4 Important Lessons From the Life of Richard Branson

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Like a Virgin, Richard Branson had his very first out-of-this-world experience. His first time, however, was watched by over 7 Million Earthlings within the first two days (and that’s on Virgin Galactic’s live stream alone).

Sir Richard Branson, as knighted at the beginning of the Millennium, goes down in history as the first billionaire to travel to space. Upon his entry into space, Branson said some memorable words that are sure to inspire generations present and to come.

“I was once a child with a dream, looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship …looking down to a beautiful, beautiful Earth.”

Most have long known about the quirky, self-assured blonde British billionaire from his successful Virgin-branded businesses or from his more waggish escapades. The world had a chuckle back in 2013 when Richard famously dressed as a Virgin Atlantic flight attendant on an Air Asia charity flight, honouring a bet he lost to Tony Fernandes when his 2010 Formula 1 team finished behind Fernandes’.

He now has one more adventure to add to the list- This historic trip to the edge of space!

The failures

“I suppose the secret to bouncing back is not only to be unafraid of failures but to use them as motivational and learning tools… There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes as long as you don’t make the same ones over and over again.”

When we see successful people, we tend to forget that the vast majority of them encountered failure before, during and even throughout their successes. Failure is therefore not something that should scare us away from pursuing ventures or trying new things. Instead, we have the opportunity to look at it as a form of learning.

Richard Branson endured many failed business ventures among his successful ones. Some are sentimentally chronicled in his book, Finding my Virginity.

His business failures include Virgin Cola, Virgin Cars, Virgin Clothing, and Virgin Brides. However, these did not stop the Brit from continuously pursuing new ideas and exploring wild possibilities.

S for Success, S for Sweet Virgin Victory

Six years after the “failure” of his very first business, a magazine called Student, Richard Branson went on to create Virgin Records Recording Studio. It would come to be one of his biggest successes.

He made a B-Line from the traditional record labels by signing controversial and unconventional bands like the Sex Pistols. He would later go on to sign some of the most memorable names in music; Janet Jackson, The Rolling Stones, and The Spice Girls.

From there, the company expanded into the USA and Japan.

In 1984, after pooling funds from his various businesses, Virgin Atlantic took to the skies. From there, it continued to expand. The Virgin Group eventually launched Virgin-branded businesses within the Travel industry.

The Lessons

Patience is Powerful

The trip to the edge of space was no easy feat and obviously didn’t come to fruition overnight. It took 17 years, one deadly explosion, a fatal crash and billions in capital for the historic flight to space to happen.

In 2004, Branson made the pursuit of one of his dreams a reality- The invention of commercial space travel. Imagine if he had given up when bankruptcy was looming, or even after the deadly test flight in 2014.

We’re likely going to experience gravely challenging circumstances that threaten to derail our progress and kick us off our trail of momentum. But in the fight to succeed at all costs, there are going to be times when we must balance patience with the active fight to succeed.

Stay calm under Fire

Richard literally had to fight for his life.

On a hot air balloon flight across the Atlantic with his co-pilot Per Lindstrand, the pair had an accident that resulted in Per jumping off the Balloon into the sea, leaving Richard alone to contemplate his chances of survival. He went so far as to pen a note to his family, intending them to be his last words to them. He had to make the tough choice of jumping or staying in the balloon to experience a few more minutes of life.

He ended up throwing himself off the balloon at 100 ft above the sea. Fortunately, he was rescued shortly after by a naval helicopter.

“If you’re facing death, you’ve got two choices: one is curling up and giving up, and the other is fighting to survive.”

His fight to survive is not only evident in his record-breaking adventures but in his business life as well. Likewise, we can take a lesson from this. When life gets so rough to the point where you feel it’s best to give up, fight for another day, fight for another hour. If you must perish, at least you’d have given it everything you’ve got.

Uniqueness gets you ahead

When Branson launched Virgin Cola, He thought he could one-up the big, established brands like Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Although eventually outselling Coca-Cola in the British market, Coca- Cola fought back with an aggressive campaign aimed at retailers. As a result, Virgin Cola lost its market share.

You see, unlike the other businesses under the Virgin umbrella, Virgin Cola was not unique enough to build its own identity. It, therefore, teaches us one of many lessons: To stand out from the crowd, you need to be unique.

This lesson can be applied to each of us. It reminds us to not be afraid of being ourselves. Fitting in can feel like a safe and risk-free option but that is rarely the case. If not careful, you may end up never getting to live the life you truly want.

Bullies aren’t impenetrable

With the rise to success of the Virgin Atlantic’s UK route, British Airways embarked on a “Dirty Tricks” campaign in an attempt to crash the airline’s success.

It was reported that BA hacked computers to obtain sensitive data and contacted Virgin Atlantic’s customers cancelling their flights and rebooking with BA under the guise of being a Virgin representative.

Branson decided to sue for libel in 1992, sacrificing his beloved record label to pay for legal fees. In the end, BA was legally forced to issue a statement of apology to Virgin, pay legal fees of £3 million and pay £500,000 and £110,000 to Richard and Virgin Atlantic respectively. The entire payout was converted to the “BA Christmas Bonus” and shared equally among the staff.

Never give in to bullies. When the insecure and the unnerved show their hand in the form of attacks, we must rise above it. We must not give in. Instead we will use our skill and wit to rise even higher and carry on to the path of triumph.

The Final Leg

The Brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.

– Richard B

In a heartfelt letter to his late mother, he rounded it off by saying, “The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.” What beautifully inspiring words to live by. Dare to go after what you want. Don’t be afraid to take the path less trodden to get there either. and in all you do, be yourself and embrace your uniqueness.

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Susanna J

Susanna J

A Caribbean small-island millennial writing about life and improving it.