Happiness doesn't come from stuff

I truly believe that ‘stuff’ really does not bring happiness. Family, friends, good health and the satisfaction that comes from making a positive difference are what really matters.

As a young man, I never set out to make money. From the very beginning, we set out to create things that we could be proud of and to try to make a difference at Virgin. From founding Student magazine to give young people in the 1960s a voice on issues such as the Vietnam War to creating Virgin Galactic to explore space, we have always tried to do things a little differently and challenge convention.

Richard Branson protesting the Vietnam War

Because the public liked what Virgin created, our various companies, by and large, became successful. As they prospered, we reinvested to create new ventures and set up our non-profit foundation, Virgin Unite, to help create and build entrepreneurial solutions that make a positive difference in the world.

Holly and Sam have also realised that real satisfaction comes from using the fortunate position they find themselves in to try to make a real difference to other people’s lives. Sam is inspired by what Jeff Skoll has done with his wealth and his production company, Sundog Pictures, aims to bring new audiences to important subjects, using the medium of film to inspire people to engage more in the world they live in. Holly has set up her own charity - Big Change - and devotes a lot of her time to Virgin Unite.

Richard Branson virgin strive challenge hike mt etna

Fortunately, early on in my life I realised that personal ’stuff’ really didn’t matter. Joan and I lived on a houseboat and one day it sank. We realised that we missed nothing except our treasured photo albums. Later our then-home in London caught fire, destroying everything inside. In 2011, our home in the British Virgin Islands was completely gutted as a result of a lightning strike. Times like these really remind you what is truly important in life: family, friends, good health and the satisfaction that comes from making a positive difference are what really matters.

Richard Branson and Joan Branson with Etta and  Artie

Happily, our children, agree with Joan and I on this. We want the value created by the Virgin Group to be used to invest in new collaborative approaches to addressing issues, where business, governments and not-for-profits join forces to create a healthy, equitable and peaceful world for future generations to enjoy.

Nowadays, I spend most of my time working with Virgin Unite and many brilliant partners to help tackle some of the major issues facing the world today including conflict resolution and human rights concerns (The Elders and The Global Commission on Drug Policy), tackling the climate crisis (The Carbon War Room and Rocky Mountains Institute), and conserving the ocean (Ocean Unite and the Ocean Elders). This approach to business, where people and planet are prioritised, is further accelerated through our work with The B Team.

Richard Branson in Ethiopia with The Elders

Investing in solutions to these issues and time with my family makes me happier and more satisfied than monetary investments or ‘stuff’ ever could.


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