Holly Branson: Seven lessons from dad Richard

On the occasion of Dad's 70th birthday, as a tribute to his seven decades on our beautiful planet, I'm sharing seven wonderful life lessons he's taught me over the years. I am very proud of dad and everything he has accomplished. I hope you enjoy these lessons as much as I did growing up.

No matter what Dad is doing, where he goes, or who he is with, he is always there in that moment. Over the years, I've seen his team trying to rush him through events while Dad talks to a girl or boy who dreams of flying a spaceship, or takes notes from a client who gives him feedback or advice.

Whether Dad is out for a walk with the grandkids or quietly sipping a cup of tea while working in a bar, no matter who approaches him, he takes the time to listen. Dad has taught me that there is nothing so urgent that you can't spend time talking to people, learning about their lives, listening to their lived experiences, and simply being present in the moment. It is often in the most unlikely situations and, from a friendly stranger, that we learn so much.

Holly (in dad Richard's arms), shares seven lessons she learned from him
Holly in daddy Richard's arms

When I was three years old, I went up to Mom and Dad and told them I wanted to be a boy. It turned out that this was not a passing phase and it continued until I was almost eleven years old. During all that time, my mom and dad never questioned my decision. Later in life, I asked them if it was difficult to fully accept and not pressure me to conform. They told me that they would never stop me from being who I wanted to be and that they would always love me and my brother unconditionally. Dad has instilled this same culture of acceptance and belonging at Virgin for the last 50 years, and I have also passionately promoted it in my 12 years in the business. Everyone should be able to live their truth and be 100 percent themselves and I am grateful that I was taught this so early.

Dad has never let fear stop him, in business and in life. Sometimes I think he actually pushes him to say yes. Growing up, we would sit around the dinner table, sometimes in disbelief, as Dad told us about his latest ideas like: “Per and I are trying to fly a hot air balloon around the world.” either “We're thinking about driving a tank into Times Square to launch Virgin Cola.”

In 2016, Dad and I embarked on the 2000km Strive Challenge to raise money for Big Change. Dad was by far the oldest member of the team in the month-long challenge, but when those of us who were the youngest ended up crying, Dad kept going. He got up at 4.30 am and left hours before the others because he didn't want to keep anyone.

He never once complained and always smiled and supported the team. She kept him company some mornings and those days were the best, just my dad and me. Thank you for that time, Dad, and for teaching me that no matter how challenging a situation is, how exhausted you may be, and how much you want to throw in the towel, the human spirit always has that final little burst of determination.

For any child growing up, seeing their parents love what they do is one of life's greatest lessons: Dad was always so open and passionate about the work he was doing and always shared what he was doing with me and Sam. I am sure that by doing this he instilled in us the same joy and work ethic.

As a serial entrepreneur, Dad always encouraged Sam and me to pursue our passions. He tasked us with finding something that fulfilled us and exploring how we could make a positive impact on the world in some way. It is a lovely mission for children.

Dad also taught us that work and play don't have to be separate. You spend most of your life working, so you should have a little fun along the way. Dad sees everyone at Virgin as friends and I loved growing up surrounded by our #VirginFamily. The best way to meet people is to bond with our amazing people, have a drink and dance non-stop. It has been a wonderful life lesson to learn that work can be fun and rewarding if you follow your true passion.

Holly and Sam in Richard's armsHolly and Sam in Richard's arms
Holly, Richard and Sam Branson

My brother Sam and I have a great family. In fact, huge. At last count, we were over 70,000! When I was a baby, Mom looked after me on a houseboat in Little Venice, which also happened to be Virgin's headquarters.

When Sam was born, we moved from a boat to a house and Virgin moved in with us. We are never separated from our Virgin family and they are never separated from us.

Grandpa Ted and Grandma Eve, my mom, Sam and I go to every launch, we go to every opening exploring new Virgin territories and we all LOVE the many staff parties. As a collective family, we have been through many difficult times in the past, from British Airways' “Dirty Tricks” campaign to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the SARS epidemic, two financial crises and now Covid-19.

Dad has a rare trait for a global business leader: he has never been afraid to show his emotions and vulnerability to our Virgin family. He has taught us how important it is, especially in difficult times, to have an enormous capacity to love and to never stop sharing that love for all our people, openly..

Dad, a born prankster, loves to dress up and act silly. He approaches situations with a light, humorous touch that is rare in business leaders. Dad has never believed that being ruthless accomplishes anything. Seeing the lightness and fun in every situation and bringing a human touch to everything he does is as much a part of him as breathing.

When I was a child, we put up with interrupting important phone calls or interrupting meetings almost daily. He never once told us to blow ourselves away. I once called him to give him the results of an exam at medical school and he was babbling when, after a few minutes, Dad said, “Holly, honey, this is great news. Can you call back? I'm just giving a speech in front of 20,000 people! «

I still can't believe he picked up the phone on stage! Thank you, Dad, for your wonderful laugh, your adventurous spirit, and your sense of childlike wonder. You make being alive so much fun! Thank you for confirming our grandparents' life motto: “Isn't life wonderful”?

From launching the Student Counseling Center to raising awareness of the AIDS epidemic by starting Mates Condoms in the 1980s, rescuing hostages from Baghdad in 1990, and sending medical aid flights to Iraq immediately after the Second Gulf War, Dad He never turns his back on issues that other business leaders may find too controversial.

Dad stood by Nelson Mandela to fight apartheid, and is tirelessly calling for an end to the death penalty, giving second chances to ex-offenders, and tackling divisive but important issues like drug reform. He puts himself out there and doesn't back down.

Richard and Holly Branson with Nelson MandelaRichard and Holly Branson with Nelson Mandela
Richard and Holly Branson with Nelson Mandela

Dad has taught us that a good life, lived, is one in which you are valued, respected and loved. A great life, lived, strives every day to ensure that everyone in the world is valued, respected and loved. Freddie and I are so grateful that our young children will grow up watching and learning from their beloved grandfather Richard, as you continue to fight on behalf of the marginalized, the victimized, the abused and the forgotten.

Dad, I can't thank you enough for teaching me these valuable life lessons and for inspiring so many entrepreneurs, activists, business leaders, dreamers and young people around the world. I couldn't ask for a better role model and I couldn't imagine a better dad. I love you!