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Richard Branson Shares Business and Life Lessons From His Mother

I’m often asked who my biggest inspiration is, and who has had the most profound influence on my business life. Like most people, I answer: my mother.

Richard Branson

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My mother, Eve Branson, has always been known for her incredible energy. As a girl she loved sports and dancing, and she was very outgoing. During WWII she worked for the Navy, and afterward became a stewardess, back when the job involved making sure that all the passengers were wearing oxygen masks on particularly high-altitude flights.

After she met my father, Edward Branson, a barrister, they settled in a small village in the English countryside. They were both generous with their time, energy and love, providing me with opportunities to succeed, along with a lot of freedom. I hope that the Virgin brand reflects the values they taught me.

Of all the lessons they imparted when I was growing up, these five from my mother really stand out.

1. No Regrets
I’m often flabbergasted by the amount of time some people waste dwelling on their past failures, rather than directing that energy into new projects. My mother always taught me never to look back in regret, but to immediately move on to the next thing.

Our family budget was fairly tight when I was growing up, and I was always fascinated by her money-making projects, which were often craft-based, like building and selling wooden tissue boxes and wastepaper bins. If an item didn’t sell, she tried something else.

Her activities inspired some of my first ideas, like breeding budgerigars and growing and selling Christmas trees. Both of those businesses failed: Since I went to a boarding school, I couldn’t take care of the birds, and rabbits ate the tree seedlings. But Mum had showed me that a setback is just another of life’s lessons, so I quickly moved on to other projects, following her example.

2. Learn to Survive – Fast
There is a rather well-known story about Mum stopping the car on the way home from a shopping trip and telling me to find my own way home – about 3 miles through the countryside, and I was somewhere around 5 years old. She was punishing me for causing mischief in the back seat, but she was also teaching me a larger lesson about overcoming my disabling shyness and learning to ask others for directions.

I got horribly lost, but eventually a neighbouring farmer helped me to reach home. The experience made me learn to find the grit to overcome what may seem like overwhelming obstacles.

This has been a key principle in my business life. In a company’s first year, your goal should be simply to survive, and this will likely take everything you’ve got. No matter how tired or afraid you are, you have to figure out how to keep going.

3. Put Others First
There was always a focus on teamwork in our home – working in the garden, helping to prepare meals, cleaning up. I have two younger sisters, Lindi and Vanessa, and Mum always kept the three of us working hard. It certainly instilled a very healthy work ethic in me, as many of my staff would point out!

If we tried to escape chores, she would explain how selfish that was by describing the effect on everyone else in our family. We were a team, and we had to be confident that we could rely on each other. This has always informed my business philosophy: People are the most important part of any company.

4. Keep Your Feet on the Ground
When you start to become relatively well known, it can be easy to get carried away with your successes. (It can be especially hard to keep your head out of the clouds if you own a few airlines and have a taste for flying hot air balloons.) But Mum has always kept my feet firmly on the ground – metaphorically at least – partly because she knows me so well, and so she does not believe all the press.

She has rarely praised me in public; I was surprised but pleased when she admitted in a CNBC interview last year that she was proud of me, particularly of my charitable work. But she has always given me quiet, constant encouragement. Everyone in my family shows each other a lot of love, which is far more important than anything else.

5. Every Day is a Fresh Chance to Achieve Something New
Mum has always seen every day as a fresh chance to achieve something new, fun and exciting. Even today, she is incredibly active, working very hard on all manner of projects – right now she is working on a memoir, and she recently published a children’s book. We still have to fit our schedules around her plans.

Mum is always looking ahead, focused on trying to improve things and bring about positive change. Following her example, I am always focused firmly on the future too.

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He is the author of "Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur."

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Self Development

9 Reliable Ways To Cultivate Creative Thinking

Some people are naturally creative. Everyone else can cultivate creativity.

John Rampton

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The benefits of creative thinking are enumerable. Having this skillset will enable you to tackle problems with unique perspectives, come up with special ideas and, overall, be a more effective performer.

One challenge to becoming more creative is the difficulty of quantifying creativity. It is much easier to learn and subsequently demonstrate skills in software engineering, for example. That being said, companies and people are drawn toward creative thinkers. The more that those around you listen to your opinion and the more frequently you propose unique ideas, the higher an indication of these skills. Therefore, over time, you can gauge progress based on how others respond to you and your work.

The other challenge, though, is that sometimes others will not recognise your creativity. They might shoot down an awesome idea because it sounds crazy unconventional. Understanding this and learning to navigate it will keep your confidence levels high so that you can continue to grow.

With these perspectives in mind around quantifying creativity, here are nine guaranteed ways that you can become a more creative thinker to better tackle your life and problems:

1. Read

People have chronicled years of their work or life experiences into books. Knowing more and having different perspectives will help you become more creative. You will be able to take others’ ideas, pieces of knowledge and individual experiences and apply them to your present situations. Reading is one of the best ways to pick up this knowledge and empathy.

It is easy to make excuses for not having enough time to read but if you make reading a priority, you will be able to find the time and undoubtedly become more creative.

