This is me literally airing my dirty laundry at 16 in the backyard of my rent-stabilized, shoebox apartment in Queens. Tighty whities swaying on the clothesline out back, government cheese in the fridge, sleeping on a mattress on the floor. That’s how I grew up. I’ll never forget it, and I’ll never be ashamed of it.

As CEOs and leaders, it’s important to foster a culture where there is no shame in enduring hardships, past or present – and it starts at the top. I believe sharing vulnerabilities signals a willingness to also recognize failure. That means employees will be quicker to acknowledge mistakes rather than internalize or conceal. And the sooner we acknowledge we’re heading in the wrong direction, the more time we have to course correct. 

Yet our Instagram-driven society feeds this impulse to airbrush out the messy parts of our lives and create a perfect Hollywood ending. Tidy up the story for mass consumption. Perfect narrative arc of triumph and redemption.  But doing so gives others the false impression that they either can’t transcend their dire circumstances, or they’re inadequate for having not done so already.

We are all a work in progress. It takes a long time to achieve escape velocity from our material circumstances and our mental anguish. My meandering road to Shark Tank wound through Queens College – seven years of ups and downs working two jobs, with lots of self-inflicted wounds. 

Point is, the only way others can draw inspiration from your trials is to paint a full technicolor picture of your journey – and to occasionally air out some of your dirty laundry along the way for all to see. You’ll be thanked by the ones who now walk in your old shoes and are nourished by hope that better days lie just around the bend.


  • Matt Higgins

    Cofounder and CEO

    RSE Ventures

    Matt Higgins is a noted serial entrepreneur and growth equity investor as cofounder and CEO of private investment firm RSE Ventures. He is also vice chairman of the Miami Dolphins, a recurring Shark on ABC’s four-time Emmy-Award-winning TV show Shark Tank, and Executive Fellow at the Harvard Business School. Higgins began his career in public service as a journalist before becoming the youngest mayoral press secretary in New York City at 26, where he managed the global media response to the September 11th terrorist attacks. He became one of the first employees – and ultimately Chief Operating Officer – of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the federally funded government agency created to plan the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. Higgins helped organize the largest international design competition in history culminating in Reflecting Absence, the September 11th National Memorial, and the development of the 1,776-feet-tall One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the northern hemisphere. Higgins cofounded New York City based RSE Ventures in 2012, amassing a multi-billion-dollar investment portfolio of leading brands across sports and entertainment, media and marketing, consumer and technology industries – including several of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies. RSE has successfully backed many challenger brands from inception, including RESY, an Open Table competitor that American Express acquired in 2019; the world's premier drone racing circuit, the Drone Racing League; and the International Champions Cup, the largest privately owned soccer tournament featuring Europe’s top clubs. Higgins is also co-owner of VaynerMedia, founded by digital marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk, and a partner in early-stage venture fund Vayner/RSE. In 2013, Higgins cofounded Derris, a brand strategy and communications firm that has helped grow many leading brands such as Warby Parker and Glossier. In 2016, he broadened RSE’s investment focus to rapidly expanding fine dining and fast casual concepts, including David Chang’s Momofuku and Fuku, Milk Bar, &pizza and Bluestone Lane. Higgins received his BA in political science from Queens College and his JD from Fordham Law, where he was a member of the Fordham Law Review. He was named a Top 40 Under 40 executive by Crain’s New York and by Sports Business Journal. In 2019, Higgins received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor – joining the ranks of seven former U.S. presidents, Nobel Prize winners and others who have made it their mission to share their knowledge, compassion and generosity with those less fortunate. He is a longstanding board member of Autism Speaks.