My mother would have made a great drill sergeant. She had amazing organizational systems. She had two sock drawers in the kitchen. The upper drawer had a blue label that said “Boys,” and the bottom drawer was a pink label that said “Girls.” Inside the boys’ drawer were navy socks, all one size. The girls’ socks were all white, all one size.
My mother was also great at figuring out the best qualities of her kids and only focusing on those. She never criticized us. All she did was compliment us on what we did well. It taught us to have a positive attitude about ourselves, and it also taught us to look at the light in people.
And your father?
My father worked two jobs his whole life, mostly as a printing-press foreman. On weekends, he played with us, and he was the best playmate. He taught us the joy of being in the moment and being silly.
He was a hard worker, but we also learned insubordination from my father. He hated every boss he ever worked for except one. He constantly got fired. But he was our hero. Out of my nine siblings, only one works for somebody. Everyone else has their own business.
A lot of C.E.O.s I’ve interviewed come from large families.
Growing up in a large family is like growing up in a town. Everybody takes on a role. You learn to deal with different personalities. Everybody’s got to mesh, so you get training early on for getting along with people. It’s a great advantage.
The other thing about a large family is that you learn to get over yourself. My mother never helped us. It was like: “Get over yourself. Get back on the dishes.”
You also learn independence in a large family. You’re pretty much taking care of yourself, so you grow up fast.
What were you doing outside of class?
I had my first job when I was 11. I had 22 jobs before I started a real estate brokerage business when I was 23.
When you went to college, did you have an idea what you wanted to do for a living or for a…