I have based my life on surrounding myself with people better than me. I have always looked up to my parents and siblings, and wanted to spend as much time around them as possible, learning from them and laughing with them. The same goes for my wife, children, grandchildren and family. The principle also applies in the working world.
When I started my first businesses, I didn't know how to go about all manner of different jobs, but I had a knack for finding people who did. I have no special talent for most tasks, but know how to empower people who do. Whether it was the smartest accountant, the most connected music scout, or the finest pilot, I found people who were better than me and gave them the support and freedom to flourish. In the meantime, I learned from them, and vice-versa. Delegation and surrounding myself with great people have been the hallmarks of Virgin's growth.
Richard Branson Virgin Atlantic pilots
A different slant on how to approach this is to think about associating with people you want to be like. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, everybody is the average of the five people they spend the most time with. So if you want to be an active, high-achieving person and you are spending all your time with lazy, under-achievers, you are making life more difficult for yourself.
It's one of the reasons why I love to spend time with entrepreneurs. Whether it is travelling around working with our foundation, Virgin Unite, visiting with Virgin companies, or meeting with new start-ups, there is nothing I enjoy more than picking the brains of entrepreneurial people. It's one of the reasons why so many entrepreneurs come to Necker Island, for events such as Virgin Unite Leadership Gatherings. Being surrounded by like-minded people who want to have a positive impact upon the world can spur everybody on to greater things.
Of course, Jim's theory relates to the law of averages. I've never been a believer in average. As Professor Todd Rose said in his book The End of Average: "We need to realise that there is no such thing as an average human, and stop measuring ourselves according to arbitrary yardsticks with no real basis in human nature." If we continue to judge ourselves by our ability to fit in, we will never stand out. The world is made up of extraordinary people, so never waste your time trying to be normal.
Richard Branson and Virgin StartUp on Virgin Atlantic flight to Detroit
It is important to associate with people you want to be like. But to find them, search far and wide. Everybody should get out there and experience as much of the world, its people and places, as possible. Staying in your own family, friendship group, work environment, city or even country will only get you so far, and we can all benefit from broadening our horizons.