People Who Inspire Me: Sir Richard Branson

 

I have never liked working for others, that’s a fact. I got my first job when I was 16 working for a guy who did a lot of odd jobs. Mowing lawns, installing docks, shrink-wrapping boats, things like that. I had a few other manual labor jobs because that’s the best I could get as a teenager and the pay was decent. I never had a great work ethic because these jobs were not careers to me, they were temporary jobs to help me pay for college and other expenses.

 

I had professors and career counselors who assessed me and said that I would end up being an entrepreneur or having a management role. They could sense that I didn’t like working for others as well.

 

After college I got a series of office jobs where I put in a decent effort but my heart was never in it. I always felt bored and uninspired. The jobs were mediocre in every way and never a challenge for me. A few months before I started my first business, I discovered an autobiography about a guy named Richard Branson. I didn’t know much about him, just that he was an eccentric millionaire who owned the conglomerate Virgin. I dove into his book looking for inspiration.

 

Richard Branson was a troublemaker as a kid and did thing his own way. He had dyslexia and was a poor student but was a good athlete. When he injured himself, he had to turn things around and focus back on his studies. After failing and realizing he couldn’t cut it as a student, he left school and started a series of businesses. This is where his story gets interesting.

 

Richard started a mail-order record business with a couple friends. There were a dozen or so kids renting out a house in England, barely scrapping by, so they could get their business up and running. They eventually were able to buy a storefront and sell more records. Then they struggled some more to sign artists and drum up business until they hit a big break. The story goes on and on, ups and downs, until Virgin Records became a national name. Later in the book Richard is battling Lord King, the owner of British Airways at the time, who was trying to extinguish Virgin Airways. Richard had to sacrifice Virgin Records to save Virgin Airways, which caused him a lot of pain, but turned out to be a good decision and saved the Virgin name.

 

It would take a looooong time to summarize Losing My Virginity, it is an autobiography after all, but you get the picture. Richard is a man who wins. He does business his own way, is the definition of eccentric, but his plans always pull through. He even is an avid balloonist and set records in that field. My main point is that Richard was a guy who turned nothing into gold. He was dirt poor and became one of the wealthiest men in the world, with an estimated net worth of 4.2 billion dollars. He built up his empire, fighting all kinds of odds, until he reached the top. He threw the rule book out the window and brought his own style and flair into everything. He even owns his own private island. Talk about hustle!

 

I felt that connection with his whole persona. Richard inspired me in a similar way that Daymond John did. He did things on his own terms and didn’t work for others. He got excited about ideas he had and would work hard on them until they became reality. His struggle helped give me the motivation to believe in my own ideas and start my own business. Most importantly, we shared the same entrepreneur spirit.

 

As a 24-year-old guy who was about to start his first business, jumping into the unknown, his story inspired me. I had a lot more advantages than Richard growing up. I thought to myself, ‘If Richard can defy the odds and be one of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world, so can I.’ And that idea has never left my head. If I can have half of the hustle and determination that he has I will be a happy man. I have always loved a good underdog story, and it doesn’t get much better than the ongoing tale of Sir Richard Branson.

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