America's Got Talent judge Simon Cowell may be notorious for providing unforgiving advice to wannabe superstars on his TV talent show.
But the music mogul-turned-multimillionaire said he wouldn't be where he is today if it wasn't for some early guidance he received from his own father.
Speaking at an event in London this week, the British entrepreneur recalled being 12 years old when his dad offered him the advice.
"He said: Everyone has a sign on their head and it says 'make me feel important,'" the now-63-year-old recalled at Advertising Week Europe.
At first, Cowell said, he was confused. But then understood what his dad meant.
"At the time, I was like, 'what are you talking about?' And then I got it. If you're involved in something, every single person has a role in part of that. And that stuck in my head," he said.
Cowell, who by his own admission is "talentless," said that lesson went on to shape what would become his wildly successful career.
At age 16, he started working in the mail room of music publishing company EMI Music, where he said he took an interest in everyone else's work, and learned more about the industry.
"I was very curious, so I just drove everyone nuts. I used to go into everyone's offices and ask them millions of questions, and eventually I realized you don't actually have to be qualified to sign artists," he said.
Then, years later, having established himself as a major music manager with acts like Westlife and Five, Cowell said he was inspired to open up his search for talent to members of the public.
That spawned his debut TV talent show, Pop Idol, in the U.K., which went on to become a multinational franchise and ultimately led to variations including The X Factor and America's Got Talent.
"The truth is, to do this job, genuinely ... you just learn, you watch, you listen," he said.
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