You learn by doing and by falling over

Richard Branson archive photo from the early days of Virgin Atlantic
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Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 27 October 2014

Forget the rules, and learn from first-hand experience instead. There’s so much more to be gained from not knowing how to do things the ‘correct’ way, and learning to do them your own way.

As our name implies, we were virgins when we entered into business – a bunch of kids learning on the spot. We didn’t adhere to a well-trodden path; we ignored the guidelines and found our own path. This ‘strategy’ served us well, because we soon realised that you don't learn to walk by following rules, you learn by doing and by falling over.

Black and white image of Richard Branson's profile
Jack Brockway

Over 40 years in business, we have introduced the Virgin brand to a diverse variety of industries. Some were natural progressions, while others were totally off kilter and new to us.

We took crash courses to understand each new industry and hired wonderful people, but made most of our key breakthroughs by learning from our failings. Anyone who’s achieved great success in business knows failure is not a bad thing.

On the contrary, failure enables you to learn, grow and perfect your methods.

In fact, failure is one of the secrets to success, since some of the best ideas arise from the ashes of a shattered business.

We are all capable of achieving great things, however too many people are scared of failing, so they follow rules. But the rules don’t guarantee success, because there is no recipe for success. Think about the world’s most prominent and pioneering brands, like Apple or Google; these companies have each taken a unique approach to business, to deliver standout products and grow huge global followings. 

Likewise, in a world where corporations and companies stress about doing things the right way, Virgin doesn’t fixate on what’s expected, and instead does things the Virgin way. This way of thinking has proven incredibly valuable to us, and led us to where we are today, with more than 400 companies and 70,000 employees worldwide.

Curiosity is one of humanity’s most healthy instincts. Without it we would never have evolved, advanced, or achieved anything. Entrepreneurs who are curious, who listen to what the world is saying, and who learn from hardships and mistakes, will almost certainly be more successful than those who aren’t, don’t or won’t. Remember, if you fall flat on your face, at least you are moving forward!