Billionaire Richard Branson: Asking yourself one question can make you more successful

Richard Branson
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Richard Branson

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson likes to think long-term. Specifically, he likes to ask himself one particular question: In five years, will this matter?

"Far too many people spend too much time looking in the rear-view mirror, worrying about where they went wrong, and get distracted from the road ahead," he writes on his blog. "Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if you spend too much time wallowing on what's behind you, you'll never end up where you want to be."

Ultimately, if you dwell on the past, "you'll never move forward," the billionaire entrepreneur says.

Research is in his corner. After studying more than 1,200 of the world's wealthiest people over 30 years, author Steve Siebold found that the most successful ones are future-oriented and avoid thinking nostalgically.

The middle class tends to long for the good old days, he says, while rich people are optimistic about what is to come. "Self-made millionaires get rich because they're willing to bet on themselves and project their dreams, goals and ideas into an unknown future," he writes in "How Rich People Think."

That being said, wealthy people don't completely neglect the past, Siebold notes: "They appreciate and learn from the past while living in the present and dreaming of the future."

Branson is no exception. "I don't write off the past; instead I draw lessons from it to help me on my course," writes the billionaire. "After all, life's greatest teacher is failure, and those that don't learn from it are doomed to repeat their mistakes. But don't study them — learn and move on."

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