Sir Richard Branson — The Billionaire Maverick of the Virgin Empire (#272)

“Stick your neck out. … It’s a lot more fun than sitting at home and watching other people do it.” — Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson (@richardbranson), founder and chairman of The Virgin Group, is a world-famous entrepreneur, adventurer, activist, and business icon. He has launched a dozen billion-dollar businesses and hundreds of other companies.

His new autobiography, Finding My Virginity, shares the candid details of a lifetime of triumphs and failures and provides an intimate look at his never-ending quest to push boundaries, break rules, and seek new frontiers.

I loved our conversation, and we covered a lot, including:

  • Richard’s thoughts on “clean meat,” block chain, and cryptocurrency
  • How he’s coped with dyslexia, and how his parents helped make him resilient
  • Behind-the-scenes stories of deal-making, PR stunts, big wins, and big losses
  • The habits (and life decisions) he’s used to maintain high energy levels for decades
  • How Richard masterfully caps/limits downside risk, even though he’s perceived as a risk taker
  • How and why he takes regular 1-2-month (sometimes longer) breaks from alcohol
  • Favorite books
  • Lessons learned from Nelson Mandela and other mentors
  • And much more…


You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Sir Richard Branson — The Billionaire Maverick of the Virgin Empire

Want to hear another episode with an iconic leader? Listen to my conversation with Ray Dalio. We discuss how Ray thinks about investment decisions, the three books he would give to every graduating high school or college senior, how he might assess cryptocurrency, and much, much more (stream below or right-click here to download):

#264: Ray Dalio, The Steve Jobs of Investing

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Richard Branson:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn

Show Notes

  • What was it like riding out Hurricane Irma in the British Virgin Islands? [08:44]
  • Richard’s school headmaster told him he would either “end up in prison or a millionaire.” [16:40]
  • How did spending one night in jail spur the beginning of Virgin Records? [20:05]
  • How did being accused of tax evasion and the threat of prison lead to a program for helping people pay their bail? [21:18]
  • Which harsh but loving lessons did Richard’s mum teach him about business and life? [23:14]
  • Richard explains how being told that “with a name like Virgin, people won’t believe in you” was a good thing. [33:00]
  • When did Richard realize that entertaining people in the airline business is more important than simply flying them from point A to point B? [36:05]
  • Richard explains how people perceive him to always be on the cutting edge. [38:58]
  • Richard had to make a tough decision regarding the sale of Virgin Records to move Virgin Atlantic Airlines forward. [43:45]
  • How did Richard become a master of opportunity, risk assessment, and negotiating? [44:35]
  • Was there ever a time when coworkers or board members tried to prevent Richard from pursuing certain business ideas? [47:15]
  • What are Richard’s best practices for launching a new company? [49:20]
  • Richard explains his reasons for writing his new book after more than 50 years in business. [51:01]
  • How has Richard kept his energy level and enthusiasm for business so high over such a long span of time? [53:40]
  • Many listeners want to know the reasons behind Richard’s investment in Memphis Meats. [56:50]
  • Which books (outside of his own) does Richard most recommend or give to others? [1:00:01]
  • In the last five years, which new behaviors, beliefs, or habits have improved Richard’s life? [1:03:30]
  • How does Richard cope when he feels overwhelmed or unfocused? [1:06:50]
  • Does Richard have a favorite failure? [1:11:54]
  • Are there any quotes that Richard lives his life by and what would he would put on a billboard? [1:14:07]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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29 Replies to “Sir Richard Branson — The Billionaire Maverick of the Virgin Empire (#272)”

  1. To Tim’s IT guy 🙂 Your emails are consistently getting into my spam folder despite marking them as non-spam all the time. You must be blacklisted in some spam filter lists… or most likely your email service/ip range :/

    Hope it’s a help 🙂

    >——– Оригинално писмо ——–

    >От: The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss

    >Относно: [New post] Sir Richard Branson — The Billionaire Maverick of the Virgin Empire

    >До: ivanikoloff@…

    >Изпратено на: 09.10.2017 15:51

    \.abv-omExternalClass\ a\3Ahover { color: #ff0000; } \.abv-omExternalClass\ a { text-decoration: none; color: #0088cc; } \.abv-omExternalClass\ a\.primaryactionlink\3Alink { background-color: #2585b2; color: #ffffff; } \.abv-omExternalClass\ a\.primaryactionlink\3Ahover { background-color: #11729e; color: #ffffff; } Tim Ferriss posted: ” “Stick your neck out…it’s a lot more fun than sitting at home and watching other people do it.” – Sir Richard Branson Sir Richard Branson (@richardbranson), founder and chairman of The Virgin Group, is a world-famous entrepreneur, adventurer, activi”

