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Richard Branson and me

I recently experienced one of the highlights of my life.

If any of you know me at all, then you’ll know that meeting Richard Branson has been one of my biggest dreams. He’s been a true source of inspiration to me and it’s all because of how he defines business and entrepreneurship.

It used to be that the only things that defined success were money and the number of people working under you. Well, with Branson, that’s not it at all. For him the definition of business means being ethical in all that you do, treating your employees right, and mostly — having fun. Lots of it.

So how did I end up on his private island?

Alright, so back to my dream of meeting Richard Branson. I honestly thought it would take me 5 or even 10 years to do this. You know, to build up credibility and success as an entrepreneur, the typical way to meet anybody famous and wildly successful.

Editor’s Note: Richard Branson is an entrepreneur extraordinaire. With his first successful business venture at the age of 16, he’s best known for the Virgin brand which comprises of 360 companies.

The Virgin brand covers everything from record stores to railways to spaceships. And in addition to his business savvy, Branson has also beaten some world records such as being the first to fly across the Atlantic in a hot-air balloon. He has also been knighted and is a major philanthropist.

But things were about to go into high speed (little did I know). A while ago, I was at an event for speakers and authors in Vegas and fellow internet entrepreneur, Joe Polish, announced he was organizing a trip to Branson’s private island, Necker Island for 20 entrepreneurs to meet and hang out with Branson. The purpose of the trip was to raise money for Branson’s charity, Virgin Unite. To attend we had to make a substantial donation to Virgin Unite. I had already set aside a sum of money to donate to charity via my foundation, the MindValley Foundation, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I would donate to a good cause AND get to hang out with Branson and several other brilliant entrepreneurs on Necker Island.

So, I shot an email to my business partner Mike and asked him what he thought of the idea. He replied using the title of

Branson’s most famous book. Mike’s one-line email simply said, “Screw it, let’s do it!”

Richard Branson with my business partner, Mike Reining and me

Richard Branson with my business partner, Mike Reining and me


And so in May, we found ourselves on Necker Island hanging out and partying with Richard Branson. Out of the total 4.5 days on the island, we spent 2 and half days with him from early morning breakfasts to late night celebrations.

A typical day would include breakfast with Branson and 20 other entrepreneurs on the veranda overlooking the sea. This would be followed by a brainstorming session or Q&A with Branson on a variety of topics from entrepreneurship to philanthropy. Lunches were held on the beach. And then it was time for speedboat racing, water sports or snorkeling. Dinners would revolve around a theme, pirate night, 70s party, Casino Night and would end in a wonderful party by the sea.

Hanging out with Branson blew our minds. While most people have their 3-5 year goals, Branson was thinking bigger. I’m talking about space travel and world peace. He’s already working with Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Yunus and other world leaders on a project called “the Elders” to help guide countries and societies towards peaceful resolution of their differences.

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Playing pirates with Richard Branson

Now the Elders is an independent group of highly influential global leaders. It came about with the leadership of Nelson Mandela and together the Elders offer their influence and experience to support peace building and diminish human suffering.

And as for space travel? Why not take a comfy seat aboard Virgin Galactic. It’s the first of its kind, providing non-astronauts with the ability to go into space. Now that’s a huge goal. But what’s even better is that with Branson’s vision, this may be affordable to everyone in the future so that people like us can get a chance to experience the Universe from a different perspective.

But beyond his ambition and vision what really struck me about Richard Branson was his attitude towards people. We tend to assume that the rich and successful have a certain sense of arrogance or distance to them. Not so with Branson. He’s the kind of guy that talks to everyone, makes the effort to make you feel welcome and treats you almost like family. It was actually quite amazing to watch him. He was almost saintly in his approach to life and people. The way he treated his staff, the children on the island, and the visiting guest entrepreneurs, was with the utmost kindness and grace. The biggest thing I noticed about Branson was his generosity and humility.

The trip was unquestionably one of the most amazing things to have happened to me. It was literally a dream come true. After having hung out with Branson, I’m absolutely going to reevaluate my goals and make them just a little bigger. If Branson can bring about world peace and affordable space travel, I’m pretty sure we can all reach for the moon too.

In a future post I’ll share more on what I learned from my experience on Necker Island.

In the meanwhile, here’s a video I put together of the trip from the footage on my Flipcam.

And some photo highlights.

Sunrise from my room balconey. At 5:30 am in the morning.

Sunrise from my room balcony. At 5:30 am in the morning.

Morning breakfast at the long table.

Morning breakfast at the long table.

Brainstorming with Branson and other entrepreneurs

Brainstorming with Branson and other entrepreneurs

With the money we raised for Virgin Unite

With the money we raised for Virgin Unite

View of Necker Island

View of Necker Island

Playing Pirates with Richard Branson

Playing Pirates with Richard Branson

Cheers,

Vishen Lakhiani

P.S. What if you could meet Richard Branson? Can you imagine what he would say to you or better yet, what would you say to him? Drop a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts on one of my role models.

P.P.S. The thought of meeting Richard Branson isn’t completely loony. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what I mean.