11 May 2014
One of the best statements that has influenced me, and probably a fair few entrepreneurs come to think of it, came from Richard Branson the first time I ever met him. We were sitting having a cup of tea, talking about family and children and the differences in the youth of today and yesteryear, and he said: “If you say ‘yes’ to everything, you’ll have a much more interesting life.”
What he’s saying is that if somebody asks you, for example, ‘do you want to go climbing this afternoon?’ and you say no – ask yourself what you are going to miss. I think that’s why Richard’s become such an adventurer. He’s such a good-spirited chap and his attitude is so full on that when his PR team suggest something to him, he’s programmed to say yes.
In my opinion, there’s a difference between a businessperson and an adventurer. Yes, people who can make a lot of money are businesspeople, but here’s an adventurer who is also a very accomplished businessman. And, that day, he reminded me that I’m also an adventurer. I’ve always taken stock and reviewed my progress, especially since my avalanche, and I like to work backwards and reflect on what I can do better; how I can be a better husband, father and friend. Saying yes will mean that you experience more and have much more fun.
It’s all too easy to sit in front of the TV and put your feet up, but the clock’s still ticking away. I’ve had the greatest holiday and in spite of accidents, I’ve managed to go out skiing with my whole family – even our two year old! It’s almost going back in time. I think you’ve got to admire the people who get up and go to the park instead of sleeping in, the people who actually get out there and see the cultural and historical things this country has to offer. It’s called Great Britain for a reason, and whilst there are some fantastic documentaries on it, you’re a lot less likely to experience it all from the confines of those four walls.
So, when someone offers you an opportunity, challenge your gut instinct. As Branson often says, if it’s something you can’t do, say yes anyway then learn how to do it later. Are you someone that looks at the reasons why not to do something, rather than considering the benefits? Why not ask yourself why your immediate response is no? Is it because of fear; the fear that you might not be able to do something or measure up to someone’s (and that includes your own) expectations? Be honest with yourself. What’s stopping you? If you have a worry, ask yourself ‘so what?’ If you change your focus from a negative one to a positive one, you’ll be much more receptive to new experiences and to learning new things.
There are some things that it might be more tricky to say yes to at first, if you’re not used to it but, as the saying goes, what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you. Another great leader, Tony Robbins, likens it to stressing a muscle: “The more you use it, the better it gets.” And trust me, I’ve had a lot of practice at this, including with Richard Branson. Take last year. A few of us jumped into a charity skiing race organised by the Branson family. It involved skiing through checkpoints at opposite ends of the resort and completing a number of challenges along the way.
For our group, some of whom were fairly new to the sport, it was certainly a challenge, involving crossing mogul fields and even making a Harlem Shake video from the slopes! We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into going into it but, looking back, we would have missed out on a sense of achievement and camaraderie had we refused. Plus, we wouldn’t have been part of helping to create such a positive result for the charity. Ultimately, it’s all about asking yourself what you’ve got to lose by saying no, and also what you’ve got to gain. Often, you’ll find that the answer to both of these questions is a lot more than you think!