Richard Branson has lost far more money that most people earn in their entire lives, and yet he is one of the richest people on earth. I recently read his autobiography ‘Losing My Virginity’ and in it he is not shy about talking about his failures, in fact you get the impression he enjoys it.
A theme that kept cropping up throughout it was his ability to take risks. You could sum it up as:
If you try something new then you take a risk. It might work out, it might not. But if you do nothing, then you’re guaranteed to get nothing in return.
Richard Branson has tried many different things in his life. He has failed a lot. He has lost millions upon millions, if not billions, over the years. Many people would have given up along the way. But he hasn’t allowed his failures to stop him from trying again. He has learnt from his mistakes and gone on to be extremely successful.
It is his willingness to give things a go that has seen him succeed. He sees his failures as a step to success. The two go hand in hand for everyone in every endeavour. They are inseparable and you can generally learn more from the failures! He’s not alone in his willingness to take risks of course, failure is an essential part of every success story – such as these famous failures.
In Daniel Pink’s book on career direction, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, one of the 6 key messages he puts across is – Make Excellent Mistakes. It’s a similar concept. Don’t make stupid mistakes (although I’m very capable of those myself), make excellent mistakes by trying new things. By taking risks you open yourself up to new possibilities. Being too afraid of making mistakes that you don’t take risks will almost certainly stop you from realising your potential.
It can be easy to write someone like Richard Branson off as a unique individual with talent and luck that the rest of us don’t have, but that isn’t the case. His abilities are modest in many ways. He has simply taken risks and given things a go. He has dared to venture knowing that he could fail – and even when he has failed he has carried on, or as he puts it:
My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them.
Even if it were simply a question of mathematical odds, it makes sense that the more things you go after, the more you are likely to get.
Learn from your mistakes.
Having a ‘Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained’ attitude can really help you go places if you remember to learn from your mistakes. Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If you make a mistake don’t just blindly keep trying using the same approach. Figure out what went wrong, work out how you can do it better, then have another shot at it.
Interestingly Branson’s high school headmaster made this comment of him when he left school:
Congratulations Branson. I predict that you will either go to prison or become a millionaire.
As it turned out he has done both, but you’ll have to read the book to find out about that :)
Image of Branson: Wikipedia