What I Learned About Business and Life Spending a Day With Sir Richard Branson

Here are the insights this entrepreneur took from a day spent talking (and eating) with Sir Richard Branson.

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By Raj Jana Originally published

Raj Jana

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you got to meet your hero, what would you ask him or her?

For me, that hero is Sir Richard Branson, and after a series of serendipitous events, I got my opportunity. Thanks to Maverick1000, a global network of industry-transforming entrepreneurs, I got to spend a day on Necker Island with Richard Branson, and I left with a bucketload of takeaways and insights.

1. Live in the moment

Meeting Sir Richard Branson has been on my bucket list for years. I felt like a kid in a candy store when I arrived on Necker Island! I was so excited and had so many expectations. Then I noticed myself getting a little antsy about how I could make them all happen.

Something told me this stress would spoil my experience, so I surrendered to the day and allowed it to unfold as life wanted. This decision required me to live in the moment and follow my instinct, not my ego.

This switch transformed my experience. I met the "right" people, I had the "right" conversations and I even found an empty seat next to Branson at dinner, which he said, "Has your name on it!"

I realized this is how Branson lives his life. He does what makes him happy. He doesn't worry about the past and he lives for what's in front of him. The way I see it, he has his Hero Lens on all the time.

He's able to see the vision he wants to create and then make it happen. And because he navigates life in this way, he doesn't allow fear to stop him trying again — even if he's made mistakes. I think it's one of the reasons he's been able to rack up so many standout achievements over a career that has lasted decades.

Related: What Sir Richard Branson Learned From His 7 Biggest Failures

2. Sir Richard Branson doesn't care how much money you make

Branson listens a lot more than he speaks. During dinner, he was exceptionally curious about my dad and wanted to know more about his story of immigrating to the US in the '90s with just $60 in his pocket. I noticed this trait in Branson on multiple occasions throughout the day. He spoke to everyone the same way. It didn't matter if you were the janitor or the owner of a multimillion-dollar company — you were just another human in his eyes.

Branson reminded me that everyone has a story to tell. You don't need to be super successful or super-wealthy to have something interesting to say. Every person's story is valid because it's life through their lens. And we can always learn something about the way other people see and experience the world.

3. Build a personal brand and leverage it

Branson is known for more than his business success; he's also known for his personality and passion for life. He's a master at blending passion and business to achieve big goals and make a massive impact. And at the heart of his success is his personal brand.

By infusing his personality and passion for life into Virgin, he's been able to pivot multiple times and enter new markets — and succeed. Branson's diverse business interests all make sense under the Virgin brand because of what Branson himself stands for.

Branson taught me to invest in my personal brand and then use that brand as a container for personal and business evolution. Turns out when you create the space to express yourself and explore your ideas, you stretch the limits of what's possible.

Related: Sir Richard Branson's 8 Keys to Happiness and Success

4. Ask for forgiveness, not permission

Branson has always done things his own way. He doesn't follow a rule book or walk the roads someone else has mapped out. Instead, he follows his intuition and does what he believes is right — even if that means asking for forgiveness later.

I started my business from scratch. I had zero experience, and I didn't know any entrepreneurs. To kick-start my momentum, I modeled what I knew worked for other people. I invested in courses and mentors to help me shortcut my learning and progress faster than I would have alone.

But as I built some success, I felt drawn to trust my own ideas and insight — even if that meant doing things differently. Branson is proof that a commitment to doing it your way unlocks a creative edge that can't be replicated by your competitors. What's more, this playful, intuitive approach to business also develops insane levels of resilience and self-trust because you learn to listen to the most powerful source of wisdom there is — the wisdom that's locked in your heart and soul.

5. Combine what you're good at with what you enjoy

Branson may have built a lot of huge businesses, but he's also had a lot of fun along the way. It's one of his core values, and it's infused into everything he does. For example, on Necker Island he goes kitesurfing every day. And when he was building his businesses, he always got involved in crazy antics.

Branson is the ultimate example of someone who's having their cake and eating it too. He's the ultimate life enthusiast. A man who uses business and impact to create the maximum amount of enjoyment possible. He's used business as a vehicle to live a fulfilling, inspiring life, and that's a model I'm adopting for myself.

For example, my Stay Grounded podcast is a passion project. Sure it's an asset that's helping me to build a strong personal brand, but my core reason for creating weekly episodes is to learn and experience rapid growth. The podcast helps me do this by giving me a platform to interview people I'm inspired by and want to be around. There's not a week goes by that I don't take away something valuable from this commitment. In short, I get to have a lot of fun, through the creation of content for others.

Related: Sir Richard Branson on the Importance of Taking Meaningful Risks

6. Be fueled by meaning and driven by impact

Branson creates his legacy through his work. His work through Virgin Unite and Save the Ocean is making a meaningful difference to people and to the world. I'm inspired by conscious capitalism and evolved enterprise. I believe businesses are in a position to help solve some of the pressing global problems we're facing right now. Branson is a leader in making money in a way that helps to make the world a brighter place.

It's a mindset I adopt in my own companies. Sure, I want to make money — but I'm no longer driven by money in the same way I was in the early days.

As a result, I use business as a vehicle for personal growth and self-actualization. I've found that when you're driven by a purpose that's greater than you, you can tap into a bottomless fuel that empowers you to push through the inevitable ups and downs you'll face in business.

Spending time on Necker Island has been one of the highlights of my life so far. Being immersed in Branson's world taught me so much about life, business and myself, and I'm grateful for every second of it.

Raj Jana

Show Host at Stay Grounded

Raj Jana is the founder of JavaPresse, a lifestyle brand that transforms ordinary coffee rituals into extraordinary daily experiences. He's been mentored by some of the world's most inspiring leaders and hosts the weekly show, Stay Grounded, to help listeners achieve more happiness in daily life.

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