Eve Branson knew early on that her oldest child was going to be a handful. "You were just a toddler but you were clearly someone who liked to do things his own way and on your own terms," she writes in a letter to her son, billionaire Richard Branson.
She and her husband Ted let the boy be himself. They even allowed him drop out of school at age 16 to start his first business.
"On a few such occasions we would say things like, 'Oh don't be ridiculous, Ricky! That's never going to work,'" she writes. "More often than not, however, your father and I instead opted to give you plenty of scope to learn by your mistakes and so left you to get on with your Christmas tree growing, bird breeding and all the other weird and wonderful enterprises you came up with."
While nearly all of the young Branson's endeavors ended "in some form of a disaster with us picking up the pieces ...," Eve says, "we'd soldier on and just kept hoping that one day the lessons learned would help you in life.
"And that certainly would seem to have turned out to be the case."
At just 23 years old, Branson had already earned his first million. Since then, the founder and chairman of Virgin Group has overseen hundreds of companies and accumulated a fortune of approximately $5 billion.
The key to raising your children to become successful entrepreneurs, Eve says, is to allow them to fail and to figure things out on their own.
The billionaire's mother writes, "Once you and Virgin had become an established success, Ted and I would often ponder on just how differently you might have turned out had we been more controlling, or some might say 'better,' parents. What if we had insisted that you not take so many silly risks?"
Branson, now 66, agrees with, and benefited from, his mom's parenting philosophy. "I am grateful to have had encouraging parents, who instead of blockading and trouncing my curiosity, allowed me to figure things out on my own accord," he writes. And ultimately, "I am where I am today because I have been allowed to fail."