I am not a Sir Richard Branson acolyte - let's get that one thing straight.
I am not.
But having spent some choice time with him this last May I can definitely say that I am a new fan. What I discovered was amazing, educating, inspiring and a source of deep reflection for myself.
I thought long and hard what I wanted to share without joining the thousands who profess to know something or someone they actually do not. To this end what I wanted to do was numerate a couple of things I learnt (for what they are worth) as I got to meet and spend a bit of time with a few extraordinary people on one of Sir Richard's islands.
So here goes:
Great sailors are not made on calm seas - the bigger the waves and fiercer the wind the more profound the knowledge you will gain as a sailor and a human in life. I learnt that Sir Richard does not shy away from stormy seas but rather at time plots a course straight into them, this challenges the comfort paradox - the more you seek comfort and ease the more uncomfortable you become.
Empathy is a massive strength - I have often heard people say that forgiveness and empathy is for the weak things of this earth, my answer to them is "If you believe forgiving another for a wrong they have done to you is easy - try it." Sir Richard spoke of great empathy and a drive and responsibility that he feels for the planet and its people, I was humbled.
Small things really count alot - When you spend time on Sir Richard's island you will see attention to small details - attention to how the lemurs are cared for, attention to how the walk ways traverse the island, attention to how a room or space smells and feels to optimise an experience. When you fly on Virgin this becomes apparent, how the small things and attention to detail makes its way into the business as it exists in his life - he really isn't shamming, he believes this philosophy and lives it properly everywhere.
People matter, 'the most' - On one of the days we were scheduled to spend time with Sir Richard he had a tennis accident - 'A tennis accident you might say?' but frankly he lost his front tooth in a particularly competitive game he was having with his coach a few hours before our lunch engagement. I thought he would cancel and postpone the time but true to form after having his tooth inserted back into his skull he was at lunch, telling stories, sharing insight and lisping just a little bit. I personally saw him wipe away blood from his damaged tooth a few times during lunch, a testament that to him people really matter.
Set your sights high - After seeing a presentation about Virgin's space ambitions and hearing Sir Richard talk about his dilemma about how many space craft he needs to invest in, it elevated my thinking and stretched my concept of possible. I know anything is possible as long as we keep going, especially when we are terrified! Set your sights high and do not settle, keep pushing, keep struggling, keep working, keep seeking. Humans have unlimited potential and when we work together we can create extraordinary things.
There is no point doing something you do not LOVE - Find your passion and do it passionately - success guaranteed!
Make sure you fill your life with inspiration - Life will drain you, find things that feed your soul and pique your curiosity, give back even when you have nothing to give, culture a spirit of generosity and abundance and do not be afraid to share. This is the key to unlimited 'pie baking potential'.
ON reflection I could write a treatise on what I learnt and how I felt - I was inspired and determined to be a better human coming away from my experience. I think the take away that will always stay with me as I go on to make a difference is that is the point - MAKING A DIFFERENCE IS THE POINT.
So step up, rev up and be awesome!