind his pursuits has been important.

"My talent has been survival and hunger and just wanting to take care of my family and provide a sense of hope," Combs tells CNBC. "Showing people, especially from my community, and where [Wahlberg and I] both come from, which is an inner-city area, that you can make it. That you can do it as a business man, as a business woman."

Combs was born in Harlem, N.Y., where his mother was a school teacher who usually had to work second jobs, ABC News reports. Wahlberg was born in Dorchester, Mass. and grew up as the youngest of nine siblings living in a three-bedroom apartment.

Sean "Diddy" Combs
Mike Pont | Getty Images
Sean "Diddy" Combs

3. Differentiate yourself

"I started my business career at age 12, delivering newspapers," Combs writes for Forbes. "I had a lot of elderly customers, so I would always put the newspaper in between the screen door and the door — that caring made me different, made me better than the last paperboy.

Combs says he's always understood that if he gives fans or customers his best, "whether music, clothing or vodka, I'll get a return on my hard work."

4. Put in the hours

Wahlberg tells CNBC that his advice for his four kids is to dream big but know that "the only way to really achieve those goals is by putting in the work and being dedicated."

For example, when his kids tell him that he doesn't need to wake up at 4 a.m., he responds, "No, I do."

"I need to make all of my calls before you guys get up and make sure everything is going smoothly with all the business stuff," he says, adding that, usually, his wake-up time is more like 3 a.m.

5. Failure makes you stronger

"Some of my biggest success comes from some of my biggest failures," says Combs in a 2014 commencement address at Howard University, which he attended before dropping out.

For example, in the early 1990s, Combs says he was fired from an early job in music. "I was scared to death. I didn't have a degree, my girlfriend was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with my first baby, I bought a brand new house in Scarsdale [N.Y.] that I could not afford." But, he made a choice to continue.

Says Combs: "Either I was going to sit in that failure and give up, or I was going to make a decision to step out of the darkness."

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