If you could meet just one person in the world, who would it be? Well, for me it was Sir Richard Branson – yes, the hot, uber-successful entrepreneur with a melodic English accent. I got to meet him at the inaugural Virgin America flight from San Francisco International Airport to Orange Country Airport. Virgin America hosted a party at the SFO International Terminal where TV crews, journalists (including my other hero Arianna Huffington).
Richard and I met on the moving walkway, where I had a chance to get my copy of his latest book BUSINESS STRIPPED BARE autographed. I’ve been working with a production company in Burbank on a new series where I interview incredible individuals around the world, and Richard happened to be on my list. So, with cameraman and photographer in tow, we had a chance to meet the magic man – up close and personal.
For the past few years, Sir Richard has been investing much of his time in a few global philanthropic programs. When I asked him who his hero was, he said, “Nelson Mandela.” And because of his respect for his hero, he helped ignite The Elders, which was started in 1999 by Peter Gabriel. Their goal is to empower local elders to help guide and support small African villages. Their mission is to resolve conflicts within the communities. In 2001 Peter and Richard shared their dream with Nelson Mandela. Now The Elders boast a extraordinary list of members who include: Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Ela Bhatt, and Mary Robinson are a few of the incredible Elders.
Sir Richard’s other love is his personal not-for-profit called Virgin Unite. At Virgin Unite they believe business has the capacity to improve the human condition. And Mr. Branson believes the same visionary thinking and problem-solving skills that made him successful can be channeled into solving the world’s social and environmental crises. He also believes that business and the social/environmental sector cannot function in silos – we must all work together to drive change. So, Virgin Unite supports innovators and entrepreneurs who want to make the world a better place. CLICK HERE for the link if you want to get involved.
Honestly, there are not many people I would stop the world to be with, but Sir Richard is one of them. I find it so fascinating that he has been able to build a global business doing all the things he loves. The first time I heard him speak was at an event hosted by my friend Joe Polish. The simple, clear advice Richard gave was incredible. He told the story of how he mortgaged his life to start the airline and how the creditors were like wolves at his door when he finally was able to, “Make it happen.” What I find so fascinating about Richard is his ability to “Make it happen.” Some people talk about writing a book, starting a company, losing weight, finding love, blah, blah, blah. Richard doesn’t sit around – he makes it happen!
I asked him what us ordinary folks could do to support the incredible global work he was doing. Surprisingly, he did not bring up money, but what he did bring up was quite fascinating. He said, “Teresa, the one thing that everyone can do is forgive. Forgive your ex, forgive your parents, forgiveness is the first step to success. We all need to step up and say, ‘I’m sorry, I forgive.’” WOW, this is advice from a man who could buy anything, meet anyone, and basically do whatever he pleases – who would think that “Forgiveness” could lead to abundance.
Another joy of Richard Branson’s is mentoring brilliant and generous entrepreneurs who want to learn from his personal experiences. Sir Richard shares his knowledge with top entrepreneurs through an elite program called Centurion Mastermind Group.
There, he meets with this influential group of entrepreneurs on his private island, Necker Island, in the Caribbean. He invited me to go, but I never got his number to call and confirm. Well, perhaps next time. I do believe that I will meet him again, maybe next time in the First Class cabin on Virgin Atlantic.