'Shark Tank' investor Daymond John explains why making his first million was a disappointment

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Before he founded the popular clothing company FUBU and became an investor on ABC's "Shark Tank," Daymond John believed that being successful meant having a million dollars in the bank.

John recently visited Business Insider to talk about his latest project, Gillette Shave Club, and shared the insight that came with making his first million.

John grew up in Hollis, Queens, and his father was a computer programmer "back when that wasn't popular, and computers were the size of the room," he told Business Insider.

But at 10, his parents divorced.

"We went from middle class to poor," he says. "I became the man of the house and started working at that age."

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'Shark Tank' investor Daymond John explains why making his first million was a disappointment
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 10: Daymond John of 'Shark Tank' speaks onstage during the ABC portion of the 2013 Winter TCA Tour at Langham Hotel on January 10, 2013 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 10: (L-R) Hosts Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner, Daymond John, Kevin O'Leary and Executive Producer Clay Newbill of 'Shark Tank' speak onstage during the ABC portion of the 2013 Winter TCA Tour at Langham Hotel on January 10, 2013 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 10: (L-R) Hosts Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner and Daymond John of 'Shark Tank' speak onstage during the ABC portion of the 2013 Winter TCA Tour at Langham Hotel on January 10, 2013 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 23: Businessmen/'Shark Tank' cast members Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, and Kevin O'Leary speak onstage at the 2014 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 23, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - JANUARY 20: Daymond John attends NATPE Reality: Case Study: SHARK TANK at NATPE 2015 at Fontainebleau Miami Beach on January 20, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Aaron Davidson/Getty Images)
Daymond John, second right, of Shark Tank and FUBU, joins Bill and Tani Austin, founders of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, as they fit Jayden Orlang, 10, of New York, with free hearing aids at the Foundation's hearing mission, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, at Yankee Stadium in New York.(Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Starkey Hearing Foundation/AP Images)
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Growing up in the same neighborhood where Russell Simmons, LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, A Tribe Called Quest, and Run-D.M.C. lived before rising to fame, John had role models who had come from a similar background and became rich and famous. But his definition of success was different.

"I never wanted to be a celebrity," he says. "I wanted to be someone who was notable, who could go into a room, and the important people would know them, but not everybody would. Because those artists had no privacy in their lives. I figured that success was to have a million dollars in the bank and be that individual."

Eventually, he became a millionaire thanks to FUBU. He started the company with a $100,000 investment from his mother, who mortgaged her house to support his new business. Six years later, the company was bringing in $350 million in revenue.

John quickly realized that his dreams hadn't been big enough.

"When I made my first million, I realized how poor I really was," he says. "It takes about a million to get you out of debt."

The number he'd equated with wealth turned out to be just a stepping stone along the way.

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