5 lessons Richard Branson has taught me

by Scott Taylor
10th October 2017
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Over the past week I’ve spent a lot of time listening and learning from Sir Richard Branson.

As I’m sure you know Richard Branson (@richardbranson) is founder and chairman of The Virgin Group. He’s a world-famous entrepreneur, adventurer, activist, and business icon.

He has launched a dozen billion-dollar businesses and hundreds of other companies.

His new autobiography, Finding My Virginity, shares the candid details of a lifetime of triumphs and failures and provides an intimate look at his never-ending quest to push boundaries, break rules, and seek new frontiers.

Having read his new book at the weekend, as well as listened too and watched a few more recent interviews, I wanted to take the time to highlight 5 lessons that Sir Richard has taught me.

Enjoy what you do

This one’s a big one for me. Having spent the last 10 years trying to live up to other people’s definitions of success. I wish I would have paid attention to this sooner. Each and every time I’ve followed the path of doing what I enjoy, I’ve ended up more successful and more fulfilled. Although, life’s too short for regret, and I’m sure going on the tangent of working in an investment bank for a couple of years taught, or reinforced, how much I don’t enjoy regular office jobs! Have fun, success will follow.

Challenge the status quo

Similar to Steve Jobs (who, incidentally, Sir Richard says he looks up too in Tim Ferris’ podcast) Branson is all about challenging accepted wisdom.

At heart, he’s a rule breaker. If something has been done in a certain way “just because” and he finds a better way of doing it – he’s going to ruthlessly focus on delivering that to the customer.

Virgin Atlantic is a great example of this. He recalls that the food was bland onboard a British Airways flight, as was the entertainment and the staff. There had been no passion in the airline industry for years. When he launched Virgin Atlantic, he took what he’d learned as an entertainer (through Virgin Records) and applied it to the sky. He created beautiful dishes, inspired staff, and focused on letting the customer have choice through an entertainment hub.

Don’t speak ill of anyone

Sir Richard says that he learned this one from his parents. He remembers as a child, if he spoke badly of anyone his father would sit him down in front of a mirror for a long time. Ultimately saying, when you speak ill of anyone it reflects worse upon you.

The world is small, and ultimately one of the greatest assets you have is your reputation. As a result, it’s not worth speaking ill of anyone. It will only create negative energy, which is draining and counterproductive. In heated battles, a lot of people seem to forget this one. Myself included.

Keep it simple

Sir Richard has done a phenomenal job of keeping what is a complex global operation rooted in simplicity. As he says, “you have to do something radically different to stand out in business. But nobody ever said different has to be complex.”

There are thousands of simple business solutions to problems out there, just waiting to be solved by the next big thing in business. Maintain a focus upon innovation, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel. A simple change for the better is far more effective than five complicated changes for the worse.

Learn by failing

You learn pretty quickly when you mess up. Your brain knows not to do that again. Whether it’s pride, financial or whatever – the best way to learn is by failing. Many many entrepreneurs, and I see this too, sit on the sidelines because they’re too afraid of failure. Throughout Sir Richard’s book and in the podcast with Tim, he isn’t shy about mentioning the times he’s got it wrong. And the fact that he’s got it wrong probably more than he’s got it right! Strive to question the accepted formulae, rules and prescriptions of modern life. By being so inquisitive, you learn a lot and fill your life with excitement and purpose.


Thanks for taking the time to read this article, if you enjoyed it – please do share so that others who may find it useful can read. If you aren’t already, follow me on Twitter and I’ll follow you back 🙂 tweet me with any questions on startups and I’ll try my best to answer. Over the past week, my admiration and respect for Sir Richard Branson grew even more (I didn’t think that was possible!). Truly one of the most humble and innovative thinkers of our time. The definition of a true disrupter – before that term was trendy!