Friday, December 3, 2010

Book Review: Losing My Virginity

Book Review: Losing My Virginity - The Autobiography by Richard Branson

This is definitely one of the most fascinating biographies I have ever read. It is the story of Sir Richard Branson, hippy turned global billionaire/entrepreneur . It is the story of his life and what a life it is! Often as I was reading it I would put the book down and remark in wonder "This guy's life can't really have happened this way!" It's just so unbelievable. Branson has fit 6 people's lifetimes into one. At the age of 15 he started his own national magazine (The Student) and interviewed people like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Later he started a mail order music business which eventually started a music store business (Virgin Music) which eventually started a music label (Virgin Records). You'd think this would be enough but during that time he also bought a 3 million pound island for 180,000 pounds, lived on a houseboat, got married twice, and started a student help line to help students in crisis. Branson is also an adventurer and along with others has broken several records in sailing and ballooning. His ballooning adventures alone are worthy of an entire book - at one point he's on the top of his rapidly descending balloon capsule trying to decide if he'd have better chances of living by parachuting now or jumping directly into the ocean before impact. It seems like he should have died on almost all of this extreme adventures he went on!

Branson is an interesting mix of risk taker and business acumen that the world rarely sees. He has the ability to dream big, ask questions like "Why can't we do this?" and then make huge (but informed) bets that have consistently paid off during his lifetime. Was he lucky sometimes? Absolutely. But there is no question that he is a visionary and entrepreneur who has great skills in salesmanship, spotting talent, weighing risk, and creativity. His Virgin Group of companies now include several airlines, mobile phone groups, train operators, fuel producers, etc. He is a multi-billionaire who is easily bored and thrives on challenges. In many ways he is the ultimate rags to riches story and his unique ability to not let fear or greed overcome him has made him incredibly successful and inspiring.

This is a long read, and I'd say the first 80% is difficult to put down. The end gets a little slower as it is more of a chronicle of his current accomplishments which although impressive, don't quite have the daring and risk taking of his first few decades. The book does have some coarse language and some rather "risque" (rated R) stories but these are few and if you can look past this you will be inspired. I rate it 4.5 out of 5 ninja stars.

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