You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over, and it’s because you fall over that you learn to save yourself from falling over.” ― Richard Branson, Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur
This is part 1 of the 2-part series on life and business tips from Richard Branson.
One of the most inspiring and exceptional entrepreneurs of recent times is the dashing and adventurous Richard Branson.
I have always been awed and astonished by his insight, humor and sheer zest for life.
He is always enjoying life and living every moment to the maximum. If he is not dressed up as an air hostess and serving drinks to customers for a bet he has lost with a friend, he is relaxing at his private paradise, Necker Island.
He is known to avoid long boardroom meetings, sends his own tweets and attempts to break world records in hot air balloons.
So what nuggets of wisdom can we learn from this exceptional person?
Here are 10 life and business nuggets from the life of Richard Branson:
“The best lesson I learned was to just do it.”- Richard Branson
1. Yes, You Can Do It!
“Life is a helluva lot more fun if you say yes rather than no.” – Richard Branson [Tweet this!]
The staff at Virgin have a name for Branson and it is “Dr. Yes.” Branson explains that the reason they call him that is because he is not willing to take no for an answer and will not say no. He finds all the reasons to do something rather than not do them.
In the book, Screw it, Let’s do it, Branson says that the little word “cannot” or “can’t” should not be something that stops you from doing what you really would love to do in your life. His strategy and motto in life are truly “screw it, let’s do it!”
“If you don’t have the right experience to reach your goal, look for another way in. Keep your eyes open. Look and learn. You don’t have to go to art school to be a fashion designer. Join a fashion company and push a broom. Work your way up.”
This is a wonderful lesson from Branson because the level of enthusiasm, engagement and attention that you bring to a project or learning a new skill is the factor that matters the most.
The idea that we do not know enough or do not have the right skills stops many of us in our tracks. [Tweet this!]
If we decide to push on and create pathways, we have a much better chance at being successful.
“I think because I have great difficulty saying the word, ‘no,’ almost every day’s a different adventure.”-Branson [Tweet this!]
Are you allowing your day to be a daring adventure or are you saying no to everything?
Are you saying no more than you are saying yes to things.
Are you allowing the word “cannot” to stop you?
2. Life is One Long Learning Process
“I just Love learning. I am incredibly inquisitive. I love taking on the status quo and trying to turn it upside down. I have seen life is one long learning process.”-Richard Branson, TED talk: Life at 30,000 feet
I think that one of the main things that distinguish successful and unsuccessful people is the willingness to learn new things, realign and change to a new world.
The quality of being curious and inquisitive is something that we all excelled at when we were children but as we grew up, we became more reserved. You may think that asking questions makes you look like you do not know what you are talking about.
I have realized that there are always new perspectives to learn and new ideas to master. [Tweet this!]
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki
It is difficult to take the status quo and turn it upside down if we do not allow ourselves to learn and try out new things repeatedly.
Learn something new everyday.
Be very inquisitive and ask questions about things you do not understand.
3. Make Your Life a Fun and Creative Adventure
“There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions – in a way that serves the world and you.”-Richard Branson
Branson tells a story when he was going to go around the world in a hot air balloon in 1997. The trip was considered very risky and he was not sure if he would return from his adventure.
He wrote a letter to his children, Sam and Holly that said: “Live life to the full. Enjoy every minute of it. Love and look after your mum.” He says that these words sum up his life philosophy and what he believes in: not wasting any time, having a lot of fun and loving your family and says that making money is not on the list.
I agree completely with Branson’s philosophy. When you are enjoying life’s adventures and taking in every moment of the journey and moving forward with passion and love, you become unstoppable.
As Branson suggests, when you use your unique skills and passions and combine it with service or giving great value to others and fulfill your dreams and desires, you are living a great life.
Are you having fun in your life?
Combine your unique skills and passions in a way that serves the world and fulfills your dreams. [Tweet this!]
4. Work as Play: Make Your Work and Workplace Fun and Exciting!
“We have a lot of fun and I think the people who work for it enjoy it. We go in and shake up a lot of industries. We do it differently and industries are not quite the same as a result of Virgin.” Richard Branson on his Virgin group of companies
I think that one of the reasons that Branson has so much influence is because he is an immensely positive role model for others. Branson is always pushing the status quo on the idea of fun and excitement and the concept of making work fun as play.
This is a very revolutionary idea coming from the top down in his organization because the usual corporate model is to work hard and achieve stuff and score a bonus or a pat in the back.
Branson’s idea of seeking fun and happiness at work first is a reversal of that approach. Positive psychology research has also shown that seeking happiness comes first and then success and achievement follow as a result of those powerful states. Branson and his group of companies live that philosophy of fun first and success will follow.
Many us keep going to work from 9 to 5 dreading the job where we spend so much of our time.
