Managing Your Career: What Would Richard Branson Do?

Written by James Clear

In 1966, a dyslexic 16-year-old boy dropped out of school. With only a tiny bit of seed money and a friend’s help, he founded a magazine for students. Fueled by advertisements he sold to local businesses, he ran this bootstrapped operation from the crypt of a local church.

Four years later, seeking ways to grow the fledgling magazine, this enterprising young man started selling mail-order records to his student subscriber base. Within a year, record sales were sufficient to help him build his first record store. After two years of selling records, he decided to launch his own record label and studio.

The small recording studio rented space to local artists, including one named Mike Oldfield. This was where Oldfield created his hit song “Tubular Bells,” which became the record label’s first release. The song eventually sold more than 5 million copies.

Over the next decade, the fearless entrepreneur grew his record label by attracting bands like Culture Club, Sex Pistols and The Rolling Stones. Along the way, he continued adding businesses to his portfolio — an airline, railway, mobile phones, on and on. Almost 50 years later, his conglomerate included more than 400 companies.

That young boy who left school behind but kept starting things despite his inexperience and lack of knowledge is now a world-renown billionaire — Sir Richard Branson.

How I Met Sir Richard Branson

When I walked into the Moscow conference room, Branson was sitting in a chair only 10 feet away. A hundred other people surrounded us, but it felt like we were having a private conversation in my living room. He smiled and laughed frequently. His answers seemed unrehearsed and genuine.

At one point, he told the story of how he started Virgin Airlines, a tale that seems to represent his entire approach to business and life. Here’s what he said, as I best recall:

I was in my late 20s, so I had a business, but nobody knew who I was. I was headed to the Virgin Islands and a very pretty girl was waiting for me, so I was, um, determined to get there on time. At the airport, the final flight to the Virgin Islands was cancelled because of maintenance or something. It was the last flight out that night. I thought, “this is ridiculous,” so I went and chartered a private airplane to take me to the Virgin Islands, which I did not have the money to do. Then, I picked up a small blackboard, wrote “Virgin Airlines: $29” on it, and went over to the group of people who had been waiting for the cancelled flight. I sold tickets for the rest of the seats on the plane, used their money to pay for the charter fee, and we all went to the Virgin Islands that night.

Successful People: What Habits Make a Difference?

After speaking with our group, Branson joined a panel of industry experts to discuss the future of business. As everyone around him filled the air with buzzwords and mapped out complex ideas for our future, Branson said things like, “Screw it, just get on and do it,” closely followed by things like, “Why can’t we mine asteroids?”

As I watched the panel, I realized the one person who sounded the most simplistic is the only one who is also a billionaire. So what sets him apart from the rest?

Here’s what I think makes all the difference:

Branson doesn’t merely say things like, “Screw it, just get on and do it.” He actually lives his life that way. He drops out of school and starts a business. He signs the Sex Pistols to his record label when everyone else says they’re too controversial. He charters a plane when he doesn’t have the money.

When everyone else balks or comes up with rational reasons why the time isn’t right to move forward, Branson gets started. He figures out how to stop procrastinating and he takes the first step forward — even if it seems outlandish.

Start Now — Even If You Don’t Feel Ready

Of course, Branson is an extraordinary example, but we can all learn something from his approach. If I summarize the habits of successful people in just one phrase, it’s this — successful people start before they feel ready.

I can’t think of anyone who embodies that philosophy better than Branson. Even the Virgin empire name was chosen because Branson and his partners were business “virgins” when they launched the company.

Branson has spearheaded so many ventures, charities and expeditions throughout his career — it would have been impossible to prepare fully before launching them all. In fact, he was likely not prepared or qualified for any of them. He’s a perfect example of why the “chosen ones” choose themselves.

The Truth About Getting Started

If you’re working on something important, then you’ll never feel ready. A side effect of pursuing challenging work is that you’re simultaneously pulled by excitement and pushed by uncertainty.

When you begin a new endeavor, you’re bound to feel uncomfortable and perhaps even unqualified. But let me assure you — what you have right now is enough. You can plan, revise and delay all you want, but trust me, what you have now is enough to start. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to start a business, lose weight, write a book or re-energize a career. Who you are, what you have, and what you know right now is good enough to get going.

We all start in the same place — no money, no resources, no contacts, no experience. The difference is that some people choose to start anyway. And only those who start can reach the finish line.

