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Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way Paperback – June 7, 2011
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-- Ivana Trump
“Few people in contemporary business are as colorful, shrewd, and irreverent, and probably no one’s nearly as much fun to be around. . . . Branson embodies America’s cherished mythology of the iconoclastic, swashbuckling entrepreneur."
“Branson wears his fame and money exceedingly well: no necktie, no chauffeur, no snooty clubs. . . . What continues to set Branson apart is the unique -- and, to some, baffling -- nature of his ambition. . . . He isn’t interested in power in the usual sense of influencing other people. . . . Boiled down to its singular essence, Richard Branson just wants to have fun.”
“Branson, a self-described ‘adventure capitalist,’ is a business-creation engine who was clearly born in the wrong place. . . . Those business instincts are matched by an ability to motivate people who work for him. And who wouldn’t want to -- Branson seems hell-bent on making sure that everybody, but everybody, is having as much fun as he is.”
“Richard Branson . . . is dressed to the nines: in a $10,000 white silk bridal gown with a traditional veil and train and acres of lace. . . . Branson is expected to do the unexpected, even the bizarre -- anything to publicize his latest venture. . . . The fact is, Branson’s widely reported stunts seem almost staid compared to the unconventional way he manages his burgeoning empire.”
-- Forbes ASAP
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Not only did it give great insight into the personal details, metuculously recounted, of each adventure, but was also an impressive insight into the inner workings of the way he sees things and how he sets about planning and taking action on them. This is the kind of autobiography you hope and dream of finding. If you are a fan of the man (legend), or of entrepreneurship, or even of economics, this book, written superbly and with excitement, will be for you. If you are questioning whether or not to read it, I dare you to download a sample and try it. I'll hedge my bets you'll be drawn in as well.
Part of the appeal of this autobiography is that many of us remember the events he describes and due to Bransons high profile in the mass media, it is almost as though we embarked on his adventures with him. Anyone who lived in the UK in the late 80’s will remember his balloon flights, his clash with BA over their “dirty tricks” campaign, and his regular TV appearances. He was not only a darling of the popular media, but to quite some degree, producing and steering popular culture from behind the scenes- discovering and promoting many of the biggest names in pop music.
Being essentially a nouveau riche interloper, he also represented the mindset of the average Briton in the 80’s and 90’s: secular, humanist, materialistic yet idealistic, with a rather rosy and naïve schoolboy-ish view of the world outside Englands borders. He is fashionably hip, not only a joint-smoking product of the 60’s but of a liberal upbringing. Politically he is very left-wing, e.g., speaks of islamic countries in glowing terms, sucks up to foreign dictators (Gaddafi), identifies with the Blair government. He name-drops left, right and center, with a wealth of anecdotes of the rich and famous, from his friend Diana Princess of Wales to his early days rubbing shoulders with the Stones and Mike Oldfield. While he projects a very English type of humility, there is also something slightly cringe-worthy and arrogant in the way he brags about his sexual exploits, deceives the police, steals other peoples girlfriends, or has affairs. But once again, all this very normal of common and widespread English culture of the day.
I really like how the book was set up. Each chapter a time frame in Branson's life and what happened within those months/years. I didn't know much about Branson's life or all the many businesses that Virgin operated. I am a bigger Branson fan now.
One thing I didn't like about the book, was the additional chapters. While the content was good, they seemed to just be thrown on at the end. There wasn't any structure to them. Each of the additional chapters took about 1.5 hours to read while other chapters in book ranged from 10 to 30 minutes. Would have been nice to have more structure for these additional chapters.
Top international reviews
There are a lot of hilarious moments, serious moments, deep thought and innovative business thinking. Its an easy read - Branson communicates effortlessly, and despite being 500 pages it doesn't feel like it takes long to get through. You can almost imagine Branson himself narrating!
There is quite a lot of talk about Virgin and how they built as a company, a lot more about the ins and outs than you'll find on the web. It provides a good insight to start a business and the sort of challenges you may face, arguments with bankers abound and a 'new startup' culture is prominent. Bransons bouncy abrasive attitude comes through strong, including his joy at shaking up established 2/3 player markets. It's good inspiration for anyone wanting to challenge their thought processes. A great example is where rather than trying to get credit for TV screens in the back of 747 seats Branson realises it might be easier to get a credit line for 18 new jets! (which is what happens!) This sort of enterprising thinking abounds.
The one negative I found, and which felt a bit off about the book, is you do get a feeling there are things which aren't talked about. There are only a few mentions of serious conflicts within the Virgin group, there are only a few short mentions of when things completely failed (like Virgin Cola; the telling of the Virgin Cola tale here starts and ends with it being a successful startup, not the years when it fails). I feel this is a lost opportunity as great depth and insight is given to so many other things. There is also an element to which you wonder how much the prose 'sticks to the story' - there are a few places where a phrase placing the blame on another company is repeated; it's not to say the blame wasn't on the other company, it just feels the point is being worked a bit hard.
All in all though really good book, really good fun, smacks with personality, it comes across exactly like you'd imagine a chilled conversatoin with the man would be!
He comes across as funny, clever, incredibly hard working but, most of all, joyful. If I only had one word to describe Branson, it would be joyful. He takes great pleasure in life and in doing what hasn't been done before and the book, particularly the first half, reflects that.
The second half takes a different tone but that reflects his change in age, his children growing up and his businesses maturing. It takes a more political bent that I found quite interesting but none more so than his discussion on the environment and the efforts that he is making to help make Virgin more environmentally friendly. There is, occasionally, the odd bit of name dropping that feels a bit jarring whilst reading but, overall, this is a really interesting book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in underdog stories.
Also the delievery was here within 3 days instead of the expected 10 days it said so I am very impressed with this. £4 for free quick delivery and this book is just brilliant!
It instilled in me how a successful business is simply the result of a good moral code and work ethic...
Similarly I wonder what Branson's overly self-depricating effort might come to be known as. 'Losing My Dignity' maybe?
This book, as Lance Armstrong's, has inspired many dreams of riches, but omits enough to leave those aspirations to be unrealised so long as this (quite the establishment now) self-professed 'underdog' is revered as someone 'whose come good.'