  2. Such a privilege to listen to this conversation, and Sir Richard in a long-form interview with Tim.

    In particular, I valued getting a sense for Branson’s balance of living in fullest spirits and throwing all caution to the wind, and disciplining himself (alcohol). And, the childhood stories and insights into Eve Branson and her influence. AND, the comments and “businessman” dissection of the failing war on drugs.

    Thank you both for your work and the important commentary this throws into the public sphere. Nice too to hear Sir Richard marking Tim’s success and leadership with congratulations! And looking forward to seeing the interesting twists and turns you both take in the future.

    – oh, on alcohol, I have for many years enjoyed a ritual of “dry January” since being a devoted rugby player. Much of the team would do this to focus back on fitness after messy Decembers…so it was a collective thing, that people respected when you explained why.

    And, in the last two years I have added to the ritual a month off in the summer, and doubly loving this.

    The most valuable part of the practice becomes being used to arriving at a social evening saying, I’m not drinking right now, with no qualms. And still having a great time.

    It is always nice to go back then, the palate a little more measured!

  3. Loved hearing Sir Richard Branson’s story of how he developed the airlines… found the silver lining in his flight being delayed until the next day! Looking forward to a Round II, as I’d like to hear more about Virgin Galactic. Tim, I can tell you and Richard have very similar mindsets and willing to try new ideas waaay out on a limb! Great interview.

  4. Absolutely inspiring interview .. had a smile on my face the entire time. Thanks for providing this content, Tim!

  5. Loved the interview, in between, I was completely oblivious to your presence Tim. Richard has a great story and I truly appreciate his contribution and inspiration to young people like me to do better, with a husky smile on our face. If you read this Tim, thumbs up dude. Hope I get to meet you someday.

  6. Another amazing interview Tim, at times I was completely oblivious to your presence as Richard captivated me with his story. He is such a great example and a solid inspiration to young people like me to do better, with a husky smile on our face. If your reading this Tim, thumbs up dude. I hope I get to meet you someday.

  7. It was such a great podcast and 75 minutes of great conversation. Thank you, Tim for framing up the questions, in a well-structured manner.

    Always cheerful and healthy to hear from such personalities. Hope you will do more of such podcasts. (something which I’m eager if you could get Jack Welch on a podcast)

  8. Always good to hear about this generation’s larger drivers. They were so close to a lot of monumental shifts that seemed routed in genuine humanity / concern. Christ knows what we’re up to now. And it was also good to hear him speak with total unguarded flow. He’s a proper raconteur.

    Good to see you, Tim, are back at your desk regularly as well. I much prefer these pure (for want of a better explanation) podcasts to the remnant approach.

    Lovin your work etc.

  9. I’m a college student in the Cruz and I really love listening to your podcasts, especially when I’m in the crazy traffic on the 1. I’ve learned a lot listening and reading your books. While I’m not interested in being self-employed or being an entrepreneur, I appreciate the bravery it takes and the great rewards you have reaped and shared. I am a skinny-fat horse person and I loved the 4-hour body. I enjoy giving myself the permission to eat as much protein and vegetables as I want to kill my sugar cravings. Stereotypically, I don’t look fat, but, as you pointed out, skinny people can be pre-diabetic too. I was trying to do the Paleo thing for so long and now it’s nice to look forward to a cheat meal and motivates me to stay to clean. As an equestrian, I picked up the kettlebell after the promises of changed posture. I now swing every other day with great success and it has really improved my riding very quickly. My hips are more open and the warm-up of “cat vomit” and bridges have opened up my middle back to stretch and provide a good model for my horse to come under. The best part is that my entire workout of kettlebells, etc. takes 15 minutes. I also feel I’m improving my VO2 max as mentioned in your podcast on the 1-minute workout. My boyfriend is a surfer and if the waves aren’t a pounding shore-break, I can join him for cold-exposure in the big drink.

    Sorry for the ramble.

  10. TIM!

    Get actor Jason Momoa on!

    Seems like such an interesting dude and balances life/family and work. Can’t find any podcast with him as a guest, you could be the first!

