Your uniqueness is your superpower

Richard Branson playing chess with his grandchild
Branson Family
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 8 April 2024

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

I’ve always loved this quote, which is often credited to Albert Einstein. Having built businesses for over 50 years, I am more certain than ever that a person’s greatest strength is their individuality. It takes all sorts of people with all sorts of skills to create positive and exciting things in the world.

I stumbled upon this realisation early on in my career, when my dyslexic thinking led me to find new solutions to old problems that businesses were struggling to address. Over the years, I learnt to harness my dyslexic thinking, and embrace the curious ways my mind would work. I was also drawn to other people with eccentric characters and curious ways of thinking. And so, we hired people with bold ideas, and we gave them the freedom to execute them. We weren’t fussed on qualifications or credentials – we hired for the skills we needed, and we focused on attitude over accolades. As Adam Grant wrote in his fantastic book, Originals: how non-conformists changed the world: “I learned that great creators don’t necessarily have the deepest expertise but rather seek out the broadest perspectives.”

Recognising our unique strengths must start with education. The illustration below sums up just how unfair the current education model is. It’s foolish and unkind to judge everybody by the same set of narrow metrics, and stifle our individuality.

exam illustration with an elephant, monkey, fish and dog

Everyone should be allowed to pursue their own interests and develop their own strengths, and this should start at school. Just because we are not so great in certain areas, we shouldn’t be made to feel inferior or bad about ourselves. Our differences should be celebrated and embraced, not suppressed.

We all shine when we have the freedom to do what we’re good at, and the world becomes a lot more exciting for it.