It has been almost 20 years since the original publication of Losing My Virginity, and Richard Branson and the Virgin Group have come a long way since. Branson encapsulates the journey of these changes in his latest book, Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography, his second volume of memoirs.
Finding My Virginity is a more forward-looking, albeit a little less cohesive, work than the 1998 Losing My Virginity. Apart from building a business empire, Branson has received equal fame for his many adventures and humanitarian efforts, and Finding My Virginity reads equal parts memoir of these activities, equal parts inspirational book of business lessons. Fans of Losing may find themselves disappointed if they expect the same kind of narrative style and structure from The New Autobiography. However, although almost 20 years separate the two works, the lessons and takeaways remain the same, and are as relevant today as they were at the turn of the millennium.
Richard Branson, the charismatic genius behind the Virgin Group Empire, is one of the most widely recognised names and faces in the world today. While many credit the likes of Zuckerberg, Musk, and Spiegel with sparking off the new entrepreneurial wave sweeping the world today, Branson is one of the originals – a man who showed that it was possible to reach the heights of success despite going against the norm. And nowhere is this journey better encapsulated, or presented in more riveting detail, than in Branson’s two memoirs.
While his first book sums up Richard Branson’s philosophy of life more accurately than any treatises or arguments can, his second memoir speaks about his work in the subsequent decades. One of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time, Richard Branson has made a living – and a legendary reputation – on the basis of just “going for” things, often against convention and the sage advice of anybody who cared. However, it is precisely that devil-may-care (some may call it reckless) attitude that has led to one of the greatest entrepreneurial success stories of the latter half of the 20th century.
His new book is all about the expansion of his business empire, with a narrative that is often as riveting as any well-written page-turner. Both his memoirs are a sneak peek into the mind and decisions that created one of the most innovative and audacious businessmen of our time.
Chief among these, Branson has often faced criticism for his “showmanship” and larger-than-life persona, but Losing My Virginity revealed a man who cared about family and friends as deeply as the humanitarian causes he supports. Finding My Virginity is a fresh testament to the ability of an iconic leader to build his/her brand based on the strength of their iconic personality.
At the end of the day, Branson admits that his personality was yet another extension of his efforts to build the Virgin brand, and if it ended up projecting him as a spoiled tycoon instead of the underdog he has always resonated with, he is deeply unapologetic about it.
Branson showed a spark and flair for entrepreneurship at the age of 16, when he started a paper in high school with his friend Jonny Gems. While Gems took care of the editorial side of the paper (called Student), Branson took up the business side like a duck to water, eventually dropping out of school to concentrate fully on the paper. Using Student’s steadily growing circulation, Branson would set up a discount mail-order music company, and later, a retail music store, laying the foundation of an empire that would grow to cover music, transportation, retail, and even space.
As more and more modern-day entrepreneurs embrace the idea of a “cult of personality”, Branson drives home the fact that you can keep embracing the new and the different over and over again, no matter where your decisions in business – and life – take you. That then is the significant lesson from Branson’s 20-year and two-memoir-worth exploration of his “virginity” – that success is possible when one has the conviction to follow one’s dreams, no matter what the naysayers tell you, and that a life well-lived, by one’s own terms, is often its best reward.