#49 Screw It, Lets Do It Lessons in Life by Richard Branson



In this episode, the hosts discuss Richard Branson's book "Screw It, Let's Do It: Lessons in Life and Business," which distills the key lessons from his life and career into a concise format. Branson emphasizes the importance of setting goals, being practical, and taking action, drawing from personal experiences such as overcoming dyslexia and starting a magazine at 15. He advocates for a no-regrets mentality, learning from failures, and the power of fun and passion over the pursuit of money. The hosts reflect on Branson's approach to business, including his preference for empowering employees and his aversion to strict corporate structures, as seen in his decision to take Virgin private after a stifling stint on the stock exchange. Branson's adventurous spirit and his mother's influence on his self-reliance and entrepreneurial mindset are also highlighted, underscoring his belief in challenging oneself and standing on one's own feet.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Richard Branson's Philosophy

  • Richard Branson emphasizes the importance of setting practical goals and working towards achieving them.
  • He has faced challenges such as dyslexia, but has turned his difficulties into strengths, such as developing a good memory.
  • Branson values action and initiative in life and business, advocating for taking the first step towards goals despite uncertainties or difficulties.

"Though I have never followed the rules at every step, I have learned many lessons along the way. These lessons have done me good throughout my lifetime."

This quote highlights Branson's nonconformist approach to life and his belief in the value of the lessons learned from his experiences.

"I believe in goals. It's never a bad thing to have a dream, but I'm practical about it. I don't sit daydreaming about things that are impossible. I set goals, and then I work on how to achieve them."

Branson underscores the practical aspect of dreaming by setting achievable goals and working diligently to realize them.

"Anything I want to do in life, I want to do well and not halfheartedly."

This quote reflects Branson's commitment to excellence and full engagement in his endeavors.

Embracing Change and Taking Initiative

  • Branson speaks to the uncertainty of modern life and the necessity for individuals to make choices and take action to succeed.
  • He shares the wisdom of starting with a single step and the importance of making an effort to reach one's goals.
  • The quote from Plato about beginnings being crucial is used to motivate individuals to initiate their journey without being daunted by the challenges ahead.

"The best lesson I learned was to just do it. It doesn't matter what it is or how hard it might seem."

Branson's most significant lesson is to take action, emphasizing the importance of starting regardless of perceived difficulty.

"A journey of a thousand miles starts with that first step."

He uses this proverb to illustrate the concept of beginning a task, no matter how daunting it may seem.

"Screw It, Let's Do It": Lessons in Life and Business

  • Branson's book is described as a concise version of his experiences and lessons, with little fluff and straight to the point.
  • The book is structured into nine chapters, each offering different life and business advice.
  • The key message is to find reasons to do things rather than excuses not to, and to circumvent obstacles legally and creatively.

"This book is really short. You could probably read it in 2 hours, maybe in one sitting, maybe two sittings."

The book's brevity is emphasized, suggesting that it is a quick and straightforward read.

"My motto really is, screw it, let's do it."

Branson's motto encapsulates his approach to taking on challenges and seizing opportunities without hesitation.

Empowerment and Ingenuity in Business

  • Branson values his staff's ideas and contributions, believing that it benefits the entire company.
  • He is known for publicity stunts but is portrayed as lacking a significant ego, open to ideas from any source.
  • Virgin's structure is described as unique and egalitarian, with Branson empowering his employees and valuing their input.

"I tell my staff, if you want to do it, just do it. That way we all benefit."

Branson encourages his staff to take initiative, highlighting a culture of empowerment within Virgin.

"He seems to be much more egalitarian."

This observation points to Branson's leadership style, which is more inclusive and democratic compared to other business leaders.

Overcoming Obstacles and Leveraging Opportunities

  • Branson shares anecdotes from his past to illustrate the application of his lessons, such as starting a student magazine at 15 despite skepticism.
  • He emphasizes the importance of creativity in reaching goals, suggesting lateral moves and alternative paths to success.
  • Branson's stories demonstrate his long-term vision and willingness to wait for rewards, as well as the practical application of skills such as mathematics in real-world scenarios.

"I don't believe that the little word can't should stop you."

Branson dismisses the notion of impossibility, encouraging people to find alternative ways to achieve their goals.

"If you want to fly, get down to the airfield at the age of 16 and make the t. Keep your eyes open. Look and learn."

He advises gaining practical experience and learning on the job as a means to pursue one's ambitions.

Learning from Early Ventures

  • Branson recounts his early business endeavors, including a failed attempt to grow Christmas trees at age nine, which taught him valuable lessons.
  • He discusses the importance of understanding finances and the patience required for long-term planning.
  • Branson's experiences illustrate the necessity of adapting to unforeseen challenges and the reality that success may not come easily or quickly.

"My very first business lessons were not a success, but I learned from them."

This quote acknowledges that failure can be a source of valuable learning.

"My second lesson was that money doesn't grow on trees."

Branson humorously reflects on the literal and figurative lessons learned from his childhood business attempt.

