Lessons in Life from a Virgin Boss
Review of Screw It, Let's Do It: Lessons in Life - Sir Richard Branson
My feelings towards Richard Branson, the man behind the Virgin Empire, is rather split. On one hand I admire him, the way he built up his Virgin Empire from nothing, bucking the trend and taking on the big boys of the business world. But then there is a side to Richard Branson which I struggle with, that outrageous side where he comes across as smug whilst promoting his latest Virgin business, it basically grates. And funnily enough both sides of Richard Branson's persona comes across in his book "Screw it, Let's do it", not technically a biography as he merges elements of his life with the business ethos which helped turn Virgin into a household name.
The background to "Screw it, Let's do it" comes from when Richard Branson was asked to write a book for World Book Day back in 2006 and since then it has not only been updated but also went on to become an International best seller. Rather than just write about his life, his various record breaking attempts or how he runs his Virgin empire he decided to combine it all in such a way that each chapter ends up being about a lesson which Branson learned and how he used that in his life or in building the Virgin empire.
As you would expect "Screw it, Let's do it" is split into chapters, all of which cover a unique element of Richard Branson's life and business ethos, each of which have a title which makes it feel like a self help book. You get a chapter called "Be Innovative" one called "Challenge Yourself" and so on as each chapter covers that particular subject. Something which does make "Screw it, Let's do it" stand out is that it's not done in any chronological order so you may get a chapter where Richard Branson goes into something important which happened to him when he was in his 30s and then the next chapter it mentions something from his childhood. But strangely this non chronological system works because of each chapter's unique focus on a specific subject.
What comes across in each and every chapter is Richard Branson's enthusiasm, that same enthusiasm which can come across as being a little too full of himself. Be it when he is talking about his childhood, scraping with death whilst trying to break records, taking on the big boys when it came to the Virgin Airline you get a real sense that Branson enjoys every moment. And as such this enthusiasm makes the words come alive and never seems to get dull even when discussing the ethos behind the Virgin Empire.
What also comes across in "Screw it, Let's do it" is that whilst Richard Branson likes to talk up his successes especially when it comes to making the Virgin empire he is also ready to admit his mistakes. He mentions the brush with the law when he started his chain of record shops and doesn't hide away from the fact that he was behaving unethically but also that he was lucky not to end up worse off because of it. You actually almost see a humble side to Branson, something which is not always visible in various interviews he gives.
One of the major elements of "Screw it, Let's do it" is Richard Branson's feelings on environmental issues which he not only brings up in several chapters but also dedicates a whole chapter to. Much of his environmental musings go into how he believes businesses can be more sympathetic to environmental issues and how it is a major focus of his Virgin empire. At the same time he also discusses how he got into the whole environmental side of things and it comes as quite a surprise when you read that it was back in the 70s when Branson started to get involved in them.
My only criticism of "Screw it, Let's do it" and this probably won't be a surprise is that there is a sense of Richard Branson's ego at work. Whilst the book is interesting and useful for those looking at how he went about setting up the Virgin empire and the ethos he lives by there is a lot of "Look at Me" which comes across. Whilst Richard Branson has every right to be proud of his achievements it does end up becoming slightly annoying as his enthusiasm seems to over run rather than inspiring as I am sure the intention was.
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Title: Screw It, Let's Do It: Lessons in Life - Sir Richard Branson
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Virgin Books