Is it part of a ‘know your enemy’ strategy?
Well, yes, perhaps.
But mostly I’m simply fascinated by people who are extremely good at what they’re doing.
And this Branson guy is pretty good at what he does. And he does have a certain flair I can appreciate. I do believe, having read his book, that he’s genuine and that he’s committed to making a positive change in this world, especially if his business can thrive.
From his book it becomes clear how much power there is in this one man’s hands. And he does try to wield that power in a positive way, but should it really be up to the whims of one man what happens in several important areas such as trains, airplanes, even global warming, even the war in Iraq? Shouldn’t we all sit around the table and discus which trains are the safest and then build them? Instead of leaving it up to a very tiny circle of businessmen and lobbyists? It’s terrific that Branson invests so much in the quality and safety of the products and services he offers, it’s also a very sound business strategy of course, but isn’t he the exception? Is capitalism saved if all billionaires become kindred spirits of Richard Branson?
Gaia capitalism? Seriously?
In his book he offers a paradoxical solution to the biggest global challenges: Gaia capitalism. It’s not entirely clear what he means by that, but it goes something like this: capitalism works since greed pushes people to innovate, but it will inevitably create a couple of superrich people. These superrich people should, as soon as huge amounts of power are in their hands, decide to give back to society. O and there are also ’12 elders’ who should have enough moral authority to get people to do the right thing. I somehow don’t see this working out. And I think the worst capitalists are not Richard Branson, but the ones you never or almost never hear about. This gaia capitalism sounds very much like some sort of capitalist despotism. An ‘enlightened’ circle of fabulously wealthy friends deciding the fate of humanity. Not exactly democratic, if you ask me.
I did enjoy his cheerfulness -I have a very limited supply of that article and can always use someone else’s- and his attitude. If he gets an idea into his head he goes about making it happen. Ok, he’s got the money and the staff to do it you could say. But I think he’s always had that spirit, even as child. He started a country-wide magazine from a phone-booth outside his school. I mean, nobody is denying that the guy has determination, drive and purpose. He did have the advantage of growing up in that kind of environment. His mum was all the time trying to sell things. He got his ‘the sky is the limit’ belief system from his parents. I grew up in an evironment that half the time said anything was possible, and half the time said we were all doomed to crash and burn. It’s a pity that school as we know it can’t eradicate the ball and chain of one’s poor social background. Richard Branson was lucky in that he didn’t need school to make up for any lack of insight into how the world works, his parents supplied that insight.
I also like his attitude of ‘jumping right in’, learning as you go, learning by doing. His motto is ‘screw it, let’s do it’ and I must say I find that energizing.
Is this the book that will turn you into a succesful entrepreneur? Well, if you can adopt his optimism and determination while reading his book it certainly won’t hurt, but there are absolutely no guarantees.
Courage is contagious
Does this book offer a model to save the earth? Neih, we’d be left to the whims of the superrich pledging to save the earth, while the rest of us keep making them richer. If you read the last chapters of the book carefully you can even imagine that the superrich will one day simply abandon us and move to other planets. Branson simply doesn’t look at our society as what it is: divided into classes. This isn’t to say that we can’t all benefit from his optimism and go-getter-mentality, but it’s equally wrong to say that anyone can just wake up and decide to adopt his mindset. Just to say: there’s a good deal of luck involved in his success story.
Can this book lift your spirits? As they say in the movie ‘the fifth estate’ courage is contagious, and Branson’s obvious lust for life, to construct and to tackle problems certainly is contagious as smallpox on steroïds. Oh and it’s a very easy read, he’s not shelling us with intricate vocabulary. And I never had the feeling he was bragging or trying to show off, though he’s of course very proud of his successes. It’s also slightly corny, even syrupy at times.
Anyway, think I’ll go and lose my virginity in some area I haven’t thought of so far.