For the past 50 years, Richard Branson has been building his business empire across a number of sectors and creating as much trouble as possible along the way.
In 1998, the boisterous billionaire penned his first book, Losing My Virginity, charting the entrepreneur’s journey from when he dropped out of school at 16 to building his Virgin brand of over 400 companies and all the madness in between.
Twenty years on, Finding My Virginity presents a more serene businessman offering insights into family life, current affairs, and focusing energies on helping to solve some of the world’s social problems.
Having said that, the book still contains plenty of mischief, and there’s rarely a dull moment to be found. Branson, 68, delights in talking about some heart-in-mouth experiences with his space travel adventures, and crossing the Channel from Dover in Britain to Calais in France in an amphibious car – beating the previous record by four hours in the process.
Never one to pull his punches when it comes to telling it like it is, there are revealing chapters dedicated to the businessman’s dealings with US President Donald Trump (reason enough to buy the book) and former president Barack Obama’s visit to Branson’s Necker Island home upon leaving office.
The Virgin chief also discusses problems such as poverty, climate change, and the implications of the Brexit vote for businesses and people alike (Brexit refers to Britain’s controversial decision to exit the European Union). Riled by the outcome of the vote in June 2016, Branson writes that, “political campaigning should be subject to the same rules that we have to comply with when advertising commercially” – a jibe aimed squarely at the Leave campaign which presented some questionable claims prior to the referendum vote.
It’s clear throughout the book that Branson is someone who is always willing to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to using his endeavours to create positive change in the world. He writes how, in 1968, he created his first business, Student magazine, as a protest against the Vietnam War. Over 30 years later, he was back marching on the streets of London with millions of others as they voiced their protest of the 2003 US-Britain invasion of Iraq.
In his later years, he wondered how he could help to make more of a difference, and following a lunch with tech billionaire Bill Gates, was inspired to initiate a group called “The Elders” – a non-political organisation of global leaders working for human rights and world peace. Founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, fellow members include Desmond Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter, and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The group continues to make an impact across global issues such as climate change, HIV/AIDS, refugee crises, poverty, and universal health coverage.
Despite his 50 years of being in business, Finding My Virginity stands as a reminder that Branson is very much the original celebrity entrepreneur who laid the groundwork for a more flexible, informal and creative approach to business – a torch that’s now carried on by the likes of Tesla’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
Describing what it means to be an entrepreneur, Branson believes that it is “our natural state like playfulness,” and throughout the book there are plenty of moments where his playfulness shows him to be the perennial iconoclast that he is.
Alongside the awesome stories and the havoc, the reader is given insights in abundance into what it takes to become a self-made billionaire head of a business empire that continues to grow and expand into new territories.
At 500 pages, the book is a hefty read and, predictably, is one that lists the achievements of the Virgin brand wherever possible.
Nevertheless, Finding My Virginity is a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of book that is sure to thrill fans of celebrity autobiographies and offer plenty of food for thought for anyone with an idea of becoming their own boss.
Branson’s latest offering is as bold and brash as the man himself, and a refreshing reminder that you’re never too old for some mayhem and mischief.
Finding My Virginity
Author: Richard Branson
Publisher: Penguin, memoir