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12 Mark Cuban mantras for success

The innovative investor and entrepreneur deals out advice for anyone looking to follow in his footsteps.
A successful man standing with his arms crossed in front of a vibrant blue background.

Credit: ABC / Maarten de Boer

Key Takeaways
  • No one gets to the top on their own.
  • The key in business and success at any endeavor is doing your best to control your destiny.
  • You can fail any number of times, but you only have to get it right once.
Excerpted from How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It: 10th Anniversary Edition by Mark Cuban, available now wherever books are sold. Copyright © 2023 Mark Cuban. Printed with permission of the publisher, Diversion Books. All rights reserved.

These are some of the things I use to guide myself in different situations. Maybe they apply to your situation, maybe they don’t. That’s up to you to decide. 

1. Time is more valuable than money 

You have to learn how to use time wisely and be productive. How wisely you use your time will have far more impact on your life and success than any amount of money. 

2. Commit random acts of kindness 

Being successful entails being able to not only get along with people, but also to give something back. No one gets to the top on their own, and I believe we all should be able to make those around us smile.

3. No balls, no babies 

This is something a blackjack dealer once told me when I asked him if I should hit or stick. It is also my favorite line and probably the thing I tell myself the most. Once you are prepared and you think you have every angle of preparation covered, you have to go for it. No balls, no babies. 

4. Work hard, play hard 

I went seven years without a vacation, but I sure managed to have fun. You have to find ways to blow off steam so you don’t blow a gasket. 

5. Don’t let fear be a roadblock 

You can use fear as a roadblock or as motivation. There is always going to be someone who is competing with you, and sometimes they are going to win. Rather than not doing something for fear of losing, take on the challenge. If you fail, get back up and go for it again. I have been fired from more jobs than most people have had! In the search for success, you can fail any number of times, but you only have to get it right one time. 

6. Expect the unexpected, and always be ready 

You don’t wake up in the morning with someone telling you that everyone is going to be selling lemonade so whoever sells the most wins. It’s the exact opposite. Life is unpredictable. 

You never know when a window of opportunity will open or close. You have to realize this and always know that the game is on. Whatever you are striving to achieve isn’t waiting in one static place for you to find it. It’s the opposite. Everyone has inside of them what it takes to be successful. You just have to be ready to unleash it when the opportunity presents itself. 

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7. It’s okay to yell and be yelled at 

One of the rules I have is that I don’t mind if people raise their voice or even yell a little bit. At MicroSolutions, my partner Martin and I would have some knock-down drag-outs. They were always short bursts. They didn’t happen a lot. When they did, I knew and he knew that this was an issue we were both passionate about. 

As my businesses grew, it happened less often because people deferred to me more often. I hated that. If someone believed strongly enough in something and I was being passionate about something, I wanted them to match my level of passion. 

So I told people that if they thought it was the only way to get through to me, go for it! This may not work for you in corporate America, but anyone in a family business or in a private business of any size with a partner or two knows exactly what I am talking about! 

8. Everyone gets down; the key is how soon you get back up 

I can’t count how many times I have gotten up in the morning dreading the day. I wasn’t motivated. I was tired. I just wanted to crawl back in bed. Other times, I had lost a deal, we had lost a game, something wasn’t working. I just wanted to crawl under a rock and disappear. EVERYONE goes through those moments. The key is how you fight through them. The people who will be truly successful are those that fight through the quickest and come back stronger and smarter. 

9. It’s not whether the glass is half empty or half full, it’s who is pouring the water 

This is one of my favorites. The key in business and success at any endeavor is doing your best to control your destiny. You can’t always do it, but you have to take every opportunity you can to be as prepared as—and ahead of—the competition as you possibly can be. Take the lead, and you can control your own destiny. 

10. It’s not in the dreaming, it’s in the doing 

Everyone has it in them to be successful. EVERYONE. Most people only dream about what they do if they were successful, or how they might get there. Anyone can dream. Anyone and everyone has ideas about how they might be successful. It doesn’t matter if your definition of success is being a great parent, being an athlete, a business person, whatever. 

When I catch myself daydreaming about how I’m going to do this or that, I always try to wake up and ask myself just how I’m going to get from where I am to where I want to be. What EXACTLY is it going to take to DO it, rather than dream about it. 

11. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered 

This is one I got from my partner Todd Wagner. He is right on. Sometimes you have to go for the jugular, but more often than not, the biggest mistake people make is getting too greedy. 

Every good deal has a win-win solution. There is nothing I hate more than someone who tries to squeeze every last penny out of the deal. Who often raises the aggravation level to the point where it’s not worth doing the deal. Which also raises the dislike level to the point where even if a deal gets done, you look for ways to never do business with that person or company again. 

Business happens over years and years. Value is measured in the total upside of a business relationship, not by how much you squeezed out in any one deal. 

12. You only have to be right once 

As I’ve said, I have been fired from more jobs than most people have had. Some jobs I have had were so bad, the only way I could justify them to myself was that I was getting paid to learn (as opposed to paying to go to school). 

I have started a stupid business that was doomed to fail (selling powdered milk). I have dated more girls than I wanted to. The beauty of success, whether it’s finding the girl of your dreams, the right job or financial success, is that it doesn’t matter how many times you have failed, you only have to be right once. 

No one keeps score. There are so many ways that each of us can find happiness and success in our endeavors, that it never really matters how many times you fail. You only have to be right once. 

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