His story of how Virgin Airlines got started is amazing. Richard was waiting at the airport for a flight to see his girlfriend. The flight was cancelled but Richard was very keen to see his girlfriend and did not want to wait until the next day. So he chartered a plane. He didn’t have the money to pay for it but was confident that other cancelled passengers would want to fly that night too. He then advertised his flight on a small blackboard and sold tickets for $39 to fill the plane. He pulled it off, was able to see his girlfriend, and that was how his famous “Virgin Airlines” was born.
So what happened here? Why did Richard succeed when few others would not have even thought about doing it, let alone followed through?
I believe that firstly he asked a better question: “How can I still get there tonight?” - even though the flight was cancelled. Then took action and hired the plane. At this point he was committed – he had to make it work as he didn’t have enough money to pay for the plane. He sold the tickets and it all came together.
I am sure that if you look through the rest of Richard’s life you will see the same thing over and over again. He has started over 300 companies throughout his career - there is no way that he could have become an expert in this many fields before committing to these projects. He asked a better question, made a plan and then took a calculated leap of faith.
So what stops us? Fear.
Fear that it won’t work, fear that we will look stupid, fear that we are wasting our time... fear, fear, fear...
By the way, fear is really just confidence in a negative outcome, where as faith is confidence in a positive one.
Did everything Richard try work? – No, of course not.
One of Branson’s biggest failures was Virgin Cola – he famously drove a tank into Times Square to announce that his new brand would take down Coca-Cola. Obviously he didn't even get close on this one. However he says “At Virgin, we don't spend much time regretting the past, and we don't let mistakes or failures get to us, and we certainly don't fear failure. We picked ourselves up and tried again and searched for opportunities in other gaps in the market.”
In another interview he says: “Remember that it is impossible to run a business without taking risks. Virgin would not be the company it is today if we had not taken risks along the way. You really do have to believe in what you are doing. Devote yourself to it 100 percent and be prepared to take a few hits along the way. If you go into something expecting it to fail, nine times out of 10, it probably will. Above all, remember to have fun with it. That keeps you and your colleagues enthusiastic and motivated. One of my favourite sayings summarizes this perfectly: ‘The brave may not live forever -- but the cautious do not live at all!’”
So what is the project or business idea that you know you should do, but haven’t?
Ask a better question. When you have the answer - Take action.
And may I encourage you to embrace Richard Branson's famous words and in the face of your own opportunities, say “Screw It, Let’s Do It”!
Action Point: Take that project or business idea that you have not yet gotten around to starting – but you know you should.
1) Write down what this project will do for your business
2) Write down the worst possible outcome if it fails (in most cases it's really not that bad)
3) Make a plan
4) Take that all-important first step.