I am where I am today because I have been allowed to fail. Learning from failure builds character, and teaches us so much more than not trying ever will. But don’t just take my word for it, read this letter from my mum, Eve Branson.
We saw it in you from virtually the first moment you began to talk. But even before that, when you learned to walk we realised we were going to have our hands full; you were just a toddler but you were clearly someone who liked to do things his own way and on your own terms.
To make matters even more interesting, as you grew you perpetually had some crazy new scheme or other up your sleeve that you were convinced was either going to change the world, make lots of money, or both!
On a few such occasions we would say things like, ‘Oh don’t be ridiculous, Ricky! That’s never going to work.’ More often than not, however, your father and I instead opted to give you plenty of scope to learn by your mistakes and so left you to get on with your Christmas tree growing, bird breeding and all the other weird and wonderful enterprises you came up with. Almost without exception they all ended in some form of a disaster with us picking up the pieces – literally and metaphorically – but we’d soldier on and just kept hoping that one day the lessons learned would help you in life.
And that certainly would seem to have turned out to be the case. After a rocky beginning, once you and Virgin had become an established success, Ted and I would often ponder on just how differently you might have turned out had we been more controlling, or some might say ‘better’, parents. What if we had insisted that you not take so many silly risks and, rather than allowing you to drop out of school at sixteen, forced you to buckle down and complete your education? Like your headmaster at Stowe, who famously (now) predicted that by twenty-one you would either be in jail or a millionaire, we too shared some very serious misgivings about what the future might have in store for you.
As we now know, of course, we needn’t have worried. What we saw as being a pig-headed little boy who was utterly determined to do his own thing, turned out to be nothing more than the growing pains of a budding entrepreneur. If only we had been able to recognise that at the time we might have had a lot fewer sleepless nights!
Too often adults keep kids safe, ‘protecting’ them from the hurt that’s associated with failure. This is a big mistake. The more children are told they can’t do something, the more they will lose their curiosity and determination.
I am grateful to have had encouraging parents, who instead of blockading and trouncing my curiosity, allowed me to figure things out on my own accord.