From the very beginning, Mark Cuban has been hustling. Born in a working-class family in Pittsburgh (his father upholstered cars), Cuban did his first bit of real business at age 16, when, during a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette strike, he made money by running newspapers from Cleveland to Pittsburgh. A year later he skipped his senior year of high school to enroll at the University of Pittsburgh, where he paid his tuition by tending bar, promoting parties and teaching disco dancing. He then transferred to Indiana University before even visiting the campus because it had the cheapest tuition of any business school that cracked the top 10.

After college, Cuban moved to Dallas and, after tending more bar and selling computer software, he started webcasting Indiana Hoosier basketball games using a single server and an ISDN line. He’d eventually sell this business, Broadcast.com, to Yahoo! for a cool $5.7 billion in Yahoo! stock, which allowed him to buy the Dallas Mavericks in 2000 (for a mere $285 million).

Since then, Cuban has become one of the most outspoken sports owners in the world, influencing the way the rest of professional sports pampers its players and connects with its fans. He’s also branched out; he purchased Landmark Theatres and film distributor Magnolia Pictures, he’s the chairman of the cable network AXS TV, and he’s a “shark” investor on the TV series Shark Tank.

Obviously we can learn a ton from a man who has worked so hard, achieved so much—and also clearly had so much fun. So when we were offered a chance to chat with Cuban while he was doing some interviews to promote a new season of Shark Tank (which premieres tonight on ABC), we jumped at the chance. More importantly, we were ecstatic to discover he held nothing back. Here’s what Cuban said about the presidential election, his X-rated in-flight hobby, some good advice from his father and how he got so damn successful.

“If Trump gets elected, his inattention to our treaties and his lack of understanding of our responsibility to our allies could open the door for someone like Putin to start a land grab that can lead to a war.”

First off, let’s talk politics. You’ve been pretty vocal about how you feel about Donald Trump.
I’ve been apolitical my entire life. It’s just gotten to be so bat-shit crazy this year. I have three young kids and I really think if Trump gets elected that his inattention to our treaties and his lack of understanding of our responsibility to our allies could open the door for someone like Putin to start a land grab that can lead to a war. Not that Trump would start the war, but I think his inattention and his lack of awareness and understanding could lead to other people being very aggressive. I couldn’t face my kids if he had gotten elected and I hadn’t tried to speak out about it.

Shark Tank has been a huge hit for you. What can we expect this season?
Much bigger deals. Much more intense deals. Entrepreneurs who have a lot more angles because they already know our shtick, so they’re more prepared to deal with us.

You have so much else going on. Why do you like doing this show and how long do you plan to stick with it?
I think my deal is three more years. As long as it keeps on sending a positive message, then I’ll keep doing it. It’s a lot of work—the filming is easy but the hard part is dealing with all the companies after.

But the reason I do it is it sends the message that the American dream is alive and well, especially now with this presidential race and the message from a certain candidate is, “This country sucks! Everything is horrible! Businesses can’t survive!”

We send a message that anybody can start a business living anywhere, any age from eight to 88, and it can be successful. That’s what makes this country different. That’s what makes us great.

How many companies have you invested in so far on the show? How are they doing?
Seventy-one, and out of that, only five haven’t done well and need to do better.

“Usually on the plane I’m doing work or watching porn. Then I read or put on headphones and fall asleep.”

What do the failures have in common?
They’re not willing to work. They’re dependent on what I call the Viagra impact of media and PR. You get that little bump that lasts for 20 minutes, then you look for it again. So they don’t want to do the work. The businesses that suffer the most have been the ones that got this big bump on Shark Tank. Then they say, “If only we could just go on more TV shows.” I’m like “No, you’ve got to do the work and get it going.”

Sweat equity is the best way to start a business. They think it’s all about raising money. It’s not. I’ll take brains over cash any day. There are tons of bad ideas and tons of bad businesses. It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. You’ve only got to be right one time. The one thing you can control as an entrepreneur is your effort. You’ve got to go out there and sell. You have to understand your customer, understand their needs and try to fill those needs. You could be an eight-year-old with a lemonade stand. It’s the same.

Is there a deal you wish you didn’t pass on?
Once a deal is gone, it’s like talking about old girlfriends or boyfriends. There’s just no point. We’re so busy with our own deals, I don’t think any of us pay attention to other people’s deals. No buyer’s remorse.

What is the secret to your success?
I bust my ass and I try to be prepared. I’ll read three hours, four hours trying to keep up, trying to stay ahead. And then I try to combine that with my experience and out-grind all the 21-year-olds who are trying to kick my ass.

Do you remember a time when you were really broke?
Yeah. It’s not hard to remember at all. I’ve got a lot more stuff, but it hasn’t translated into fancy clothes or anything. I still have my same friends. It’s not hard to go back to that at all.

Now that you can afford anything, what’s your favorite perk?
A plane. I save so much time. My dad always said, “Time is the one asset you don’t own and you can’t get back.” So just saving time is the most amazing benefit ever.

How do you relax on a plane?
Usually I’m doing work or watching porn. Then I read or put on headphones and fall asleep.

You spend a lot of time traveling. What’s your most memorable trip?
Let me put it this way: After I sold my first company, I was about 29 or so and I bought a lifetime pass on American Airlines and I just partied like a rock star in every way, shape and form.

What’s on your to-do list?
I just want my kids to grow up healthy and happy and not be entitled jerks. They’re my legacy. That’s more important than anything I’ve ever done or will do. So if my wife and I can do a good job of being parents, then that’s my bucket list.

What does it mean to be a gentleman in 2016?
Nice pays. Nice will make you more money than 98 percent of the other things that you’ll do in business. I think there’s a lot of value to just being nice.

Photo: Scott Evans/ABC