My mother has always had an incredible energy. As a young woman she disguised herself as a boy to be accepted as a glider pilot, and served in the Women's Royal Naval Service during World War II. When the War was over she toured Germany as a ballet dancer, and later became an air hostess, at a time when air travel was considered very daring and exotic.
Swapping the ‘high life’ for life in the English countryside with my father and three children, she never lost her pioneering spirit. When I was growing up she was always working a project. And she was successful. She was an entrepreneur, before the word existed. I am so very proud of her.
My Mum has been my ultimate mentor in life and in business, and I’ve learned so much from her. So to celebrate her ahead of a very important day, Mother’s Day, I’d like to share with you five lessons she has taught me, which I think are valuable to everyone.
1. Live with no regrets
I'm often flabbergasted by the amount of time some people waste dwelling on their past failures, rather than directing that energy into new projects. My mother always taught me never to look back in regret, but immediately move on to the next thing. Our family budget was fairly tight when I was growing up, and I was always fascinated by her money-making projects, which were often craft-based, like building and selling wooden tissue boxes and wastepaper bins. If an item didn't sell, she tried something else.
2. Learn to survive, fast
There is a rather well-known story about my Mum stopping the car on the way home from a shopping trip and telling me to find my own way home – about three miles through the countryside, and I was somewhere around five years old. She was punishing me for causing mischief in the back seat, but she was also teaching me a larger lesson about overcoming my disabling shyness and learning to ask others for directions.
3. Put others first
There was always a focus on teamwork in our home - working in the garden, helping to prepare meals, cleaning up. I have two younger sisters, Lindy and Vanessa, and Mum always kept the three of us working hard. It certainly instilled a very healthy work ethic in me, as many of our Virgin team members would point out! She also taught us never to criticise anyone. If we did, she told us to go look in mirror and see how badly it reflected on us.
4. Keep your feet on the ground
When you start to become relatively well known, it can be easy to get carried away with your success. (It can be especially hard to keep your head out of the clouds if you own a few airlines and have a taste for flying hot air balloons.) But Mum has always kept my feet firmly on the ground – metaphorically at least – partly because she knows me so well, and so she does not believe all the press.
5. Every day is a fresh chance
Mum has always seen every day as a fresh chance to achieve something new, fun and exciting. Even today, she is incredibly active. Right now, at the grand age of 93 she still continues to work, as the Founder of the Eve Branson Foundation. I am constantly inspired by her work to provide access to education and health care to the Berber community in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
Happy Mother’s Day Mum! Thank you for teaching me so many wonderfully important life lessons, and always encouraging me to follow my dreams. You are the reason I am successful – I cannot put into words how much I love and am grateful to you.
What has your mother taught you? I’d like to hear about it in the comments below.