‘Shark Tank’s’ Kevin O’Leary Says This is the Number 1 Lesson He Learned After Getting Fired

Kevin O’Leary of ABC’s Shark Tank is clearly a successful business man. Now an official reality star and sought-after investor, it’s hard to fathom that the self-named ‘Mr. Wonderful‘ was ever cut from an employee roster.

Yet he has previously shared the story of how he was fired from this job, and how the event changed the path of his life.

“Shark Tank’s” Kevin O’Leary | Michael Kovac/Getty Images

A ‘Wonderful’ success story

Coming from humble beginnings and battling dyslexia early in life, O’Leary chose to parlay his challenges into opportunities to build strength and smarts, which paid off in spades. According to Inc., O’Leary launched the company Softkey Software Products from his basement in 1983 and sold it in 1999 to Mattel Toy Company for $3.7 billion.

He also spearheaded several other successful businesses including O’Leary Funds, O’Leary Fine Wines and the O’Leary Financial Group. With a portfolio filled with profitable deals from Shark Tank, the millionaire investor created the “Something Wonderful” platform that hosts several of his investments from the show, helping his net worth to reach $400 million, as noted by Investopedia.

Ixnay on the gum scraping

O’Leary started working at a young age, getting hired for his first job at a mall ice cream store as a teenager. “I was very excited about it, it was my first job,” O’Leary told CNBC in 2017 of the ice cream scooping gig. 

Yet the future business icon had an ulterior motive for wanting to work at Magoo’s Ice Cream Parlour. “The girl I was interested in worked at the shoe store right across the mall,” O’Leary admitted, saying he hoped that working close to his crush would provide opportunities to get to know each other.

Despite the romantic motivation, O’Leary had second thoughts when his boss asked him to complete a certain task. “What happens when you’re sampling ice cream — you’re chewing gum, you take it out, you throw it on the floor,” he explained. The Shark Tank star went on to recall the unwanted request from the ice cream store’s owner. “’Thank you for your work today,'” O’Leary remembered his boss saying. “‘Before you leave, get down on your knees and scrape all the gum off the tile so it’s clean for tomorrow.’”

O’Leary revealed that he “could see the girl I liked right across the mall. I saw her looking at me, and I thought if she sees me on my knees scraping gum, I’m screwed,” he said, making a bold move to reject his boss’s directive.

“I was hired as a scooper not a scraper,” O’Leary recalled telling the boss. Her response? She fired him effective immediately. “I went home, and explained what happened to my mother,” he shared. “She said, ‘That was a bad mistake.’”

A ‘motivating moment’

O’Leary said his mom gave him some sage words of wisdom which he took to heart. “’There’s two types of people in the world: those that own the store and those that scrape the s— off the floor, and you have to decide which one you are.’” he said his mother advised.

The event changed the course of O’Leary’s life. “I made up my mind that day, I want to be the owner, not the scraper. And I’ve never worked for anybody ever since,” he said. “That was my motivating moment.”

Now, Mr. Wonderful is grateful to the person who gave him the ax. “I wish I could find that [boss], she changed my life forever,” O’Leary said. “I can afford to go find that mall and bulldoze it today because of her. Thank you very much.”

As a self-made millionaire, O’Leary apparently did alright for himself despite being derailed from the dairy-dessert-scooper career path.

Watch ABC’s Shark Tank on Sunday nights!