Related: Creative Thinking 101

2. Pick up an art

creative-art-hobbyHaving some sort of artistic outlet in your life will dramatically help with creativity levels. Albert Einstein came up with many of his famous revelations while playing the violin.

In the book Originals, Adam Grant – a researcher and professor at Wharton – found that “Nobel Prize-winners are twice as likely to play a musical instrument, they’re seven times as likely to draw or paint, 12 times as likely to write fiction or poetry, and… 22 times as likely as their peers to perform as actors, dancers, or, yes, magicians.”

Whether it be an instrument, drawing, acting or anything else, finding an artistic outlet will fire different parts of your brain. Those spark serenity and a stillness that will make you a more creative person.

3. Surround yourself with a wider range of personalities

Empathy is a huge key to creativity. Most people surround themselves with others who are similar to them. While doing so is comfortable, it is not beneficial when working toward creativity.

There are others within your vicinity who have lived dramatically different lives. Meeting them, understanding their backgrounds and learning how they think will widen your perspective about the world. That will, in turn, increase the creative vigor you can take through life.

4. Spend more time in nature

nature-walkBeing outdoors also sparks creativity. Escaping from the stresses and routine of life, even for brief periods, can get your head out of a rut. Finding short times to be outside throughout your week will give you a chance to get away from all of the technology and noise in our daily lives. Plus, it is an excuse to go have fun and explore.

Related: Shift To Strategic Thinking Free Of Limits

5. Meditate

Mental stillness allows you to eliminate many of the thoughts that constantly ruminate in your head. When you are always thinking about a past or future event, for instance, it takes your mind away from tackling the current situation. Meditation is a great way to develop this stillness.

With a meditation practice you can learn to let your mind be entirely in the present situation. Doing so will allow you to exert more concentrated effort on the tasks at hand. You can pull in more knowledge from different parts of your brain. Consequently, you will be more creative in each moment.

6. Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep can kill creativity. Although we feel the urge to always be on the move, when we are tired, we are not able to use as much of our brain. Plus, exhaustion makes it harder to retain information upon learning it. Therefore, with less sleep, we learn less that we can apply to situations and we cannot perform as effectively on any given task. Making sleep a priority will help your creativity, without a doubt.

7. Exercise

exerciseFeeling healthy is a great way to have more confidence throughout our days. This confidence often leads to less worrying and more mental energy being exerted at the task at hand. Plus, while actually working out, people tend to be hyper-present. This might trigger an idea or a thought you had not considered before.

8. Do more of what you love

There is a correlation between happiness and creativity. The better that our spirits are, the higher functioning we act on a daily basis. Subsequently, a great way to increase happiness levels is to do what you love. This could be hobbies, spending time with loved ones or anything else.

Additionally, when doing what we love, we tend to be in a very present state. Some have called this state ‘flow.’ As mentioned above, being in a present state pays large dividends toward creativity. Not to mention that doing what you love might spark additional ideas and help you find new interests where you can be creative.

Related: 7 Creative Strategies For Marketing Your Start-up On A Tight Budget

9. Take more risks

Taking risks will boost creativity by giving you a larger set of life events. When you have experienced more things, you will be able to apply those memories and lessons to each new situation that you are in. While you can do more in life without taking risks, fear is often an inhibitor toward trying something new. Therefore, be open to taking more chances. By going out of your comfort zone and doing what others might be unwilling to do, you will develop a deeper breadth of memories and past experiences that you can apply to new problems.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

3 Wonderfully Uncommon Reasons To Form Better Habits

As we race away into 2018, consider these very personal and fundamental bonuses to making and sticking to your resolutions.

Entrepreneur

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Eat healthier. Exercise more. Be more productive. Read faster. Be friendlier. Sleep better.

Welcome to the New Year, a time when people set resolutions to form better habits and lead better lives.

Understandably, a lot of the articles, videos and other resources about starting off the New Year focus on which habits are best and the steps you need to take to achieve them. They outline the goals, plans and actions we need to make our resolutions a reality.

If you’re looking for 10 tips on how to lose 100 pounds in 90 days, then this article isn’t for you. Instead, why not consider some of the underlying and lesser-talked about benefits of kicking bad habits and forming better ones this year.

1. Challenging your norms

Why is it that you sneak sweets and junk food so often? How come you’re always so tired in the morning? Why can’t you get your butt to the gym?

Related: 7 Motivational Habits That Drive Millionaires

If your answer for poor habits is “That’s just the way I am/the way things are” then you’re probably underestimating yourself. Stop. Think about your actions and why you’ve taken them perpetually over time. You might learn a lot.

Take personal finance advisor and entrepreneur Ramit Sethi for example. When he stopped to analyse himself and why he wasn’t going to the gym, he realised something simple that he’d never considered previously: His closet was in a different room, separate from his bedroom. Instead of getting up in the cold to put on clothes, it was easier to just stay in bed.

“Once I realised this, I folded my clothes and shoes the night before. When I woke up the next morning, I would roll over and see my gym clothes sitting on the floor. The result? My gym attendance soared by over 300%.”

Forming a new habit is your chance to examine your life — or at least one important aspect of it — and figure out why you’ve been making the decisions that lead to the habits you want or need to change.