Early Entrepreneurial Ventures

  • Richard Branson's first business was a Christmas tree venture with his best friend, Nick Powell.
  • Nick and Richard had a falling out but remained friends.
  • When Richard started his record business, he invited Nick back, offering him a significant stake.

"Once Richard starts branching out into the record business, he invites Nick back in and gives him about 40% of the music business."

This quote highlights Richard Branson's loyalty and willingness to share success with old friends, exemplified by his generous offer to Nick Powell when starting his record business.

Principles of Business and Life

  • Richard Branson emphasizes the importance of having fun in business as a guide to what one should pursue.
  • The pursuit of wealth was not his primary motivation; instead, he sought fun and challenges.
  • He believes that if business stops being fun, it's time to move on, as life is too short to be unhappy.
  • His philosophy is that money will come if one is having fun in their endeavors.

"Don't waste time, have fun and love your family. Notice that making money isn't in that list. I didn't set out to be rich. The fun and the challenge in life were what I wanted and still do."

This quote encapsulates Richard Branson's core belief that the joy and challenge of life's pursuits are more important than the pursuit of wealth.

Business Risks and Friendship

  • Richard Branson and Nick Powell's working relationship was tested when the airline business required taking significant financial risks.
  • Nick Powell was uncomfortable with these risks, leading to his departure from Virgin.
  • Nick used his profits to successfully enter the film industry, demonstrating that leaving Virgin was the right decision for his happiness.

"If Nick had stayed with Virgin, he might have made more money, but he would not have been happy. If we had gone on working together. Even after the fun had gone, we might not have stayed friends. He made the right choice."

Richard Branson reflects on the importance of happiness over money and the positive outcome of Nick Powell's decision to leave Virgin for the film industry.

Maximizing Opportunities and Lateral Moves

  • Richard Branson advises making the most of one's current situation and considering lateral moves to achieve goals.
  • He encourages people to look for opportunities outside of undesirable jobs and to take risks to change their circumstances.

"Look around and see what else you can do."

This quote encourages individuals to seek alternatives and opportunities, even when their current job is not fulfilling.

Approach to Business and Risk

  • Richard Branson believes in keeping his word, setting goals, and making them happen, which instills confidence in others.
  • He discusses missed investment opportunities, emphasizing the importance of not dwelling on the past.
  • His approach to risk includes protecting the downside and embracing the possibility of failure without fear.

"Success is more than luck. You have to believe in yourself and make it happen."

Richard Branson stresses the importance of self-belief and action in achieving success, rather than relying on luck alone.

Challenging Oneself and Embracing Adventure

  • Richard Branson shares his passion for adventure and willingness to face danger.
  • He recounts his record-setting hot air balloon journeys, despite the risks and opposition from loved ones.
  • His determination to fulfill promises and seek adventure demonstrates his approach to life and business challenges.

"Whatever the danger, I wouldn't give up."

This quote illustrates Richard Branson's commitment to his goals and his readiness to confront peril in pursuit of adventure and record-setting achievements.

Crossing the Ocean in a Balloon

  • Richard Branson and his team planned to cross the ocean using jet streams.
  • Jet streams are located at altitudes between 20,000 and 40,000 feet and can move as fast as a river in full flood.
  • The challenge was that the balloon was over 300 feet tall, and different parts of it could travel at different speeds within the jet stream.

"Our plan was to cross the ocean." "Circled the earth between 20,000 and 40,000ft up."

The quotes explain the objective of crossing the ocean by utilizing jet streams at high altitudes and the associated challenges due to the size of the balloon.

The Jet Stream Challenge

  • The balloon's ascent into the jet stream was likened to hitting a glass ceiling.
  • The team struggled with the jet stream's strong winds, which required excessive fuel to overcome.
  • Once in the jet stream, the balloon and capsule moved at drastically different speeds, causing significant stress on the structure.

"As we rose, the top of the balloon hit the bottom of the jet stream." "It was like hitting a glass ceiling."

These quotes describe the difficulty of entering the jet stream and the metaphorical "glass ceiling" that represented the barrier they had to break through.

The Perilous Journey

  • The team experienced a terrifying event where the balloon was nearly torn apart due to the speed differential within the jet stream.
  • They had to navigate carefully to release fuel tanks, which resulted in an imbalance and loss of crucial fuel.
  • The loss of fuel tanks caused the balloon to soar uncontrollably upwards, leading to a dangerous rise in altitude.

"It felt like a thousand horses were dragging us apart." "We feared the balloon would be torn in two."

These quotes convey the extreme danger the team faced when the balloon was almost ripped apart by the differing speeds at which it and the capsule were traveling.

High-Altitude Risks

  • The team was warned about the dangers of high altitude, including the potential for the capsule's dome to explode at 43,000 feet.
  • They reached unprecedented altitudes, surpassing those of most aircraft.
  • At the extreme altitude, they encountered a fire hazard that required quick thinking to extinguish by ascending to an oxygen-deprived altitude.

"We've been warned that the glass dome of our capsule would explode at 43,000ft." "At 41,000ft, we entered the unknown."

These quotes highlight the risks involved with high-altitude travel in a balloon, including the potential for catastrophic equipment failure and the unknown effects on the human body.

