If you're looking for a model for a fully successful life, it's hard to do much better than Sir Richard Branson. Despite having dyslexia and dropping out of school at 16, he managed to build the Virgin Group into an empire that controls more than 400 companies, even if one of them is no longer Virgin America airline, which was acquired by Alaska Airlines last year over his objections. Despite that, Branson has a net worth of about $5 billion and (just as important) he always looks like he's having a great time doing whatever he's doing. Oh, and he lives on a Caribbean island he managed to buy for $180,000 almost 40 years ago.
What advice does Branson have to offer? The folks at the personal finance site GOBankingRates have pored through his writings and distilled out some important tips and life lessons he has shared over the years. You can find the full list here. These are my favorites:
1. Be daring.
Branson recently told an audience in Seattle that, back in the days before the Internet, "I had to jump in balloons and fly around the world, and jump off mountains and literally, you know, make every attempt to kill myself in order to get the brand well-known."
You don't have to be that daring. But, as Branson points out, we only learn to succeed by repeatedly falling down. "The brave may not live forever--but the cautious do not live at all," he writes.
2. Don't copy what someone else did.
Most of us are looking for a formula for success, so we may be tempted to try following the steps that helped someone else succeed. Don't do it, Branson advises. "No two successful entrepreneurs are the same," he writes. "In fact, it's their individuality and different ways of thinking that make them successful."
3. Give yourself permission to have big dreams.
Most of us limit our ambitions to what we believe we can achieve. But Branson says the sky should be the limit when you think about your future objectives. "Don't be self-conscious about dreaming, or about people thinking you're too idealistic and not serious enough," he writes. "Don't allow your self talk to be judgmental. Look at the world with wide-eyed enthusiasm, believe you are more powerful than the problems that confront you and dream big."
4. Be on time.
If you're successful and important like Branson, you might think it doesn't matter if you're a few minutes late to your appointments. But Branson believes it matters quite a lot. "Whether it is a meeting, a flight, an appointment or a date, it's important to ensure you are there when you say you will be there," he writes. "This may feel like an old-fashioned tip to give, but it has served me well for five decades in business. All you have in business is your reputation--so it's very important that you keep your word."
5. Learn to listen.
Listening is an important skill that most of us need to improve. And it's not just about making employees and customers feel that we care about them. According to Branson, "To launch a business means successfully solving problems. Solving problems means listening." So get in the habit of closing your mouth and opening your ears, at least some of the time.
6. Make sure to share the limelight.
Running a successful business means surrounding yourself with the right people, people who can get the job done and whom you can depend on in crunch times. Once you've hired these wonderful people, make sure to share the credit for your successes with them.
"I've never been the best person at doing every job," Branson writes. "Finding the spotlight isn't about standing in it. There's so much to be gained from working with people who support each other to achieve great things."
7. Take care of your body.
"When I'm asked: 'What's the key to success in business?' my answer can differ depending on the subject at hand--delegation, people, learning from failure, etc.," Branson wrote on LinkedIn. "But when it comes down to it, the key is you. The simple fact is, if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of business."
Branson exercises every day, no matter where he is or what he's doing, GOBankingRates notes. There goes any I'm-too-busy excuse you ever had. If the guy running 400 companies can find the time to exercise every day, then so can you.
8. Don't just do it for the money.
Admittedly, that advice is a bit too easy for a multi-billionaire to dish out. But he's right: Companies with a purpose beyond making money often do better than those that don't. "The brands that will thrive in the coming years are the ones that have a purpose beyond profit," Branson has said. And he wrote on LinkedIn: "It's a common misconception that money is every entrepreneur's metric for success. It's not and nor should it be."
9. Don't waste time on things that don't excite you.
"If a new business opportunity or project doesn't excite me, and if it's not something with which I can have a lot of seriously creative fun, then I'd rather pass on it and move right along," Branson writes. "Life's too short to waste your time doing things that don't light your fire."
Amen to that. The world is full of opportunities--new jobs, new companies, new "Silicon X" locations that have not yet been discovered by the startup scene. I'm not suggesting that you should be enthusiastic and engaged every second of every workday. But if nothing that you're working on particularly excites you? It may be time to make a change.