When I first came to Dallas, I had a hole in the floorboard of my ’77 Fiat X1/9. I’d drive around and look at the big houses for motivation, trying to get fired up, knowing that if I worked hard enough, I could get there. My self-motivation is (a) fear of failure and (b) desire to win.
No matter what business you’re in, you’re always at risk—particularly in technology, where it changes so rapidly you’ve got to put in the effort to keep up. There’s always the opportunity for some 18-year-old to come out of nowhere and crush you—that motivates the hell out of me. Every one of my companies, whether something I started or something I invested in, is a scoreboard. How am I doing? A lot of investors or advisers play it as a numbers game. If they invest in 20 companies, as long as one success covers 19 losses, they did OK. I look at every loss as a huge failure. I had an investment go bad recently. I lost $1.5 million on it. It pisses me off to no end. But you can also use it as motivation. What did I do wrong? Who did I trust that I shouldn’t trust? What can I learn from this situation so I can avoid it next time?
Another motivation is what you might call the concept of always. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re always trying to win. You’re always trying to improve. You’re always trying to compete for customers. You’re always trying to stay ahead. You’re always cognizant of people trying to kick your ass. You’re always trying to kick your own ass before someone else does. It’s really no different from a sport.
• Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and chairman of AXS TV. As told to Felix Gillette