4 Life Lessons from Richard Branson

By Inspiring Interns

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If you could bottle inspiration, how much would you sell it for? The answer at TED is: for free.

TED is the dedicated ideas-spreading sensation that has taken the world by storm. But crucially, TED is a non-profit. Since beginning in 1984, TED has been a huge advocate of change – not just a change in ideas or attitudes, but the world too. The famous (and free!) TED Talks have been carefully curated to ensure a never-ending list of inspirational headliners. Each passionate speaker gives a talk in 18 minutes or less, so you could essentially change the world in your lunch break. No pressure guys and gals.

Back in March 2007, a TED Talk was filmed with Richard Branson called “Life at 30, 000 feet.” So ten years on, is Branson’s Talk still relevant? Here are four lessons from the entrepreneur’s TED Talk that still ring true a decade later.


  • Draw out the best in people

Your colleagues hold the secret to success. But what’s a sure-fire way to unlock that success? The fact is, it’s not enough to know only where your skills lie. Arguably more important, is taking the time to find out what their skills sets are.


  • Choose your reputation

Branson clearly states in his Talk that at the end of the day, “All you have in life is your reputation.” It stands to reason then that we should purposefully choose, carve and craft that reputation. So what does that look like in practise? Perhaps this means delivering on promises, dealing with people fairly and well or not shying away from difficult conversations. If we’re lucky, it might encompass all of these elements.


  • Shake things up

In his Talk Branson says, “I love taking on the status quo and trying to turn it upside down.” But how, Branson, how? There are a multitude of ways to achieve this without taking on the persona of a mad maverick. Could you deliver that presentation differently? Have your tried holding a meeting or workshop outside of the office? One simple way to shake things up is to keep asking questions. Which leads us onto the final lesson…


  • Be inquisitive

The multi-billionaire claims in his TED Talk that, “If I’m not interested in something I don’t grasp it.” The key learning here is that to truly understand something, we have to want to understand it. One technique is to use the 5 Whys in order to get to the root of a problem. The theory is that by the time you ask the fourth or fifth ’Why’ question, you’ll have uncovered far deeper insights.

But is there such a thing as asking too many questions? As Pablo Picasso once said, "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." Would Branson agree? It’s doubtful. However, Picasso does have a point – don’t underestimate the value of good questions over correct answers.


Ellen Smyth writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate jobs are currently available. Or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.



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