Entrepreneurs

The book that changed billionaire Richard Branson's life is a century-old classic

Richard Branson
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Richard Branson

Self-made billionaire Richard Branson has his fair share of favorite leadership books, but if you were to ask him about the book that changed his life, the answer may surprise you: "Peter Pan" by J.M. Barrie.

"Ever since reading it as a child, Peter Pan has been my favorite character," Branson tells Thrive Global in a recent interview.

The boy whose plan was to never grow up originally appeared in Barrie's 1904 play, "Peter Pan." After its incredible success, the novelist and playwright expanded the story and published it in 1911 as a novel, originally titled "Peter and Wendy."

"I've drawn a lot of inspiration from the book," Branson says. "I've never really wanted to grow up and I've always wanted to fly!"

In a sense, the 66-year-old entrepreneur never really has grown up. In fact, he credits much of his success to "thinking like a toddler."

Kids "see opportunities where adults often see obstacles," he writes on his blog, which is exactly the mindset he needed when starting his first business as a teenager, Student magazine. "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 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."

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