Who is your favorite ADHD role model? I was asked by a friend. There are several amazing ones out there, but my all-time favorite will have to be the business maverick, thrill seeking, Mr. Screw It, Let’s Do It, Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group.
The way he built Virgin is insane. What was set-up originally as a record shop now spans different industries such as: airlines, railways, media, and banking. Blessed with a can-do attitude, and an eye for limitless possibility, there are a few things Richard Branson can teach us about succeeding in life and business.
1. Make a difference by questioning the status quo
“My school report told a sad story. Should I have paid it too much attention, I would have never tried to achieve or succeed.” said Branson about his schooling days. He was terrible at school, a predicament that sounds terribly familiar for anyone with ADHD. He was always arguing with teachers about things that didn’t make sense to hom.
But different is not a bad thing, and he found his calling making a difference. In high school ,he founded a publication for students called Student, to talk about things like sex, culture, music, and give a voice to the youth.
In 1969, they ran an article about venereal disease awareness, but got in to trouble with the authorities. There was a law prohibiting publications from mentioning venereal disease, claiming that quack doctors exploit patients from it. However, Branson found it a cause worthy of public conversation. Cases of venereal had risen dramatically in the UK, and demanded attention. He argued that the magazine only refers people to doctors in the local hospital. But the officials weren’t having any of it, and soon, Branson won his first legal case.
The law banning the mention of venereal disease was overturned, allowing Student to continue making a difference for thousands of people to get checked and treated.
2. Stay curious
Branson always knew he wanted entrepreneurship, and played to his strengths early on.
ADHD made him a natural entrepreneur. He turned what was his greatest liability in traditional schooling, into an advantage. People with ADHD are known to be curious, creative, energetic, and obsessed in what they find interesting.
When Branson knew that when he wanted something, it became an obsession. He started Virgin Atlantic because he wasn’t happy with the way airlines treat their passengers.
During a travel to the British Virgin Islands, his flight got cancelled because there weren’t enough people. So he hired a private plane, and as a joke wrote on a chalkboard “Virgin Airlines- $39 One Way to BVI”. The plane filled up almost immediately.
He knew jack shit about the airline industry but decided “Hey, I want an airline too”. He pitched the idea to his partners, and naturally they turned him down. Undeterred, Branson looked for advice from people in the industry, and found out everything there is to know about airlines.
He sought advice from Randolph Fields, a former pilot from Laker Airways, an airline that had been shutdown. He found out how much it costs to rent and maintain a 747. How to open flight routes. He had a unquenchable curiosity for studying the airline business.
In 1984, Virgin Atlantic flew it’s first flight from Gatwick to Miami. Today, they’re one of the best airline companies in the world.
Virgin Atlantic, and his other businesses were born from that curiosity, and openness to exploring new ideas. And that’s the best thing ADHD ever gave us. We were meant to go exploring a world of possible and impossible. You were meant to explore ideas and doing cool things, like setting up an airline.
3. Business is personal, you should love your work
Richard Branson is successful, because he loves what he does. “A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” he says in his autobiography, How I Lost My Virginity.
You have to love what you do, whether that be pursuing entrepreneurial dreams or joining the ranks of the corporate world. We spend most of our lives working, why not make it worthwhile.
When Branson starts a business, there’s always a personal reason for doing it. He sees a problem that affects him in some way, and makes it his life’s mission to solve it.
His first venture, Student, because he felt as if the youth didn’t have a voice, and needed an outlet to express themselves. Virgin Records opened because record shops at that time were dull and had no personality. Virgin Money, because he hated how banks treated their customers.
Richard wants to make a difference in the world, and he wants to have fun doing it. He injects his personality into the businesses that he makes, and believes that everything should be fun.
Cover image borrowed from: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-richard-branson-maintains-the-virgin-group-2015-2