Complied from an interview with Gail Lynne Goodwin at Richard’s home on Necker Island.
(Being shared with you today in honor of Richard’s 65th birthday. Happy Birthday Richard!)
1) The Most Important Thing in Life is Family
Our relationship with our family is the most important thing in life. As part of a close-knit family, raised in the countryside of England, Richard was strongly influenced by his parents, who still remain an integral part of his life today.
2) Live Life As An Adventure and Have FUN!
Life is meant to be lived as an adventure and, equally as important, we’re meant to have FUN! No one epitomizes this more than Sir Richard Branson. While he may not be the best businessman or the wealthiest person in the world, he certainly would rank on the short list of those having the most fun.
Perhaps best known for his record-breaking adventures, Richard, who was raised without television, has always had to be out there doing things rather than watching them. He’s been rescued from the sea by helicopter six times (so far) and loves testing himself through “the great adventure of life” to see what he and others are capable of.
3) Always Look For the Best in People
“If I ever said a negative word about anybody I was sent to look in the mirror for 10 minutes. That soon stopped me from saying negative things about people. As a leader I think it’s critical that you’re always looking for the best in people. Don’t say anything bad behind someone’s back and you certainly don’t say anything bad to anyone (directly) – they know when they need to pull their socks up a bit.”
4) Follow Your Heart
As a middle-class British kid with dyslexia who nearly flunked out of one school and was expelled from another, he left school at 16 years of age, with the goal of building a national magazine to protest the Vietnam War. As Richard says, he was just following his heart and “doing what young people do”.
“Interestingly, it sounds strange, but I’ve never been interested in business. I’ve just been interested in creating things that I could be proud of. The bi-product of creating things is that you have to pay the bills, so somebody has to add up the numbers at the end of the year to be sure that the bills are being paid, but a good entrepreneur isn’t really thinking about pounds, shillings, pence or dollars. They’re trying to create this beautiful picture – something which people love – something which will make a difference in their lives and something that they can be proud of. The end result can be that the bills get paid and you build a billion dollar business. But if you think, ‘How am I going to make a billion dollars?’, you’ll never be successful. Your principal interest has got to be creating something that will really make a difference to people’s lives.”
5) Don’t Forget the Humor
Humor is an important part of success and makes life much more enjoyable.
When he discovered that passengers were stealing the salt and pepper shakers from the Virgin flights, he turned this into a marketing tool by adding “”Pinched from Virgin Atlantic”” to the bottom of the salt and pepper shakers. Now these “pinched” shakers are conversational marketing tools scattered through homes around the world.
6) Saying “YES” is a Lot More Fun Than Saying “NO”
Richard Branson remains a corporate iconoclast, yet he continues to defy conventional wisdom, pushing the envelope, thinking outside the box, saying exactly what he thinks and doing exactly what he wants to do. He’ll say “Yes” to almost anything, once. He lives by his “Screw it, let’s do it!” attitude every day.
As Richard says, “Saying ‘YES’ in life is a lot more fun than saying no. Just say “Yes” and then be the best at what you do.
7) Failure is Nothing More Than Another Way to Learn
“There’s no way that you can create a lot of successful businesses and not have failures on the way. If you’re afraid of failure, you’re not going to create anything.”
“I think anyone can do what they want to do if they try to do it and if they give it their best shot. They won’t necessarily succeed and they may well fall flat on their face but they’ll have a lot of fun trying. Just be the best at what they can do and not worry about failure. I’ve actually learned more from people who’ve tried and failed than necessarily from people who’ve tried and been successful. We can learn a lot from people who have tried and failed, because you can also learn the mistakes they made and how to avoid them.”
“If you’ve failed, just pick yourself up and start again the next day and learn from the experience. Be bold and be brave.”
8) Go Make a Difference in the World
Richard is no different than many successful people I’ve met who attribute their success to having a desire to make a difference in the world. Whether in business, personal or philanthropic challenges, he has a way of looking at a particular situation and seeing how it can be done differently. “We can use our entrepreneurial skills to look at the seemingly intractable problems in the world and then see whether we can make a difference.”
9) Dream Big!
For a man who has built eight different billion-dollar companies, Richard Branson knows how to think BIG. From a magazine to a record label, to an airline to a telecom giant, traveling around the world in a hot air balloon, and soon blasting off into space and probing the never-explored depths of our planet, Richard Branson doesn’t live a boring life. He takes action on his ideas and brings his dreams to life and most importantly believes that we all have the ability to act on our dreams.
“A critical thing is not to waste a minute of life. Throw yourself whole-heartedly into it. I think that if you can positively have made a difference to other people’s lives when you actually end up on your deathbed, you can most likely be at peace with yourself. Don’t waste a minute and try to make a positive difference in as many other people’s lives as possible.”
10) Be Humble and Stay Grounded
“In the end of the day if anyone gets too big for their shoes I think it’s good to just picture them sitting on the loo and you realize they’re just the same as all of us. That can bring people down to earth with a bump.”