Not too long ago I received this letter from 12 year old Zach; who I met on Necker over dinner. I had a great time chatting with Zach and his family, and was thrilled to discover he’d followed up on our conversation.
From the young man you sat across from at dinner.
Hello Mr Branson,
I was just writing you this letter because last night I didn’t really get to talk to you about some of the other things I wanted to. I would like to start off by saying thank you for joining us at dinner, I had a wonderful time and my sister did too, even though she wouldn’t admit it – haha. None the less thank you for letting me and my family stay here. I feel like the least I could is say that on behalf of everyone. So some of the things I wanted to talk to you about I feel like are some things that I feel like nobody really thinks to ask you about. Or maybe they do, I don’t know.
The first question I have is what do you think of my generation? Honestly, I feel like most of the kids in my generation aren’t going to contribute to society much. Believe it or not, it’s a trend now to be dumb. I just think it’s sad that these kids who are suppose to lead the world are just wasting themselves and making the load heavier for the rest of us.
My second question is what do you think of pop music from today’s artists? I’m REALLY not a fan of it. It’s just so bland, it’s not really creative and it almost has this weird folky undertones. Personal I’m a fan of metal that could scare the devil himself. Haha. That’s another thing I don’t like about today’s pop culture. If you have any originality at all, or like anything that strays from pop culture, it makes you a freak of nature to everyone else! Isn’t it strange that in a liberation age, people are still scared of being original because they’ll become a social activist.
I was wondering how people treat you usually, like do they treat you like a normal person or like a billionaire? I think I could figure it out but I just wondered because if I gain the wealth and fame that you have, some day, I wouldn’t want the royal treatment. I’d just want to be able to just carry a conversation like you and me did – I know at this point that it probably sounds contradictory, since I’ve written such a long letter. Haha. I guess I’d want people to see me as me, and not my earnings, as few of the people in my party have to you.
I think my last question is do you have any huge regrets? I know for me that for a large portion of my life I was very shy and introverted and I still some what am. I came to the realisation through that I should take nothing for granted because I’m only going to live once. I want to make a mark while I still can like you have. I think it’s awesome all the stuff you do to help the world. I hope when I grow up I can help the world like you have. Who knows, maybe you’ll save the world before I can. Haha. Anyways, once again thank you for letting us come to your island and who knows, maybe one day you’ll visit my island. I don’t expect you to write back, these are just some of thoughts I wanted to share with you. I hope you liked my letter and hope we have the pleasure of talking or even working together someday.
Thank you for your letter – I loved reading it, and was very interested in what you had to say. You’re a clever young man, with a bright future ahead of you. Your questions really got me thinking…
While I understand your concern about your generation, it’s important to look further than your immediate surroundings to discover the amazing things that millennials are doing for the world. Over the past year I have met so many inspiring young people and written a number of blogs focusing on the wonderful work they are doing. And with forums like TEDxTeen connecting up these incredible youths, I’m happy to say that the future is in safe hands. Don’t be concerned about the perceived laziness of others, instead focus your energy on thinking up ways you can shine, and in turn become a leader who inspires others.
On the subject of today’s music, while it’s not all to my taste, as you get older you begin to accept that things change – and that change moves the world forward. From Mike Oldfield to Peter Gabriel, the true innovators will always shine through. It may no longer be the good old days of rock n roll; however current musicians are doing some outrageously exciting things. Plus, thanks to the internet and music streaming, unsigned artists – who in the past may never have found their voice – are fast growing strong followings based purely off their musical merit. That’s a great thing! Pop may not be to your taste, but there are plenty of metal fans out there, and as you grow older you’ll find a community of people who share your passion.
I would like to think people treat me like anybody else – I certainly try to treat everybody the same whether they are the Queen or a kid I meet in the street. Having said that, I made a conscious choice to make myself the face of Virgin, after my mentor Sir Freddie Laker told me that the only way to get ahead was to be visible. That piece of advice not only influenced my entire approach to business, but also changed my life. There are obvious downsides to being well known, but there are also a huge amount of positives. I have been privileged to meet and work with so many incredibly inspiring individuals; and have been able to lend my voice to an array of great causes and initiatives – spanning climate change, conflict resolution, conservation, and human rights. I believe that those lucky enough to be granted the spotlight should use their public profile as a force for good. If you follow you heart and are strong in your conviction, people will listen to your voice, not just your money.
There aren’t many things I would have done differently; I don’t like to focus on them with regret. I would rather look back on life and say 'I can't believe I did that' than 'I wish I'd did that'.
Zach, life is yours for the taking, so go out there and grab it with both hands. You are very much an old soul, and very mature for your age, which is brilliant. However, I would add that being young is magical, and you should make sure you take time to play, laugh, make mistakes and make merry, as well as focusing on more serious issues. Thanks for a wonderful dinner; I look forward to receiving my invite to your island one day.