Entrepreneurs

Billionaire Richard Branson: 'Think like a toddler' to get ahead

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson
rune hellestad | Getty Images
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson

Richard Branson does things differently. He dropped out of school at age 16 to start his own business, and over his 50-year career, has never had a desk in a traditional office setting, preferring instead to work from his hammock.

He also thinks differently. More specifically, the 66-year-old billionaire entrepreneur credits much of his success to thinking like a toddler.

After all, toddlers "see opportunities where adults often see obstacles," he writes on his blog, which is exactly the mindset he needed when starting his first company as a teenager.

"I didn't have any experience," Branson recalls of his 16-year-old self, "but instead of feeling embarrassed and discouraged, I embraced my inner child and leaped into the unknown. Like a toddler, I had to learn on the spot, by doing."

Branson maintained this childlike sensibility when launching his Virgin Records label in 1973, Virgin Records, and Virgin Atlantic airline in 1984. "None of us really knew what we were doing," he says of those endeavors. "But, like children, unaware of the rules, we pushed through and achieved what others deemed to be impossible."

His inexperience ended up being a blessing: "With no preconceptions and no idea of what would work and what wouldn't, we did things differently and paved our own path to success."

Today, Branson learns by observing his young grandchildren. "I have particularly enjoyed watching them learn to walk," he writes. "They have each had so many spills and tumbles, yet, while they have bumped and grazed themselves time and time again, their egos have not been bruised nor has their willingness to try been diminished."

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