If you could say something to your 10-year-old self, what would it be?

Richard Branson as a child at school
Branson Family
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 15 February 2023

In 2021, I started a LinkedIn Newsletter, where people can ask me a question and I pick one (or a few) to answer each month. For my first newsletter, I picked one that asked: 'If you could say something to your 10-year-old self, what would it be?’. I wanted to share my answer here, as it has a message we can probably all resonate with.

At 10-years-old, I was really struggling with school and dyslexia. I had a restless spirit and poor academic records, which meant I was nearly expelled from the all-boys school I attended. When your potential in life and your self-worth is dictated by exams and spelling tests, it’s easy to feel lost and as though the world is against you. If only my 10-year-old self could see that my dyslexia and my different ways of thinking would become one of my biggest strengths, and would lead me on a wonderful adventure beyond the school gates.

Young Richard Branson at school wit his class mates
Image from Virgin.com

If I could say something to my 10-year-old self, it would be a gentle reminder that being different does not mean you are flawed. It does not mean you are lazy or stupid. Thinking differently makes you unique and allows for so many different ideas, innovations and adventures to unravel. Don’t be afraid to embrace the quirks, think bigger, follow your passions, explore your creative thoughts, and hold onto to your underlying sense of optimism. I once spoke to Patti Smith about this as she also grew up as a bit of an outsider, but has gone on to lead a wonderful and colourful life. Patti said that she really began to really know who she was at the age of 11 and, upon reflection, I feel the same way. We both are able to stay passionate, creative and true to ourselves by holding onto a Peter Pan-like sense of wonder and exploration that we found within ourselves from an early age. If we only knew then that we would carry this within us all our lives, and it would become pivotal to our success.

From the archives, Richard Branson is dressed as Peter Pan, he's holding daughter Holly who is dressed as Tinkerbelle and they are meeting the character Captain Hook
Image from Virgin.com

I would also remind my 10-year-old self that people are always more important than grades. The way you treat people and trust people will prove to be far more valuable than algebra. And when you do feel like the world is up against you, just know there have been many, many others before you who struggled with school but have gone on to create wonderful things.

Richard Branson as a child with his mother Eve at the beach
Image from Virgin.com

Life comes with its fair share of challenges, but if you stay true to yourself and keep dreaming, anything is possible. This is just the beginning and the real adventure is about to begin.