Before meeting with Richard Branson in person a long time ago I have seen Richard in a wedding dress “swimming” in the Trocadero in Paris. I have seen photos of Richard kite-surfing with a naked girl on his back. I have read a few of his books. I have enjoyed flying Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic and understood the difference Richard is trying to make. Better food and smiling flight attendants. It shouldn’t be so difficult yet if you fly any other airline you don’t get that most of the time. “They suck so bad it’s easy to do better”. You get the bad snacks, un-healthy ice cream and the flight attendant that doesn’t talk to you and seems so sad. I’m writing this on a United flight back home.
Richard is the cool creative billionaire that wants to send people to space.
I am not exactly sure how it happened but I have been at Richard’s home, Necker Island, many times now. I’m starting to know Richard a little. I had breakfast with him this morning. We talked about my new startup Leade.rs. If you don’t follow it yet it’s about creating the best collection of extraordinary people in the world and creating value for them.
Speaking opportunities is an obvious start for me but only a beginning. Richard is at the top of the world if you think about speaking. Everyone wants to have him at his event. He gives all his speaking fees to charity and it’s very significant. I’m grateful to have his advice on Leade.rs and have him possibly involved. It’s okay if not, I wasn’t hard selling, I would prefer having him as a friend in any case than push too much to have him involved and lose him as a friend. Of course I would love to have him involved. Leade.rs might not be ambitious enough for him as he wants to send people to space. That’s okay if I’m not ambitious enough for him yet. I’m trying to build in the space I’m good at and succeed.
Richard is cool. He’s fun. He’s incredibly special and has no limits in what he wants to accomplish. He wants to send us all to space and make space tourism available to the masses. He wants to save the oceans. He wants to solve poverty. He wants to change the world. Failure isn’t an obstacle. He just aims at success and tries over and over again. This is the core of entrepreneurship. He’s trying to connect the entire world to the Internet along with Google and Facebook.
A teenager’s dream
I’m on Richard’s home, Necker island. Richard is a kite surfer, too. And here I am crossing 15 miles on a kitesurf with Richard from his island Necker to Anageda, a nearby island. This is one of my teenager’s dream come true. I was a teenager and I was already reading about Richard. I thought “wow, this is has to be the coolest guy”. Who wants to spend all his life in an office wearing the same dark clothes? Live! Enjoy life! Kite surf. See beautiful places every day and still work and change the World. Wow. Is that even possible? Richard shows the way. He’s a little crazy. I love that. I want to be more crazy every day when I meet him. I was asked a few times in interviews who is my role model. I answered Richard Branson. I like how he’s successful but also knows how to enjoy life. I’m very grateful I got to connect with him thanks to… kite-surfing.
Kite-surf and meet Richard Branson
How special is that? Think about all the ways you could connect to someone like Richard Branson if you don’t have any connections with him. It’s not easy. Kite-surfing just made it happen for me. Eight years ago I heard about that VC kite-surfer Bill Tai and he helped me understand one of the San Francisco kite-surfing spot, third avenue. Bill started “Mai Tai” with Susi Mai that I met at my first “Mai Tai” in Maui. Mai Tai is a gathering of entrepreneurs who kite-surf. I have met lifetime friends there, like Tom Katis, who convinced me first to go to Necker Island.
At dinner with Richard a year ago I asked Richard “why do you keep working if you don’t have to? You could just be kite-surfing and enjoying your family”. Richard answered: “Same with you. We have to. It’s a duty. There is so much we can do with our connections and what we’ve done before. If we don’t create new things all the time then who will?”. Richard definitely got me thinking on this one. It decided me to start something new and here I am with Leade.rs. Creating is exciting. I agree on the duty, I don’t have the means and connections of Richard but I get his point. There is a lot I can do with my network and what I have done before. It would be a shame to just kite-surf.
I had to start something new.
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