  11. Tim!

    Thank you so much for this one. This is the number one person I have wanted on your podcast. I love this one. Great work! I am interested in hearing more about your worries/inner self talk on alcohol.

    He always seems like such a guy that really prioritizes play and it came through nicely hear. Surprised he didn’t say he listens to more books.

    I appreciate this one,


  12. I enjoyed listening to this podcast.

    Take home message for me: not speaking ill of other people, and doing things that bring fundamental change. I also found his answer to the question on the billboard message (trying things and sticking your neck out) encouraging. Often times, life feels safer when we stick to what we know and we inhibit our sense of curiosity. This podcast reminded me of the Tim Ferriss December 2016 podcast where Adam Robinson, the macro Advisor said that ‘the ideas in investing come from outside the domain; if you want to have an insight on whatever your field is, it helps to look outside your field.’

    A nice way for me to start the week!

  13. Hi Tim,

    Constructive feedback, as a big lover of you and Branson.

    I would imagine that interviewing one of your all-time icons is very nervous.

    A lot of the stories told on this episode have been heard many times before. Mainly through his books. It would have been great to have asked some questions perhaps which were not so safe, but that revealed some new content and stories which we may never have heard before, or revealed some aspects to Branson which have not been so publicly known. (felt like it was played a little safe and the hard questions which you may have wanted to of ask been held back?)

    As ever though, thank you. I smiled throughout the entire episode.

    Apologize for my lack of good English, like Branson – I too am dyslexic. Grammarly does all it can 🙂

    Kia Kaha,


  14. Hi Tim, I just wanted to say Hello. I am probably your biggest fan from Bratislava, Slovakia. I was a professional tennis player and lived in the US. You inspire me in so many ways. I wish I could meet you once in person. Let me know if you ever gonna be in Europe. I also started my own blog and a podcast because of you. [Moderator: blog address removed.] Cheers

  15. I thought I would have enjoyed it more, not my favorite. I feel like it could have went in a different direction. Love the podcast though

  16. To the brain, information acts like food; art acts like exercise.

    Richard Branson told you that if he feels like reading fiction he’ll go watch a movie and once again you let this absurd idea that novels are a waste of time go unchallenged. Your guests seem to take pride in reading “useful” books full of information. They believe that ingesting facts will make them better performers. Although they do everything possible to make their bodies perform at their peak they don’t exercise their minds in the same way. How can your mind possibly be elastic and innovative if you don’t look at, read or listen to challenging art, books or music? Presenting the mind with difficult abstractions such as those found in conceptual art, challenging music, fiction and poetry can broaden, provoke and open the mind. I wonder why your guests only stretch themselves physically and not mentally. I wonder if they can truly boast of being spiritual or soulful if they don’t engage with art. Art is not a way of wasting time. It is not escapist. Like doing burpees, it can be uncomfortable and difficult. But only by challenging the mind, soul and emotions can your guests really claim to be operating at their peak.

    (By the way, I’m sure you’re aware of the studies showing that as a country we’re losing our ability to empathize because we no longer read fiction. Surely empathy is a vital quality for any titan).

  17. At the beginning of the conversation about blockchain, Richard mentions a book about bringing people out of poverty 59:48, was the name of the author Hernando DeSoto? Does anyone know the author or the books?

    1. Maybe “The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else Paperback – July 9, 2003

      by Hernando De Soto (Author)?” He has several books on Amazon; check it out!

  18. Tim, you are doing such a great job. Thank you so much and as I always say, you really are getting better and better with interviews. Just love each one.

  19. Awesome, that you got Sir Branson on the podcast. A while ago I read his biography Losing my Virginity which is truely inspiring. Really love his world view and how he inspires people in the personal development field like Vishen Lakhiani and Tim Ferriss.

  20. Tim

    Perhaps we could actually hear from some not so often heard….like John Huntsman, The Koch brothers, or one of my favorites and most thoughtful of billionaires…..Steve Wynn.

  21. Tim – what are the autobiographies that you have on your shelf (spine out) along with Richard’s that you mentioned? Keen to read your best of list and share with my sons.

  22. Hey Tim. Is there an ad-on or algorithim one can use, to access the times when Mr Branson is telling the truth? Just musing on how to work that. Thanks!

  23. What an inspiring and fascinating man. Loved the discussion on the incredible benefits of removing alcohol from your life. I’ve found that to be 100% accurate in my own experience.