When you’re given the chance to sit down with Sir Richard Branson and ask him anything you want, you jump at the opportunity.
I’ve read, watched and listened to countless interviews with Branson over the years, and I’ve continuously updated myself on the press surrounding his ventures and accomplishments. Much has been written about Branson’s daredevil spirit and how it has enabled him to be so successful in business.
But I wanted to get more out of him than the usual “business is about being fearless,” so when I had the opportunity to chat with him, I decided to ask him something that would leave a lasting impact on my life and on those to whom I spread the message.
In the documentary, one catches a glimpse of Richard’s daredevil mindset and lifestyle. Over the years he has set countless world records, including the fastest Atlantic Ocean crossing and traversing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by hot air balloon. As he told me during our conversation, Branson is in training for Virgin Galactic’s space program, which he hopes will launch in the not-too-distant future.
Most are more aware of Branson’s business acumen than his adventurous spirit and feats that followed, and it makes sense. After all, this is the man who created Virgin Airlines on a whim amidst frustration at his American Airlines flight to the Virgin Islands being cancelled. He chartered his own flight, sold the rest of the seats to other stranded passengers, and inadvertently launched Virgin Airlines the next day. This was, of course, after he’d already experienced considerable success with his record company and other ventures.
What I’m saying is that Branson is no stranger to risk. He is no stranger to making quick decisions and committing to them—despite odds that are often stacked against him. This got me thinking…
What is it about fear and the unknown that causes us to just accept our current circumstances and not go for something we’ve always wanted?
What better man to give insight on this than Branson? In speaking with him, I wanted to show that Branson’s adventurous spirit is indicative of a lifestyle and mindset that has enabled him to be successful in whatever way he’s envisioned. I wanted to show that this mindset is what allows you to be successful in anything: business, life, travel, sports, fitness, social settings, and so on.
I wanted to show that adventure is not just an occasional and fun part of life, but rather an essential ingredient for personal growth and development that enables success.
From my own ventures and life experience, success and happiness come down to just one thing: experience.
I wanted to ask Richard what it was about his life that imbued in him such a sense of adventure and (seemingly) a lack of concern for embarrassment, pain, or even death. More importantly, I wanted to know how he pushed himself to experience those aspects of life, rather than thinking or dreaming of them.
So I asked Richard, “How do you control fear to enable you to live a more adventurous life?”
These are the four things Branson told me are necessary to live a life of adventure.
1. You have to take action.
He told me his parents didn’t allow him or his siblings to watch television as children.
“We had to be active, ” Branson said. “They famously pushed me out of the car and told me to make my own way to Grandma’s house. They would put us on a bike in the pouring rain and make us ride a couple hundred miles to the seaside. They would much rather that we were climbing trees and rescuing cats than sitting inside.
“They wanted us to be, in a nutshell, doing things, rather than watching other people doing things.“
To me, the upbringing that emphasized “doing” over “thinking” is what shaped Branson to be a daredevil. This allowed him to be successful in many endeavors.
In business and through my personal life, I have found this “do” mindset to be most impactful on my ability to shed any fear that lingers and act. This has allowed me to try things that most people wouldn’t consider because they let fear hold them back.
Action is what separates the dreamers from the doers.
2. You have to stay calm under fire.
In talking with Branson, I began to understand a bit about where he came from. He treats his life and business in the same manner. He pushes himself to experience as much as possible. In fact, for Branson, life is all about pushing oneself to experience more and accrue perspective. But with that comes immense pressure and struggle—even death.
“If you’re facing death, you’ve got two choices: you can curl up and give up, or you can fight tooth and nail to survive,” he said. “You have to do everything you can to think, think, think to give yourself the best chance.”
In life, your ability to experience more of the world and feel more fulfilled is directly related to the amount of perspective you’re able to accrue. More perspective equates to increased drive to experience more. The more perspective you have, the greater your drive to act (rather than plan) will be.
Like Branson said, you have to do everything you can to give yourself the best chance… to experience as much of life as possible. If that means taking risks, so be it. Acknowledge the fact that your growth in life and subsequent ability to succeed in whatever realm you wish is dependent upon how willing you are to commit to experiences.
You can curl up and accept that your life will be the outcome of the experiences you’ve had to date—or you can fight tooth and nail to ensure that your life will be a result of the amazing experiences you’ve yet to experience. It’s up to you.
3. You have to be a daredevil to succeed.
“As an entrepreneur, you are an adventurer,” Branson said. “You create something not [already] created and do it better. You are fighting all the time to make it the best.”
This was in response to my question about the relationship between a “daredevil” attitude and entrepreneurship. Branson wholeheartedly agreed that every entrepreneur is an adventurer in his or her own right. But I think it extends well beyond the business and entrepreneurship realm.
If you want to do more and be more, you have to risk more. It’s this mindset that has allowed me to experience an incredible diversity of experiences in my life. It has enabled me to meet and interact with people whom I never would have thought possible (like Richard Branson), and it has enabled me to be confident in taking risks that most would not.
4. Never give up.
I am fascinated by Branson’s adventures and daredevil feats. You might have seen headlines on the incredible records Branson has set, but do you know what you may not have seen? The countless times he has failed in getting there. In fact, in watching Don’t Look Down and researching his adventures, I think he assuredly has failed more times than he has been successful. But his successes have been remarkable.
“It sounds slightly corny, but you need to fight, fight, fight to survive. Ultimately if you fight and you don’t [succeed], just pick yourself up and keep trying until you do,” Branson told me. “The same applied when our balloon fell apart. We did not give up. We built another one and carried on until we were successful.”
Sure, it’s cheesy to say that you should never give up—but if there’s any example of the viability of such a statement, it’s Branson. He has made a living from refusing to accept the status quo and refusing failure.
In life you will be knocked down more times than you will be able to count. Refusing to quit isn’t a choice to be made occasionally and as the situation fits. Rather, it is a long-term mindset.
My conversation with Branson solidified my dedication to living with this mindset 100 percent of the time, and I hope it does the same for you.