Screw It, Let's Do It: Lessons In Life (Richard Branson)

Screw It, Let’s Do It – by Richard Branson

How strongly I recommend it: 6/10
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This is a quick read, full of interesting stories. Richard Branson shares some of his business adventures and how great things might start with a “Screw it, let’s do it”–things like buying an island or testing a business idea (like starting an airline). It’s inspiring and full of energy.


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 work out how to achieve them. Anything I want to do in life I want to do well and not half-heartedly. At school, I found reading and writing hard. Back then, dyslexia wasn’t understood and my teachers just thought I was lazy. So taught myself to learn things by heart. Now I have a very good memory and it has become one of my best tools in business.
A journey of a thousand miles starts with that first step. If you look ahead to the end, and all the weary miles between, with all the dangers you might face, you might never take that first step. And whatever it is you want to achieve in life, if you don’t make the effort. You won’t reach your goal. So take the first step. There will be many challenges. You might get knocked back – but in the end, you will make it.


THE STAFF AT VIRGIN have a name for me. It is ‘Dr. Yes’. They call me this because I won’t say no. I find more reasons to do things than not to do them. My motto really is: ‘Screw it let’s do it!’ I will never say,’I can’t do this because I don’t know how to.’ I will give it a go. I won’t let silly rules stop me. I will find a legal way around them. I tell my staff, ‘If you want to do it, just do it.’ That way we all benefit. The staff’s work and ideas are valued and Virgin gains from their input and drive.


Have Fun, Work Hard and Money Will Come
Don’t Waste Time – Grab Your Chances
Have a Positive Outlook On Life
When it’s Not Fun, Move On
I didn’t set out to be rich. The fun and the challenge in life were what I wanted – and still do. I don’t deny that money is important. We are not caveman and woman. We can’t live just on roots and berries. We live in an era when we must have some money to survive. I once said I only need one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner a day. And I still live by those words. I never went into business to make money – but I have found that, if I have fun, the money will come. I often ask myself, is my work fun and does it make me happy? I believe that the answer to that matters more than fame or fortune. If something stops being fun, I ask why? If I can’t fix it, I stop doing it.
Hard work and fun is what life is all about. As soon as something stops being fun, I think it’s time to move on. Life is too short to be unhappy. Waking up stressed and miserable is not a good way to live.
Not all of us have the money to start up a business, or the luck, or the chances aren’t there. Sometimes, you are just glad to have a job – any job. So you grab the job in the factory or the store or the call center. You might hate it, but you try to make the best of things. But is that fun? I would say do you really have to stay stuck in a rut? Is that job you hate really your only option? Whoever you are, you have other choices. Look around. See what else you can do.
There are dozens of things you can do from home to make money. It could be more fun and lead to a new career you really enjoy.
If you do still have to work for a boss at a job you don’t like, as almost everyone does at some point, don’t moan about it. Have a positive out – look on life and just get on with it. Work hard and earn your pay. Enjoy the people you come into contact with through your job. And if you are still unhappy, make it instead your goal to divide your private life from your work life. Have fun in your own time, you will feel happier and you’ll enjoy your life and your job more.


Calculate the Risks and Take Them
Believe in Yourself
Chase Your Dreams and Goals
Have No Regrets
Be Bold
Keep Your Word
One of the things I try to do at Virgin is make people think about themselves and see themselves more positively. I firmly believe that anything is possible. I tell them, ‘Believe in yourself. You can do it.’ I also say, ‘Be bold but don’t gamble.’
You can take care and try to avoid the risks, but you can’t protect yourself all the time. I am sure that luck play as very large part. It’s easy to give up when things are hard but I believe we have to keep chasing our dreams and our goals, as these exciting people did. And once we decided to do something, we should never look back, never regret it.
I said that Virgin Music was making a lot of money. The money to start an airline was less than a third of a year’s profits. It was a lot, but not too much. Even if we lost it all, we would survive. ‘It’s not too big a risk. And it’ll be fun.’ They weren’t happy with the word ‘fun’. To them, Business was serious. It is. But, to me, having fun matters more. I want to live life to the full. I want new goals to reach for. I decided to call the airline Virgin Atlantic.
Over lunch, he told me how an airline worked. We discussed what I should look out for. Freddie said, ‘look out for dirty tricks from British Airways. BA’s dirty tricks ruined me. Don’t let them ruin you. Complain as loudly as you can. My mistake was that I didn’t complain.’ I don’t like to complain. I don’t cry over spilled milk. I just get on with things. But I made a mental note. ‘Watch out for dirty tricks. Complain loudly.’
I was bold, yes, but not foolish. I took a risk by starting up airline. But the odds were good. They were not all or nothing, like they were with the winner of The Rebel Billionaire, and I had thought through how to manage the risks. Shawn Nelson could have won it all or lost it all on the spin of a coin. It took courage to refuse.
One thing I always try to do is to keep my word. I sat my goals and stick to them. Success is more than luck. You have to believe in yourself and make it happen. That way others also believe in you.
Some you win and some you lose. Be glad when you win. Don’t have regrets when you lose. Never look back. You can’t change the past. I try to learn from it. We can’t all run big airlines or trains. Many people have more modest goals. But whatever your dream is, go for it. Always beware if the risks are too random or too hard to predict, but remember, if you opt for a safe life, you will never know what it’s like to win.


