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The key to success: enjoy yourself thoroughly!

“Because starting a business is a huge amount of hard work, requiring a great deal of time, you had better enjoy it. When I started Virgin from a basement flat in west London, I did not set out to build a business empire. I set out to create something I enjoyed that would pay the bills.
There was no great plan or strategy. The name itself was thought up on the hoof. One night some friends and I were chatting over a few drinks and decided to call our group Virgin, as we were all new to business. The name stuck and had a certain ring to it. For me building a business is all about doing something to be proud of, bringing talented people together and creating something that’s going to make a real difference to other people’s lives.”

RICHARD BRANSON, NYT Syndicate (1 February 2010) Photo: Hardo Müller/Flickr

Richard Branson, the world’s favourite maverick businessman, is telling us one of the keys to success: enjoy what you do. And if you can’t enjoy it, then follow the advice of another famous name, Kahlil Gibran, who asked people to beg rather than work with distaste!

Branson, leader of the Virgin Group, epitomises enjoyment. He beams enthusiasm wherever he goes, and infects others with it. The philosophy of creating something you enjoy, which also pays the bills, is something I wholeheartedly agree with.

Most people do the reverse, unfortunately. They go for the work that maximises their income, and then try to enjoy that work. The rabid pursuit of money is never going to make you happy; but the determined pursuit of enjoyment in what you do may well yield great financial reward, as it did for Branson.

The reason is very simple. When you enjoy something, you make every attempt to do it well, to make it better, to excel at it. When you dislike something, you try to get by rather than to be the best. We make time for things we enjoy, we prioritise them, we devote our attention to them. Way too many of us end up in careers we hate. I come across this phenomenon repeatedly in my leadership programme. The reasons people usually give for doing things they hate vary from doing it for the money; to following misguided advice from parents.

More should pay attention to Richard Branson. This man hates offices so much, he doesn’t even have one! He spends most of his time meeting people, which is what he really enjoys. In his own words: “A good leader does not get stuck behind a desk. I’ve never worked in an office–I’ve always worked from home–but I get out and about, meeting people. It seems I am travelling all the time but I always have a notebook in my back pocket to jot down questions, concerns or good ideas.”

Most of us are brought up to think of enjoyment as a sideshow, something you do away from work, something which is even vaguely sinful. It is not any of those things! Enjoyment is the cornerstone of success. Take a look at any truly successful persons you know, and then observe how much they obviously love what they do.

Unlock yourself. Release the person you were meant to be. Do what you really love doing, whether that is balancing books or playing the saxophone. The greater the overlap between what we love and what we do for a living, the greater the chances of outstanding success. Out of necessity we often find ourselves in jobs we have no love for. I’ve been there myself. Bide your time, make a plan, gather your resources – and then take off. It is criminal to waste your life working with distaste. Find the thing you can truly excel at, and make your mark.

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