My Favorite Mistake: Barbara Corcoran

Article excerpt

Real-estate mogul Barbara Corcoran on ticking off the 'nun from hell.'

The best mistake I ever made was believing that I was stupid. It was a childhood thing, but it played out big-time as an adult. It scorned me the rest of my life--in a good way.

I hadn't learned to read by third grade, which wasn't unusual for some kids. I knew something was wrong because I couldn't see or understand the words the way the other kids did. I wasn't the least bit bothered--until I was sent back to the second-grade classroom for reading help after school. I was petrified when I walked in because Sister Stella Marie was standing there waiting for me. Sister Stella Marie, you have to appreciate from a little kid's perspective, was the nun from hell. Every kid in the school was terrified of her, and I was no exception. Ten minutes into the lesson, I was sitting there thinking about how I was going to catch more guppies, these tiny little fish in the Hudson River, if I tied a long string to the neck of a milk bottle and pulled it up really slowly to scoop up the fish. I was thinking about that very strongly, when Sister, as we called them all, pulled me right up out of my chair. She was inches from my face, and she said, "If you don't learn to pay attention, you will always be stupid." I can still feel the heat of that.

She labeled what was wrong with me, right then and there. …