Why you shouldn't take success advice from Richard Branson


You shouldn't take success advice from Richard Branson!

You shouldn't take success advice from any highly successful person and there's two reasons. The two reasons are related to each other the first reason is:

  • They were lucky! and the second reason is -

  • What works for them won't work for you!

Let's look at luck. Michael Lewis the author of Moneyball and Big Short says that successful people don't like to acknowledge the effect of luck on their career but more importantly the world - the rest of us - don't want to acknowledge that either why is that?  

In 1972 Richard Branson started his own record label virgin records he had no business he had no artists but he used to let struggling artists lease his studio and the first release of Virgin Records was Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells it's the tune playing in the background right now.

It didn't do very well except a little while later it was picked up as the theme tune for the smash movie 'The Exorcist' - tubular bells had unbelievable success it became the third largest selling album of the 1970s and it propelled Virgin Records into stardom.

It was a one-hit wonder Mike Oldfield never had another hit it's a quirky funny tune it's an an anomaly it's luck! it's luck ....

Okay, let's look in detail about why what works for successful people won't work for you - to do that we need to understand a special curve it's called the Pareto curve - now most people are familiar with the normal distribution - the normal distribution is what we think applies to success and failure we think that successful people are talented in some dimension such as intelligence or entrepreneurship, whatever and that if we could just learn that talented thing with a bit of hard work we would be successful - and we're wrong!

This isn't the curve to understand - the curve to understand is this curve the Pareto curve.

The easiest way to understand the Pareto curve is the game of Monopoly. In monopoly we start off with a number of players - it's a board game -you all start with the same wealth and you buy and sell properties as you go around the board and there's some chance involved and what happens over time is some people get poorer and some get richer until ultimately the winner takes everything!

That is a perfectly natural thing - it happens in nature - it happens everywhere in business and you need to understand that like in monopoly good and bad fortune (we call that luck) plays a huge role in the process. If you lose at the game of Monopoly you don't think wow! what special character did that person who won have? You don't think that - you think 'let's play again I'll probably win the next one' - and you'd be right!

So what happens when someone gets on that uphill slope of the Pareto curve I call that position that top position a NAME IN A PLACE you become a name in a place.

And it's a very special position in business. Richard Branson has the name entrepreneurship and the place is the whole planet that is a massive business area - he owns that name in that place. Google is the name in the place of search they have 70% of the search market they probably have nearly a hundred percent of the profits - Microsoft is second everyone else is no where. Pure Pareto curve!

You need to understand how strong the Pareto effect is in your business is it like the rock star index with with Paul McCartney up here and all the other rock stars making no money down here or was it more like say dentists where some might, in a big city, make two or three times their country peers but every business, every market there's a Pareto effect and someone is 'the name in that place'. In that marketplace.

You can calculate it for yourself simply find out for yourself. Find out what the wealthiest makes - look at their profit if you can or just their income and compare it to the average of let's say the (bottom) 50% people the people who are sort of average your business.

If you get a factor of times 10 that's pretty normal if you get a factor of one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand - as happens in Internet companies or in the music business then you're looking at an unconstrained Pareto situation. It's there's no tax there's no regulation to control that and the winner takes everything. [ Btw, Pareto index for the finished game of monolopy is 'infinity']

It's estimated that the top nine wealthiest individuals on this planet have more wealth than the bottom four billion - people pure Pareto.

That's the Pareto effect. So what does it mean for you? and WHO should you take advice from? Well the first thing to understand is that everyone from this line this way high on the Pareto curve - those people - all strategies work! Everything they try to do works! The business comes to them. Everyone on this side (the rest of us) in most of our markets no strategy is great - every strategy needs to be trying to become a name in a place so who should you take advice from?

You should take advice from people who have proven themselves to repeatedly get people like you from down here up there. That's it. Don't take advice from anybody else because for those people any strategy works.

I'll take a simple example in B2B sales. There are plenty of people up here (high on Pareto curve) that tell you that cold calling doesn't work - and just make some great content and the business will come to you. Well that's fine for them! The business comes to them anyway if you're down here (bottom of curve) you need to go out and get the business you'll probably have to cold-call. 

(Paradoxically) Should Richard Branson decide to cold call, by the way, he could just cold call Donald Trump and Donald Trump will take his call! Everything works for these guys down but here (at he bottom) you have to be proactive you have to be finding your place and becoming a name in that place - that's the only thing that will work for you - you've got to go out and get that place.

Up there (at the top) the business comes to them.

So I'll repeat it - you shouldn't take success advice from Richard Branson or any highly successful person because - they were lucky! you probably won't be lucky like them and what works for them won't work for you!

Something to think about Let me know what your Pareto index is - tell me in the comments see if you can calculate the pareto index for your company.

Mike Adams