I agree that when something stops being fun, exciting and an adventure, it is time to move on. This does not mean that we quit our day jobs but what this means is that we slowly introduce what we are excited about so that we have some options in our life.
Instead of feeling disempowered, it is much better to identify and begin part-time work on what makes your eyes light up with wonder and joy. [Tweet this!]
An inspiring story about making work fun comes from Branson’s part vacation and part fun trip to Jamaica in 1977. Between going to the beach and listening to great reggae bands, he chanced upon a new form of music made by the local DJ’s and was called “toasters.” This form of music had the feel of early rap music and Branson signed on almost twenty reggae artists and some toasters.
Since Jamaican musicians did not take checks, he had to sign them up with a case full of cash and went on to sell many records with them. This is a great example of Branson’s motto of having a lot of fun and the money will follow.
“Throwing yourself into a job you enjoy is one of the life’s greatest pleasures!” ― Richard Branson, Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur [Tweet this!]
Make your work and workplace fun and exciting.
Is your work fun and exciting? If it is not, find ways to infuse fun and excitement into your daily routine. [Tweet this!]
Do not be afraid to be creative and attempt to do things differently and push the status quo.
5. Opportunities Are Everywhere
“Have Fun, Work hard and money will come. Don’t waste time-grab your chances. Have a positive outlook on life. When it’s not fun, Move on.” -Richard Branson, Screw it, Let’s Do it.’
Being on the lookout for great opportunities and having a positive expectation is a very powerful mindset to approach a business from.
While on a holiday with his girlfriend Joan to the Virgin Islands, they fell in love with the isolated and beautiful Necker Island, which Branson could not afford to buy. His first offer for the island was outright rejected and they spent their holiday on another island.
Their flight got cancelled on the way to Puerto Rico and Branson saw that people were looking lost and were aimlessly wandering around in the airport.
According to Branson:
“No one was doing anything. So I did-someone had to. I chartered a plane for $2000. I divided that by the number of people. It came to $39 a head. I borrowed a blackboard and wrote on it: Virgin Airways. $39 single flight to Puerto Rico.”
This was the birth of the idea for an international airlines-Virgin Airways, and right in the middle of a holiday. Branson saw an opportunity and took a chance and leaped on it. He did something that others in the airport did not think of or did not implement.
Having the courage to take action on an opportunity and to create a novel one distinguish the very successful from the not so successful. It is all about the implementation of the thought or the idea that you have.
Look for opportunities and when you find them, take a small step or a small leap forward. [Tweet this!]
Remember that great opportunities are everywhere and when you have a great idea, you need to implement it if it can ever see the light of day.
6. Engage Your Creative Talents
“A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” -Richard Branson [Tweet this!]
I think that this is great advise because many of us work in jobs that do not engage our creative talents and we do not speak up even if we have a great idea for the fear of being put down or be laughed at.
I think that there is no silly question and that there is no bad idea. There are out of place ideas and out of context ideas but even those may be of use someday. Every idea should at least be given the time for it to blossom into something. Even seemingly unrelated ideas might give you an insight towards your main idea.
Branson in a recent Entrepreneur magazine article:
“If you are trying to grow a diverse, creative team, you don’t need to bring your employees to the Caribbean to keep them learning. Invite guest speakers to your office. Go to events focusing on topics that are not strictly related to your industry and bring some of your employees along. Watch a few of the many incredible TED talks online. Remember, one of the best ways to learn is by taking your team members out of their comfort zone and embracing new ideas — and you’ll see results. Focusing on a topic out of the norm can bring renewed vigor to everyday activities.”
This is great advise because if you peel away the mystery that highly creative people seem to inherently possess, you will find a process and a willingness to step out of the comfort zone.
Finding new things and looking for new ideas that Branson describes is very similar to the process that the great dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp discusses in her book, The Creative Habit.
Tharp calls it “scratching” and it involves getting inspired by an eclectic variety of things and getting a toehold or a small idea somewhere in the creative process.
For example, according to Tharp, a fashion designer is scratching when he or she is visiting vintage stores, watches videos and sits in a cafe to observe what people are wearing.
This view is also similar to the one described by the famous designer Isaac Mizrahi who in his TED talk explained a process very similar to scratching. He gets inspiration by watching movies and observing people and stores among others.
There is little doubt that we are all very highly creative individuals who might have forgotten our innate creative talents. [Tweet this!]
Make sure that you and your team are stretching beyond the comfort zone and finding new experiences and generating new ideas.
Do something new and embrace novel ideas that get generated by the mash up or the collision of old and new ideas. [Tweet this!]
Now over to you. Please let me know in the comments below if this post resonated with you! I would love to hear from you!
Photo Credit: Gulltaggen via Flickr CC
Ana Proocpe says
Thank you for this post, is very inspiring.
Harish Kumar says
Thanks a lot for your comment, Ana!
I am very glad that you liked the post.
Have a great week and stay inspired!
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