I just recently returned from an amazing month long trip through the African subcontinent.
Part of this was spending a week with Richard Branson at Ulusaba Private Game Reserve which borders with the Kruger National Park. We were invited as guests of Virgin Unite which is the nonprofit foundation of the Virgin Group and Branson family in association with Abundance Global.
Now I know what you are thinking…..
Every business wants their 2 minutes in the spotlight with the big guy Richard. After all, he is one of the most famous entrepreneurs alive. A truly inspiring guy with an amazing story. For me the fascination was to meet a man that I had genuinely admired for a long time and get a glimpse into how his mind works.
Is Richard Branson some cyborg being from a different universe blessed with great looks, fabulous wit and money making super powers? What makes this guy tick and remain so prolific over so many years?
After all, he has created over 400 businesses under the Virgin brand. 12 Billion dollar companies. All from nothing.
The reality is he is a super humble guy.
When we first met him at the bar he actually seemed a little nervous. Maybe he had just stepped off some long haul flight and was jet lagged. Having potentially flown in from exotic location then inserted into a room of 20+ admiring business owners and expected to be the life of the party would be difficult for anyone.
He warmed up and was a real gentleman.
Thoughtful, humble and caring.
For a man that would be pulled in all different directions he seemed to have time for everyone.
Over the next few days we had the opportunity to spend time with him at dinner, around a fire and out on safari having candid chats.
It was a real honour meeting the guy I had followed for so many years!
Here are 3 key things that I learned from Richard during my visit:
1. Learn the Art of Delegation
Being somewhat of a perfectionist, letting go is not one of my strong suits.
Richard spoke at length about becoming a “who’er” and mastering the art of delegating ruthlessly.
Surrounding yourself with people “who” are generally better at things than you are.
Not a super complicated notion but this one learning is ultimately what has allowed the Virgin Group to achieve amazing scale.
2. Become a Prolific Note Taker
Prior to this trip to Africa I binged on Richard’s new book “Finding My Virginity”.
It is jam packed with story after story of years of adventures, meeting amazing people and growing businesses. What struck me was the immense detail he was able to recall in these stories and events.
During our fireside chat, he attributes prolific note taking to his success and the ability to follow through. There are lots of people in this world who say they will do things but never actually action or implement. Richard is not one of them. If it goes in the notebook, I am sure it gets done (or delegated to someone!)
Taking notes also forces you to be a great listener. Forcing you to digest the words, process them and then note them down.
Another example of this is when out Safari one morning with Richard, I noticed a bunch handwritten scribbles and reminders on each of the people in the car he was to meet. He was super prepared for even casual chats with people he actually didn’t really need to make a whole bunch of effort for. This struck me as very thoughtful.
Richard also advocates writing down comments made by your kids. They aren’t kids for long and the ability to look back on candid comments or recall funny stories was priceless. He also recommends writing an autobiographical book of your life.
I like the idea of this.
Reflecting on being the superhero of your own life. Having to recall stories of your amazing adventures forces you to think bigger and become the best version of yourself for you and generations to come. What is the legacy you will leave in this world?
3. Three Circles of Support
This is a philosophy that Richard talks about in his book and blog post here.
In summary, you draw a circle around yourself and ask the questions:
- Am I looking after my health?
- Do I have work life balance right?
- How is my marriage or relationship with my kids?
Most people (including me) always have some fine tuning to do in this regard.
Once you feel you are doing well you can widen your circle to friends and extended family. How can you help them and influence their lives?
Taking the circle wider still you can expand this to your local neighbourhood or community. What are some really simple grass roots things you can do in the local community to make an impact.
The logic here is if everyone took this approach, the circles would overlap the disadvantaged, outcasts and lonely would feel much more cared for and loved.
Once you are feeling that you are doing all you can in your local community, the circle can expand even further to issues in your country or the world.
Super simple concept but very powerful. This is the power of small.
So in summary…
Each of us given the right amount of focus, drive and risk-taking can do wonderful things in this life. Richard is living testament to this.
Not everyone wants, needs to be or is destined to be a billionaire.
Instead, start small, do the work on yourself, love and nurture your family and community.
Then take your magic to the world and do great things.
Who knows what is in store!
PS, Here are some more wildlife pictures of the trip. If you are after an amazing African safari experience with a tonne of wildlife, I highly recommend Ulusaba Rock Lodge. The lodge is stunning, great staff and an unforgettable experience.