So, what are you waiting for?

james-clear-circle-250(About the Author: James Clear is an entrepreneur who leverages behavior science to help you master your habits, improve your health and do better work. For useful ideas on improving your mental and physical performance, subscribe to his newsletter or download his 45-page guide on Transforming Your Habits. Connect with James on Twitter or Google+ or LinkedIn.)

(Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Kris Krug Flickr

Dare To Be Different: 5 Reasons Geeks Get Great Jobs

Written by Bree Brouwer

Do you think of yourself as a geek? If so, you’re not alone. A recent Modis “Geek Pride” survey found that more than 87% of Americans proudly identify with their inner nerd. If you’re among them, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that those characteristics can serve you well in a job hunt.

However, if you think you have to be a computer whiz or tech nerd to identify with geeks, think again. The “G” word now applies to anyone with a huge passion or interest of any sort, especially for comics, movies or video games.

This means that geek employees are already roaming the halls everywhere. And, since people enjoy working with colleagues who share similar interests, employers are likely to hire even more people with geek tendencies.

Note to non-geeks: If you never identified previously with this pack, it might be time to jump on the bandwagon and become more obsessive about whatever is on your list of personal and professional passions. This one change could make or break a job hunt.

But simply announcing “Hey! I’m a geek!” won’t land you a job or a promotion. You need to translate your geekiness into skills employers understand and appreciate. During interviews, focus on the following aspects of your personality. You’ll be well on your way to showing hiring managers that you’re one of the best candidates their organization could possibly choose.

5 Ways Your Geek Power Can Land You A Great Job

1) Your geekiness makes you an obsessive problem-solver
There’s not a single company that doesn’t have problems to solve — whether it’s their own, or their customers’, or both.

This is where geeks come in handy. You enjoy challenges and finding answers to problems. (More so with technical geeks, but also with the pop-culture-loving geeks, as well.)

If your geeky self tends to dig deep into work challenges, you’ll be valued for your persistence — which may not be as common in your non-geek coworkers. What company wouldn’t want to hire you for that?

2) You taught yourself more than you ever learned in school
No matter what your interests may be, if you’re a geek, you tend to be creative and experimental. Since you don’t learn via traditional methods or work via traditional processes, you tend to find ways to teach yourself.

Employers love creative self-starters, especially when you use that skill to solve their problems. For example, you might take a smartphone picture of your signed contract and send it via email instead of hunting down a paper envelope, a stamp and a mailing address. (And besides, it gets there faster, anyway.)

If you’re want to exercise your creativity, look for companies that are flexible and innovative in their mission and their process. A more traditional setting might stifle this special quality in you, so seek  environments that will benefit from your originality and resourcefulness.

3) You mastered work-life balance before it was even a “thing”
As a geek, you tend to want to make a life instead of a career. This means you’re less likely to be a workaholic who runs yourself down and reduces your quality of work.

But be careful not to become too dedicated to your “life” instead of your job. Realistic, optimistic geeks understand that to live a good life, meaningful work is a necessary and welcome component.

4) You’re flexible to change, diversity and new ways of learning
This mindset is tied closely to a geek’s creative nature. If an old approach doesn’t work for you or the problem at hand, you’re willing to toss it out the door and try something new. You’d rather learn from what Joss Whedon can teach you about business than what an experienced Wall Street guru has to say.

If a company is interested in workers with a little bit of daring and open-mindedness, you’re the ideal candidate. A geek is more willing to help a company grow, adapt and develop through alternative methods than some non-geek counterparts who may prefer to play it safe, and remain set in their ways.

5) You’ve got the drive to make a difference
What you do each day is not just all about you and your life. You want to contribute something greater to the world and make it a better place — whether that’s through the products you support or the way you live your life. (“Yep, this Superman shirt is 100% organic cotton!”)

It’s likely that if you’re a geek working for a company in the business of changing lives, you’ll feel passionate about that company’s goals, services and products.

Of course, not all geeks are created equal. And not all companies can handle having lots of geeks onboard (and vice versa). As mentioned above, geeks work best in innovative companies.

However, you’re also a huge force to be reckoned with in the workplace. So when you’re applying for jobs, fly that geek flag high and make sure you apply to companies that not only provide professional growth, but also gladly welcome your special character within their culture. Let us know what your discover on your unconventional path!

Bree Brouwer(About the Author: Bree Brouwer is a freelance blogger and content strategist who writes for, a Canadian-based online retailer full of nerdy goods. Bree and the staff at FG love helping geeks get paid to do what they’re passionate about. Connect with Bree on Twitter or LinkedIn.)

(Editor’s Note: This post is republished from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome for events, or to join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

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