Richard Branson: How to choose the right career path

At some point, every entrepreneur has to decide on an idea that they’re going to pursue and how they’re going to pursue it. Richard Branson has some great advice for when you’re stuck at the crossroads…

"Deciding which direction to take is something everybody struggles with at one point or another," the Virgin Founder writes in a recent livemint.com blog. "But part of the fun of being an entrepreneur is the fact that you don’t have a boss telling you what to do or what direction to take – it’s all up to you!"

That might seem like a daunting prospect for some young entrepreneurs who are unsure what’s the best decision to make and are questioning whether they should study or just get started with their business, but that’s not a reason to get stressed. In fact, although it might feel like your entire life hangs on the decision about what to study, it doesn’t.

Image from Virgin.com

"Just because you start in a certain sector, or study a certain subject at university, doesn’t mean you will have to spend your entire life at it,” Richard says. “In my case, I decided not to go to university, and treated my life experiences as a source of high education."

He also says that he encourages people to travel if possible, especially young entrepreneurs. "Travel broadens the mind, exposing you to new cultures, different problems and better business approaches. You might learn why a successful business model in one part of the world will not work in another or you might even meet different people who can push your business ideas forward."

But what’s Richard’s top advice for any budding entrepreneur?

"Get out there and start a business. You may have considered starting an ice cream shop, a Mexican restaurant and a software company, but until you commit to one idea and give it everything you have got, you won’t know how enjoyable starting a business can be, or if entrepreneurship is even a good fit.

If none of your ideas for a business inspires you to take the plunge, ask yourself ‘what frustrates me?’ Jot down a list of all the things you would like to see changed or done better. If it frustrates you, it is likely others will want to see change too, and it could be the spark that ignites a great idea.

Image from Virgin.com

Make sure that you make your choice because you are following your own passions, and not just mimicking others. Bill Gates built Microsoft because he firmly believed in the personal computer, at a time when others dismissed it; Richard Reed founded Innocent Drinks because he wanted to promote healthier lifestyles. They didn’t look at what others had found success with before. They did what they loved to do, and what they thought would make a positive difference in the world. Every successful entrepreneur shares this trait. It will help you to keep your business going through the tough times.

Many successful entrepreneurs also share the ability to take risks. At Virgin, we have taken so many that I can’t remember them all. And while there are obviously some that are worth taking and some that aren’t, you should learn to trust your instincts.

This is where your friends and family come in. Ask for their advice, and together you will come up with the right solutions. As long as you have a desire to innovate, the curiosity to try new approaches and the passion to change an industry, you will have all the makings of a successful entrepreneur.”

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