  • The team had to alter their course due to a change in the jet stream's direction, aiming for a lower stream that would take them toward the Arctic.
  • They landed on a frozen lake in Canada after a harrowing journey through a blizzard, resulting in frostbite.
  • The ordeal emphasized the human spirit of challenge and adventure.

"Our ground crew told us that our jet stream had turned." "We had to get into a lower jet stream at once."

These quotes detail the necessity of changing their flight plan mid-journey and the subsequent challenges they faced to land safely.

Lessons from Childhood

  • Richard Branson reflects on the lessons of independence and self-reliance taught by his mother from an early age.
  • His mother set challenges for him, such as finding his way home or completing a long bike ride, to instill a sense of capability and strength.
  • Richard's mother's philosophy was against idleness and for instilling a strong work ethic and understanding of the value of money.

"If you want milk, don't sit on a stool in the middle of a field in the hope that the cow will back up to you." "When I was four years old, mom stopped the car a few miles from our house and told me to find my own way home across the fields."

These quotes illustrate the life lessons Richard Branson's mother imparted, emphasizing the importance of proactivity and self-sufficiency, which were central to his upbringing and later success.

Early Family Life and Business Ventures

  • Richard Branson's family embraced hard work and fun, creating a strong sense of teamwork.
  • His mother was entrepreneurial, crafting wooden tissue boxes and waste paper bins in their garden shed.
  • Richard and his sister Lindy assisted their mother, contributing to the family business.
  • Their products were sold in Harrods, leading to a significant increase in sales.
  • The family also hosted French and German students as paying guests.

My sister Lindy and I helped mom with her projects. It was fun. It made a great sense of teamwork within our family. Says mom made little wooden tissue boxes and waste paper bins. Her workshop was the garden shed and it was our job to help her. Herods ordered them and sales boomed.

These quotes illustrate the hands-on family business environment that Richard Branson grew up in, fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and a close-knit family teamwork ethos.

Transition to a Public Company

  • Branson expanded from small businesses to establishing Virgin Worldwide.
  • Despite advice from partners, he decided to go public due to encouragement from bankers and seeing other private companies' success.
  • The public offering was met with enthusiasm, with many individuals investing their savings in Virgin.
  • Branson felt a strong sense of responsibility towards his investors.

I went from small cottage industries to setting up virgin worldwide. I was told I should go public, I should sell shares in my business. Around 70,000 people applied for shares by post. Those who had left it too late lined up in the city to buy shares in person.

These quotes highlight Branson's journey from managing small family businesses to taking his company public, and the overwhelming public response to the Virgin stock offering.

Challenges of a Public Company

  • Branson faced challenges in adapting to the corporate environment of a public company.
  • He disliked the loss of control and the need to consult a board of directors, which was not familiar with the music business.
  • The structure of a public company stifled his ability to make quick, instinctual decisions.
  • Virgin's shares began to slip, and Branson experienced depression during a stock market crash.

Instead of a casual meeting with my business partners on my houseboat to discuss what bands to sign I had to ask a board of directors. I have always made fast decisions and acted on my instinct. Then I was stifled.

These quotes reflect Branson's discomfort with the bureaucratic processes of a public company and his preference for swift, instinct-driven decision-making.

Returning to a Private Company

  • Branson decided to buy back all Virgin shares at the original price to maintain his reputation and regain control.
  • He personally raised the funds necessary for this buyback.
  • Branson felt immense relief when Virgin became private again, likening it to a successful record attempt.

I made up my mind I would buy all the shares back at the price everyone had paid for them. The day that Virgin became a private company again was like landing safely after a record attempt in a powerboat or a balloon.

These quotes convey Branson's determination to uphold his commitments to shareholders and his desire to return to the autonomy of running a private company.

Branson's Philosophy and Future Endeavors

  • Branson emphasizes belief in oneself and the value of hard work, thought, and love.
  • The podcast promotes a members-only podcast that explores Branson's life advice, including living in the moment, dealing with regrets, and time management.
  • The hosts encourage listeners to support the podcast for additional content and to access Branson's business insights.

I believe in myself. I believe in the hands that work, in the brains that think, and the hearts that love.

This quote summarizes Branson's core philosophy of self-belief and the importance of various human contributions to success.

Podcast Support and Additional Resources

  • The podcast offers membership for exclusive content and additional podcasts.
  • Members will receive weekly podcasts and have access to past members-only episodes.
  • The hosts also provide a way for listeners to purchase books discussed in the podcast, with a portion of sales supporting the podcast.
  • The podcast promotes Foundersnotes Co., which provides succinct notes from the podcasts and speeches of various founders.

If you want to support the podcast...sign up and become a member, members will...get a new one every week. If you want to get the full story...go to founderspodcast.com books.

These quotes detail how listeners can support the podcast and gain access to additional resources, including books and notes on founder insights.

What others are sharing

Go To Library

Want to Deciphr in private?
- It's completely free

Deciphr Now
Footer background
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon

© 2024 Deciphr

Terms and ConditionsPrivacy Policy