2. Taking control

We don’t have to be the sum of randomised actions and results, based simply on moral and civil codes. It’s up to each one of us individually to take control of our actions and maximise the results.

It’s the same in business. There’s nothing you do without careful research and consideration in order to maximise productivity, profits, etc.

You’re your own boss. You control your thoughts and actions; these things aren’t up to chance. Having the ability to make significant changes to your life is empowering, so long as you seize the opportunity.

Take control. Be the entrepreneur of yourself, 100 percent.

Related: 7 Bad Workplace Habits Millennials Need To Stop Making

3. Achieving clearer self-awareness

Some people say it takes only 21 days to form a new habit. Others say that just isn’t true. However long it takes, habit formation is a personal journey; one that requires desire, motivation, dedication, perseverance and change.

Habit formation takes you out of your comfort zone, to a place of self-discovery. If you’re getting into shape, how far can you push yourself physically? If you’re trying to eat better, how much temptation can you withstand?

Figure out what was required to succeed or why it was that you failed. Either way, you can obtain a clearer sense of your personal limits and, hopefully, how to achieve your goals — and sustain them — within your constraints.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” Not only to the world, but to yourself as well.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

How To Build A Disruptive Attitude

What does it mean to navigate a disruptive world and succeed in a market – place that is changing faster than it’s ever changed before?

Nadine Todd

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What do you need to know to be a success? What resources and support do you need? How do you need to feel and think to be a success in a disrupted world?

According to Malcolm Gladwell, who spoke at the 2017 BCX Disrupt Summit, you need three key things to succeed in a disrupted world: Resources, knowledge and the right attitude.

The First step towards innovation and disruption is your mind. Your attitude.

For Gladwell, Malcolm McLean is the single biggest disruptor of the 20th century, in that he implemented containerised shipping. Without this fundamental shift in the way we ship cargo, the modern, connected world as we know it today would not exist.

Crucially, McLean did not invent containerised shipping, but no one had been able to make it work before a trucker from Ohio came along, and got irritated by how long he had to wait at the docks to offload his cargo (roughly 24 hours).

Related: How to Build Your Network Like a Super Connector

But McLean had an idea and he presented it at a conference of maritime shippers in Amsterdam. They laughed him off the stage. Normally, when we are treated with this type of derision, we get discouraged and give up. McLean didn’t do that. He possessed a fundamental trait that all entrepreneurs need: He didn’t require the approval of others to do what he believed was right. Entrepreneurs are open, creative, and see solutions to problems that others don’t; they are also — crucially — highly conscientious, which means they follow through on an idea in a detailed, disciplined way.

This is rare. You get creative people, and conscientious people, but it’s not easy to find both traits in the same person. Add to that the third trait of disagreeableness, in that they do not have to follow established norms, and you have a real game-changer.

McLean didn’t look at the problem as a shipper did. He came from an entirely new angle, and not only found a way to make containerised shipping possible, but affordable too.

Ikea is a similar example. In a nutshell, Ikea is furniture shipped flat from Poland. Ingvar Kamprad pursued outsourcing on an aggressive level, had an extraordinary amount of creativity in solving problems, and was very conscientious. Consider how difficult it would have been to build a world-class manufacturing plant in Poland in 1961. The country was a post-WW2 mess, in the grip of Soviet Russia, known for shoddy workmanship and actively hostile to free enterprise.

And then Kamprad waltzed in from Sweden and pulled off the impossible because of his single-minded grit and attention to detail. He is the epitome of conscientiousness and obsessiveness.

Now consider Steve Jobs.

By the 1970s, Xerox was the most important tech company in the world. They were the richest, most innovative and profitable company, and they invested in a state-of-the-art R&D centre and filled it with 100 of the most brilliant computer scientists from around the world, and told them to be brilliant.

And they were. As per Xerox’s request, they reinvented the office. They invented the laser printer, the world’s first word processing programme, interfaces — and the list continues.

And then a 23-year-old Steve Jobs visited the centre. At that stage, his company was making traditional kit computers out of a garage. He was blown away by what he saw at Xerox Park and all the incredible things they were doing — particularly when he was shown the mouse and interface the Xerox team had developed for personal computers. He immediately saw how icons and a mouse changed everything. This was the future of computing.

Related: 10 Innovators On What They Learned From Steve Jobs

Leading the charge

Here’s why Apple is the world’s biggest tech company four decades later, and Xerox is not: While the Xerox team understood they had changed computing forever, there was no urgency to be the first to market.

Jobs left that day, immediately told his team to stop what they were doing, because it would soon be obsolete anyway, and started working on a new product based on what Xerox had developed.

His team told him he was nuts — they’d spent millions on what they were doing. Jobs said it didn’t matter. It was obsolete. He didn’t have more resources. He didn’t have smarter guys. He didn’t even have a wiser and better vision.

But he was in a hurry. And he was able to execute on his vision.

If you can get your mindset right, you can gather the resources and knowledge that you need to be successful. Learn as much as you can. Be open to new ideas. And if something is soon going to be obsolete, walk away. Find the next big thing. Because you’re either being disrupted, or you’re the disruptor. Which would you like to be?

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