The Tim Ferriss Show: Sir Richard Branson — The Billionaire Maverick of the Virgin Empire

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Intro
What has Richard been up to?
  • He just survived category 5 Hurricane Irma on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands
  • Check out Richard’s Instagram video of the hurricane damage
  • He and his staff waited it out in a concrete bunker
  • Being the adventurous man that he is, Richard has dealt with quite a few near death experiences
  • What did he say to his staff when waiting out the hurricane to calm them down?
    • He tries to be humorous, and hugs people a lot.
    • “You have to stay positive”
Either prison … or millionaire
  • A headmaster said to Richard “I predict you’ll end up in prison or a be millionaire” when Richard was 16
  • Richard is dyslexic, which caused him to have a lot of trouble with reading/school when he was younger
  • As a kid. Richard felt very strongly about numerous issues, including opposing the Vietnam War
  • He launched a magazine for young people as method of giving them the voice they didn’t have
    • The headmaster didn’t agree with it, and kicked Richard out of school
  • Richard did go to prison for one night  – “I think everyone should spend a night in prison”
    • When he was 19, he started a mail order music company, Virgin Records
    • The prison stint was a result of selling records where he shouldn’t have
    • He couldn’t afford the 10,000 pound bail, so his mother pledged the family home instead
Richard’s mom
  • Richard’s mom also wrote a book – Mums the Word: The High Flying Adventures of Eve Branson
  • What did Richard’s mom do to help him navigate dyslexia?
    • Richard was getting pretty bad grades
    • This made it a little easier when Richard said he wanted to leave school at age 15
    • Richard’s mom would not allow him to watch TV, she made him go out and do things
    • She very often made him “figure things out” on his own
The origins of Virgin Atlantic
  • How did Richard end up in the airline business?
    • In his 20s, he was in Puerto Rico, and hadn’t seen his girlfriend for 3 weeks. He was at the airport, around 6PM, and was about to fly to the Virgin Islands. American Airlines announced they were moving the flight to the next morning, because they didn’t have enough passengers, and Richard didn’t want to wait. So, Richard uses his credit card to rent a plane, and used a blackboard writing, “Virgin Airlines – One Way $29” to promote a flight to the British Virgin Islands – SIMPLIFY: What would chartering a flight look like if it were easy?
    • The next morning, he called Boeing, and inquired about buying a second hand 747 plane. At this point, he had a bit of money from Virgin Records.
    • Richard thought about everything, but realized he wanted to cap the downside
    • He planned to only buy the plane if Boeing would let him give back the plane at the end of the first year if things didn’t go according to plan – mitigate risk
    • He didn’t need to, and Virgin Atlantic was born
  • How did he convince Boeing to allow him to return the plane if things didn’t work out?
    • Richard was friendly, and let his past successes in the entertainment business be known
    • His plan was to make air travel entertaining
Negotiating
  • How would Richard train someone, or what he recommend they do/read to become a better negotiator?
    • “Nothing beats personal experience”
    • “You’ll come across the same people time and time again in life, so your reputation is everything”
    • Make sure you’re negotiating a deal you won’t be unhappy with, and make sure you’re negotiating how you might be able to get out if something goes wrong
Adventures and the art of promotion
  • Richard has driven a tank down 5th Avenue, crossed the English Channel in an amphibious car, took a 407 ft. jump off the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, and gone from Morocco to Hawaii in a hot air balloon
  • What principles are helpful to Richard in launching a new company/product?
    • If Richard’s team is going to work really hard to develop an idea, he feels he owes it to them to put it on the map, even if that means using himself to market it
    • He tries to promote businesses in a way that makes people smile
Richard’s new book
  • Why write it now?
    • “Everybody should write a book about their lives”
    • He was very young when he wrote Losing My VirginityTim HIGHLY recommends this book (also another autobiography he loves – Open by Andre Agassi)
    • Everyone lives an interesting life. Your grandchildren and children will be fascinated by the life you lived.
How does Richard keep his energy level as high as it is?
  • “Looking after yourself is they key to everything else”
  • Richard starts every day by playing tennis against someone who is better than him
  • He then goes kite surfing
  • After that, he settles down for breakfast
  • He’s currently in Morocco, and plans to climb Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa
  • He really values being active, and going on adventures with his family
Why has Richard Invested in Memphis Meat?
  • Memphis Meats makes lab grown meat
  • One of the things that make this world so beautiful is the rainforests, which are rapidly diminishing with our demand for meat
  • Beyond Meat is similar – they make “vegetable hamburgers”
  • He’s trying to protect what’s left of our beautiful planet
How does Richard think about cryptocurrency?
  • He finds blockchain very exciting
  • He doesn’t think about cryptocurrency too much, but it marvels him and he is certainly excited for the future
Audience Questions
  • Books given most as a gift?
  • In the last 5 years, what new belief/habit has improved his life?
    • Be nice to people and never speak ill about them
  • Any key lessons he’s learned from Nelson Mandela?
    • Have a joy for life
  • When Richard feels overwhelmed or unfocused, how does he cope?
    • He finds drinking alcohol is related to these feelings, so he often gives it up for months at a time
    • At social events, he’ll put cranberry juice and soda in a champagne glass – people don’t even know he’s not drinking
    • Matt Mullenweg likes to say “Alcohol is borrowing happiness from tomorrow”
  • Does Richard have a favorite failure?
    • He was trying to break the record for fastest boat to cross the Atlantic
      • The first attempt, he sank the boat, the second attempt was a success
      • “Failing and then being successful is better than just being successful the first time around. It’s all about overcoming difficulties.”
      • The public loves underdogs
    • From trying to take on Coca Cola with a Virgin Cola– “If you’re trying to take on a Goliath, you have to be different, and much better” – BE 100X BETTER NOT 2X BETTER
  • If he had a giant billboard, what would it say?
    • “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”
    • “If people try things, and stick their neck out, they’re going to have a lot more fun than sitting home and watching other people do it”
    • Or something to try and prevent any war from happening ever again
Final Thoughts
  • Tim – If you want to leave your mark on the world, you have to be able to negotiate, and not be afraid to stick your neck out
  • Richard – “As a businessman, I would have closed down the war on drugs 49 years ago”
    • Drugs should be treated not as a criminal problem, but a health problem
    • America has the biggest heroin problem in history, and we’re dealing with it the same way we’re fighting the war on drugs. We can’t do this.

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