In order to grow my understanding for business, I recently started reading a number of autobiographies of great entrepreneurs in order to study their lives and get a feeling of their mindsets. This time I’m gonna share my thoughts on my previous read: “Losing My Virginity” by Richard Branson
Have you ever heard of Richard Branson? He is probably one of the most recognised entrepreneurs in the world, yet many people are not familiar with his contributions to our lives. He is the founder of Virgin, one of the most renowned brands in the world today. Under the umbrella of Virgin Group, he created a lot of companies across various industries over the time and it all started out with a small student magazine. One of his biggest success stories was Virgin Music, a record company he founded in the 70s that brought up a lot of famous artists we know today: Mike Oldfield, The Sex Pistols, The Rolling Stones, Phil Collins or Janet Jackson. He loved to challenged the status quo and throughout his life he expanded into many fields such as the airline and railway industry. His autobiography is a fantastic read, really well written and I can really recommend it to anyone interested in the topic of entrepreneurship.
The reason why I found autobiographies in general are so helpful is that you cannot only get a really good understanding of the character traits and attitudes of those people but also learn a lot about their values in greater detail because they tend to repeat things over and over again.
Their values and beliefs are actually what made them great, because they stick to their values with focus even through hard times and nothing can take it from them. I believe that this is the most important thing and the core of every successful business because if your business has no strong values then it will likely not succeed in the long run.
In the following I want to share 4 takeaways that I learned from his biography.
1. Turn Your Weakness Into A Strength
Richard Branson was affected with dyslexia, an illness that causes problems with reading, writing and spelling. Scientists estimate that dyslexia affects anywhere from 3% to 10% of the global population. But that didn’t stop him from becoming successful. He never really saw it as a weakness but rather turned it into an advantage. Because he wasn’t good at reading and writing he kept things simple:
“I need things to be simple for myself. Therefore Virgin, I think, when we launch a financial service company or a bank, we do not use jargon. Everything is very clear-cut, very simple. I think people have an affinity to the Virgin brand because we don’t talk above them or talk down to them…” – Richard Branson
Another advantage coming out of this was that he created a habit of carrying a notebook everywhere since his childhood because he couldn’t remember everything and needed to jot things down.
2. Help People
One of his biggest values that crystallised throughout his book was to create services that helps other people and bring value to their lives. Helping doesn’t necessarily only mean, “reducing the pain” but could also mean “creating joy”. For instance the Student Magazine Advisory Centre helped troubled people and connected them to the right professionals, whereas Virgin Music helped people to get access to music more easily and enjoy the beauty of it. Today he dedicates his energy and attention on creating businesses that tackles social problems such as global warming, lack of education and many more.Virgin Unite is a non-profit organisation that deals exactly with those problems and helps people to develop entrepreneurial skills and ideas in order to create a better world.
Of course not everyone of us has the influence and the resources to create big impact yet, but helping can really manifest in many forms and the most important thing is to create more value than there was before. If your service doesn’t create value or help anyone and is only focussed on generating revenue, then it will likely not access in the long run. The more people you can serve, the more successful you become.
“Every risk is worth taking as long as it’s for a good cause and contributes to a good life” – Richard Branson
Dreaming big is quite a common character trait that I’ve found in his biography and also my current read “Made in America” by Sam Walton. Richard Branson created a student magazine that was dedicated to keep people informed and give them access to information, but he always envisioned “Student” as a brand rather than just a label for his magazine. He took the same strategy later with the Virgin Brand, which started out as a mail-order record company, Virgin Mail, but later became the overarching brand for so many companies that goes along with his original values.
Richard Branson was making small steps at a time but he was also optimistically thinking years ahead and dreaming big.
Today, he is not only tackling social problems but also heavily investing into space travels with Virgin Galactic and envisions that someday everyone of us will have the opportunity to go to space.
“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.” – Richard Branson
4. Live Life to the Full
The greatest inspiration I got from his book was probably his open mindedness and his “screw it, lets do it” mentality.
Not many Entrepreneurs are crazy enough to cross the atlantic in a sailing boat or a hot air balloon. He never backed up from anything, even his mind was filled with fear. People are often really good at coming up with excuses in order not to do things but he is the good example that everything is possible if you really want it and and most importantly believe in it.
What I’ve learned from this is that we all only have one life so we should really enjoy it to the full and spend time on things we love. Otherwise we will live a life full of regrets and when we grow old we look back and wished that we should have done things differently. This is the saddest thing that can happen and the greatest motivation for me to “dream big”.
“You can only live once, and I just don’t want to waste a minute of my life.” – Richard Branson