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Dropout to Mogul

Sir Richard Branson (the owner of numerous Virgin companies),dropped out of school at the age of 16. Having been diagnosed with dyslexia, he couldn’t keep up in school ,at least not the way they were teaching.

Dyslexia, a commonplace condition, is a disturbance in functioning of the brain. Individuals who carry this diagnosis commonly have difficulty reading, writing, spelling and, sometimes, speaking. It is thought to be passed on in families genetically.  

Dyslexia is not a sign of intellectual deficit. Some famous people who have been diagnosed with dyslexia are: Steven Spielberg, John F. Kennedy, George HW Bush and George W Bush, and Pablo Picasso among them.

Robert Drayson, headmaster at Stow School where Richard was enrolled told him that some day he would either be in prison or be a millionaire.

Richard’s grandfather,Captain Rupert Ernest Huntley Findt, was hugely influential in Richard’s life. He gave Richard the following poem when Richard was seven

Richard affirmed that it was his grandfather who cultivated his quest for and love of adventure  

When Branson understood that the teaching methods used in schools were not for him, he decided to learn in a way where he could be successful. He ,who had trouble reading, ironically, started a magazine called Student. The goal of Student was to give a voice to young people in a format that was not as boring as traditional magazines.

Student included many visuals. Branson guessed, correctly, that he was not the only one who found reading to be frustrating.  

One of his greatest strengths was his ability to honor his own differences. Rather than force himself into a system that didn’t work for him, he changed the system. Branson takes the time to evaluate himself. He is not interested in the opinions of others.

Another of Richard Branson’s strengths is his response to what others might consider to be failure. He recognizes that fiascos provide opportunity. He has noted that what others might call a flop is, to him, a chance to learn how things do not work.

One notable example was his venture called Virgin Brides. This enterprise lasted 9 years, from 1996 - 2005. Branson noted that there probably were not enough brides who were virgins and, he recognized that using his image in ads for bridal wear was not motivating brides to buy the dresses he had to offer. 

Other learning opportunities were provided by Virgin Cola, Virgin Clothes, Virgin Money, and, Virgin Vodka.

Branson advises that if you vow to keep going despite failure, you will learn that regardless of the outcome you can be confident that you will always try again. It is important to analyze the reasons for business (and life) disappointments objectively without finding reasons to blame.

Branson puts a lot of effort into hiring the right employees and keeping them happy. Members of his team are considered to be a part of the family. If Richard lacks expertise in a certain area, he finds someone who has the knowledge necessary for success and hires that individual.

Branson likes to keep his employees long term. He recommends that the time to hire is when the company is growing. He understands that in order to keep people motivated he must keep them happy. He encourages flexibility in schedules and has a policy of allowing unlimited days off.

A recent example of his philosophy was his behavior when his private domaine, Necker Island, was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Richard retreated, with his team, to the concrete wine cellar below his compound. He filled the two rooms with makeshift beds. There, they rode out the storm and exited unharmed. The rest of Necker Island was decimated.

As expected, Necker Island has been in the process of being rebuilt. An opening celebration is planned for October 20,2018. Eventually accommodations on the Island will be expanded.

Branson is guided by his devotion to family. His resorts provide amenities that he would wish for his wife and children. Team members are treated like relatives.When at home, Branson follows a defined schedule. 

Mornings for Richard Branson start at 5A.M. This allows for quiet time to go through e-mails and other responsibilities related to business. His heartfelt focus is on spending this time with his family. It is important to him to make sure his family knows how important they are in his busy life. They share breakfast together, and he has a chance to catch up on what is going on in their lives.  

Branson carries a notebook with him at all times. This habit allows him to write down ideas as they come to him. He says that his notebook keeps him on track.

His philosophy is as follows: ”The spirit of adventure motivates us to set goals, push ourselves, thrive in the face of hardship, and achieve epic feats." 

Richard Branson is a great example of the power of the maintenance of a positive attitude. He knows himself and accepts who he is without negative judgement. Although he has multiple disparate interests and businesses, he is able to prioritize. His family is always at the top of the list.

His first marriage lasted seven years. He has two children, Holly and Sam from that union. He met his current wife, Joan in 1976. They had a child, Claire Sarah, who died four days after birth in 1979. Richard and Joan were married on Necker Island in 1989.

A willingness to take risks is one of his hallmarks. More importantly, the ability to experience what would be called failure without a feeling of shame and discouragement, have kept this swashbuckling entrepreneur going.  

His total fearlessness regarding setbacks is unusual and inspirational. Imagine, knowing that you will rebound; that your broken heart and/or pocketbook will surely mend. Having the self-confidence to value who you are above what you have been able to accomplish is all too infrequently encountered.

We are not all born with the ability to believe in ourselves. The good news is, that we can learn to persevere. Success breeds success. What lies behind this is the willingness to try. 

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