Aim high
Try New Things
Always Try
Challenge Yourself
EVERYONE NEEDS SOMETHING TO aim for. You can call it a challenge, or you can call it a goal. It is what makes us human. It was challenges that took us from being caveman to reaching for the stars.
If you challenge yourself, you will grow.
Your life will change. Your outlook will be positive. It’s not always easy to reach your goal but that’s no reason to stop. Never say die. Say yourself ‘I can do it. I’ll keep on trying until I win.’
For me, there are two types of challenge. One is to do the bests I can at work. The other is to seek adventure. I try to do the both. I try to stretch myself to the limit. I am driven. I love the challenge of looking for new things and new ideas. To me, the stretch is fun.


Rely on Yourself
Chase your Dreams but Live in the Real World.
Work Together
[Talking about his mother] I learned about business and money from her. She would say things like, ‘The winner takes all’ and, ‘Chase your dreams’. Mum knew that losing wasn’t fair, but it is life. It’s not a good idea to teach children that they can win all the time. In the real world, people struggle.


Love Life and Live It To The full
Enjoy the Moment
Reflect on your Life
Make Every Second Count
Don’t Have Regrets
[Talking about his grandmother] Shortly before her death at the age of 99 she went on a cruise around the behind in Jamaica wearing only her swimming costume. Her attitude was that you’ve only got one go in life, so you should make the most of it.
I am so aware of how precious time with them is, I ration myself to only fifteen minutes of business a day when we’re together. I don’t use modern gadgets like email or mobile phones, but in Africa I did learn to use a satellite phone to keep in touch with the office. Many bosses, who spend all day in their office, are baffled. They ask, ‘How can you do it all in just fifteen minutes?’
I say, ‘It’s easy. Make every second count.‘ That is true in both my business and personal life.
I am able to say that now because I am older and perhaps wiser. It wasn’t always the case. My first wife, Kristen, got very irate because I was always on the phone. She said I spent my life working and couldn’t draw the line between work and home. She was right. Part of the trouble was that I worked from home. I couldn’t resist picking up the phone when it rang, which it did, non-stop. I wished I could just let it ring- but I never knew when it might lead to a nice deal.
Even today, even when I am relaxing, I never stop thinking. My brain is working all the time when I am awake, churning out ideas.
Because Virgin is a worldwide company, I find I need to be awake much of the time. One of the things I am very good at is catnapping, catching an hour or two of sleep at a time. Of all the skills I have learned, that one is vital for me. On a bus between Hong Kong and china, for example, when nothing much is going on, I will sleep. I wake refreshed and ready to go for long hours.
It’s hard to lose out in a business deal, but harder still to suffer from guilt. We all do things we wish we hadn’t. Sometimes, they seem like big mistakes, but later, when they seem like big mistakes, But later when you look back, they turn out to be small. Regret, which leads to a sense of guilt, can give you sleepless nights. But I believe the past is the past. You can’t change it.
So, even if sometimes you get things wrong, regrets are wasted and you should move on.
Always living in the future can slow us down as much as always looking behind. Many people are always looking ahead and they never seem content. They look for quick fixes, like winning the lottery. I know that goals are important. Money is important. But the bottom line is money is just a means to an end, not an end in itself. And what is going on now is just as important as what you’re planning for the future.
So, even though my diary is full for months ahead, I have learned to live for the moment.


Put the Family and the Team First
Be Loyal
Face Problems Head On
Money is for Making Things Happen
Pick the Right People and Reward Talent
I have learned always to respect talent. Even if someone is hired to do one thing, if they have good ideas, or can handle something else, just let them do it.
People have asked me how I can take so much time off to go on adventures around the world. My answer is that when you pick the right people, you can leave them to it.
We all need a strong support network. Even though I was taught to stand on my own feet, without my loyal family and friends I would be lost.


Be Polite and Respectful
Do the Right Thing
Keep Your Good Name
Be Fair in All Your Dealings
Your reputation is everything. If you’re starting in business and ask me if I have a lesson for you, I’d say. ‘Be fair in all your dealings. Don’t cheat – but aim to win.’ This rule should extend to your private life. My motto is, ‘Never do anything if it means you can’t sleep at night.’ It’s a good rule to follow.


Change the World, Even if in a Small Way
Make a Difference and Help Others
Do No Harm
Always Think What You Can Do To Help

I still can’t use a laptop. People have given me a Blackberry and mobile phones, but I have always written everything down in school notebooks. It started when I found reading and writing hard at school and, to make up for that, built up a very good long-term memory. Now I jot down key words in my notebooks and later, if I need to, I find a note and I can recall entire conversations. This has stood me in very good stead more than once when I have needed to prove something. But it’s not just conversations – I also jot down my own thoughts. Anything I see and hear can spark an idea in me. I note it down at once and often look back through old notebooks to gain fresh ideas or to see what I might have missed. I would advise young people starting out in life to keep a notebook with them. It’s a good habit to get into.