Richard Branson shares what words keep him centred and motivated when he wakes up


The power of a word should never be underestimated. Reading a perfectly penned sentence in a book, a beautiful lyric in a song, or a motivational saying is sometimes all you need to find some creative spark. When Mary Lou Goehrung asked me what words keep me centred and motivated when I wake up in the morning, I started writing a bit of a list. For anyone in need of inspiration, I hope you find these phrases useful.

1. “Screw it, let’s do it”

I’ve said these words countless times in my life. I love to take a risk, and I do think it’s the best way to grow – as a person and as a business. We never could have launched Virgin Records or Virgin Atlantic if we didn’t throw our hands up and repeat these words on many occasions. When somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you’re not sure you can do it, say yes and figure out how to do it later! Life is a whole lot more fun like this.

2. “You miss 100 per cent of the times you don’t swing”

My mum used to say these words over and over again, and they’ve really stuck with me. As kids, we were encouraged to give everything our very best shot. We were never allowed to let fear or laziness get in the way. Mum practised what she preached too – from taking glider lessons disguised as a boy, to enlisting in the WRENS during World War II, and touring Germany as a ballet dancer after the war. She showed us how exciting life is when you work hard and give everything a go. Whenever I feel daunted by a prospect, but know it’s the right step to take, I repeat Mum’s words in my mind.

3. “Only a fool never changes his mind”

As Desmond Ford said: “To change your mind is the best evidence you have one.” I try to tell myself this every day, so I don’t get stuck in my ways and shut myself off from learning something new. In almost every conversation I have, I’m reminded by how much I still have to learn. I find this really exciting, and it’s something that gets me out of bed in the morning.

4. “Isn’t life wonderful”

My dad spoke these words every day, and he really lived by them too. Dad found delight in almost everything, and he taught me how to find the positive in any given situation. It’s a wonderful way to approach life and it’s helped me to view challenges as opportunities.

5. “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over”

I can’t remember when I first said this, but it’s something I learnt when I dropped out of school at the age of 16. As a dyslexic, I’ve never been great at following rules but I’ve learnt so much more in life from experiencing things first-hand. As the name ‘Virgin’ implies, we were total rookies when we started out in business – a bunch of kids learning on the spot. We didn’t stick to the well-trodden path; we ignored the map and carved out our own path. This ‘strategy’ served us well, because we soon realised that you don’t learn to walk by following rules, you learn by doing and by falling over. The same way a small child learns to walk by trying, falling, and trying over and over again. I’m not a rebellious teenager anymore, but I’m still throwing out the rulebooks.

I could write on and on about the words I live by – but these five phrases sum things up quite neatly. I do hope you found this useful Mary Lou (and anyone else reading!) What are some of the words that keep you motivated?

  • A Tell report / Richard Branson / funder Virgin Atlantic
About author

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *