Join the Live Debate via Virgin Disruptors on ‘Your Workplace Wellbeing: at What Cost?’

With moderator Emily Chang, the San Francisco-based anchor of Bloomberg West, this year’s panelists include:

  • Richard Branson (Virgin Group founder)
  • Tony Hsieh (Zappos CEO and founder)
  • Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO)
  • Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post CEO)
  • Jackie Reses (Yahoo CDO)
  • Jim Clifton (Gallup CEO)

Read my guest blog on Virgin.com featured as part of their workplace wellbeing series

It’s already kicked off, but it’s not too late to join the LIVE* discussion/debate now by clicking the image below:

Virgin disruptors 2

*In case you missed it, you can still watch the discussion/debate.

Dream a Little Bigger than You Did the Day Before

Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” I have been blogging since April 2012 and within that time, I have written 120 posts. Each time I write it has given me greater confidence to put what I need to say out into the world. I will be brutally honest though; there have been many a moments when it has gotten frustrating. Every person who writes hopes to have their work read and appreciated by someone else. When you write on a platform like WordPress, that appreciation in the perfect world would equate to likes, comments and shares across social media platforms. If only.

Walt Disney drawing the famous mouse that started it all
Walt Disney drawing the famous mouse that started it all

In almost three years, I have had 8,320 views thanks to 5,162 visitors (1,752 followers) from every continent on the planet excluding Antarctica; maybe because Emperor penguins have no internet. That was no easy feat. It has taken relentless self-promotion (horn tooting) using popular social media platforms day in, day out. Some days are better than others. But I have never given up.

Earlier this year I decided that I wanted to grow my audience exponentially, but I was not sure how I would pull that off. I have been following blogs and vlogs (a video blog) on the Virgin Group’s website for years now and I have learned a tremendous amount particularly on entrepreneurship. It seemed like the perfect platform and I was able to get an opportunity to write a guest blog on the theme “How to turn an idea into reality”.

The iconic bright red Virgin Group logo
The iconic bright red Virgin Group logo

I really wanted to ensure that this blog was one of the best. I spent a little over a week creating countless drafts through constant writing and editing. After sending my blog “across the pond” (to Britain) to the content manager at Virgin.com, I was told it would go live on February 11, 2015. That was probably the longest wait of my life (even though it was only two weeks)!

We all get those moments when we dare to dream just a little bigger than our last dream. We also end up questioning our own abilities and unknowingly wing up limiting ourselves. We should never be afraid of the unknown; trust your gut feeling and do what it tells you. My biggest fear and questions were around people’s reception to my writing style since this was an entirely new audience. I would soon get the answers that ended up becoming confirmation of what my gut had been telling me.

lego bricks
LEGO® was a huge part of my childhood memories

The day finally arrived and I woke up around 8 a.m. (1 p.m. in the United Kingdom) like a kid on Christmas morning and went online. There it was, my long awaited blog, 10 lessons on developing ideas from Shubham Banerjee’s story! That was one of the best feeling I have ever had and kudos to the team at Virgin.com, they did a fantastic job laying out the story; the visuals were perfect. I think I spent many an interval throughout the day monitoring the ‘shares’ and comments. I’ll be honest, I kept checking every day for maybe the first two weeks. After that I was satisfied with the momentum it had picked up. Even better my wife, friends and family loved it too.

Braigo Labs' young CEO Shubham Banerjee with his DIY braille printer invention Photo credit: Niloy Banerjee
Braigo Labs’ young CEO Shubham Banerjee with his DIY braille printer invention
Photo credit: Niloy Banerjee

It has been a little over a month since my blog got published. I am happy to report that it has been shared over 3,000 times across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus. It is also on of the website’s recommended and one of the most shared blogs. The best part for me was reading all the comments directly on Facebook, LinkedIn and the Virgin Group’s website. A lot of people were inspired by my writing and the 10 lessons I outlined for turning an idea into reality.

I have been invited to be a regular contributor with Virgin.com. My next blog goes live on March 31st and you guessed it, I have been steadily counting down the days. As lesson # 10 in my aforementioned blog stated, “Dream up big ideas to match big ambitions. Only your mind can limit your ideas and your attitude your ambition.”

Go change your world!

Tomorrow’s a Big Day for Me

If you’ve ever wanted to do something then there’s no reason to delay. Find a way to get your dreams into the real world. Tomorrow, I’ll be living out one of my dreams to expand my writing onto one of the world’s biggest company’s web platform. It will be featured in Virgin Group’s “In focus: How to turn an idea into reality” series.

I’ve long admired the work of Richard Branson in building an unconventional company and brand like the Virgin. Having written several blogs on both the man and the brand, I get to have an article featured on their website. It’s both exciting and a little unnerving all at once, which is weird considering I run a blog site.

There’s still something to be said about putting yourself out there from a creative standpoint with the hope that your work will be appreciated and stands up to scrutiny. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it gets shared across social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Gotta get my “street cred” up!

If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that you can’t sit around waiting for ‘luck’ to come your way. You have to get up and go out there and create your own opportunities. It’s even easier with the web at your fingertips. No one ever lives their dreams from the grave, so while you’re alive try to do what you love. Life’s better that way.

Wish me luck.

A New Group of Satellites Could Bring Internet to Billions in the Future

Virgin Founder Richard Branson announced an ambitious project to create the world’s largest ever satellite network that will make high speed internet and telephony accessible to the billions of people. OneWeb Ltd will implement and operate. The Virgin Group and Qualcomm Incorporated are the principle investors. The project could transform lives and fast-track the creation of business opportunities.

Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne programme will help with frequent satellite launches
Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne programme will help with frequent satellite launches

Virgin Atlantic’s New Ad Drops Some Inspiration on Us in a Kickass Way

‘The Idea’ – Virgin Atlantic’s new ad packs quite a punch that hits home in just 81 seconds (video below).

The narration’s on-point and I’m sure it’ll have you (like it did me) thinking about gambling, Las Vegas and mobster flicks. A clever way to drive home that the stakes are high and there’s a lot to lose!

This one’s for all of us and it’s key message — “Life doesn’t come to you, so go to it and let it fly” goes beyond just being a well-conceived advertisement into a powerful mantra we can adopt to our lives.

12 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Richard Branson’s Autobiography, Losing My Virginity

As some of you who follow my blog and social media accounts (via Facebook and Twitter) would realise, I am a big admirer of Sir Richard Branson. I’ve been a loyal reader of his blogs on the Virgin.com website, tweets, YouTube videos, and magazine contributions through Entrepreneur Magazine. I have learned, like many others in the world, a great deal of valuable business lessons that have helped me to grow my own start-up, Phresh Ideas and Designs established in October 2010.

The updated autobiography is available on Amazon
The updated edition is available on Amazon

I have never been so big on receiving gifts as much as giving them, however, this year I was willing to be the receiver after catching sight of what was to come my way. This was the first time that I had read one of his books and my wife was gracious enough to get it for me as a Christmas gift. Add ‘Losing My Virginity’ (The Autobiography) by Richard Branson on your list of books to read. It’s an incredible combination of life and business lessons. Having spent the past three days leafing through 573 pages of text and private collection of photographs and a few cartoons, I completed the book. I can happily say without reservation that it was time well invested. There’s nothing quite like acquiring knowledge from those more experienced in a specific industry or space than you are.

“What goes up must come down” was said by Isaac Newton and has since become easily one of the most popular quotes to date. This quote can be applied to everything that happened to Richard Branson through the highs and lows of his entrepreneurial career. From the day he started his first magazine, Student as a teenager in 1968 to creating a very “hip” (cool) record label, Virgin Records in his twenties was all very impressive. Consider too how he started Virgin Atlantic by leasing a single Boeing 747-200 for a year within two decades became one of the world’s favourite airlines. Virgin even successfully challenged “monopolies” like British Airways (10 years their senior) while they were at it.

Richard Branson in a take-off pose with one of his Virgin Airlines plane in the background
Richard Branson set for take-off with Virgin Atlantic in the background

It seems following your instincts has tremendous value and being extremely decisive on what looks like a worthwhile project or business opportunity is the characteristic for success or failure.

These days he spends his time exploring the limits or lack thereof in the future of space travel and space through his company Virgin Galactic. While pursuing “the final frontier”, Branson manages to focus on global warming and climate change issues exploring new sustainable fuels for aviation and cleaner energy through Virgin Green Fund. Through his interest in using his influence to solve social, economic and political challenges on a global scale, he was able to gather some of the world’s most influential leaders, The Elders. Former South African President Nelson Mandela was an original supporter in this initiative up until the time of his death.

The future of space tourism travel unveiled
The future of space tourism travel unveiled

To most, the model of the Virgin Group almost seems to be as unorthodox as any Fortune 500 company that has ever existed. It’s an ecosystem of companies in there hundreds as opposed to one gigantic entity. In hindsight, a combination of destiny and design makes Branson’s empire perhaps one of the best approaches to growing a start-up.

I sometimes look at my own life and wonder if I will ever learn to take more risks and go against the status quo, all while following my interests. So far I have accomplished a great deal as an entrepreneur through freelancing as a graphic designer. I can see where maybe I should pivot from being primarily a service-oriented business to one that is largely product-oriented. That way I can pull off earning more revenue even when I am asleep.

virgin-records
Branson sits in the window of one of the earlier Virgin Records store, London

Sir Branson started off the first Virgin business in 1970 (Virgin Mail Order) selling discounted vinyl records with a small team of two and grew his business pursuits into a team of 50,000 people strong in just 40 years. Here are 12 lessons I learned from Richard’s autobiography:

  1. Lead by example in everything you do.
  2. Learn to negotiate good deals.
  3. Welcome competition, but never let them walk all over you.
  4. Follow your interests and make them a reality.
  5. If there is a market with two dominant players, it can use a third “to stir up the pot”.
  6. Understand the value of your influence as a person and use it for good causes.
  7. Some of the best business deals are done outside of the business environment, like over lunch.
  8. Keep reinventing yourself.
  9. Trust your instincts; that gut feeling you get will steer you in the right direction.
  10. Life is better with family and great friends.
  11. You must take a lot of risks to get to where you want to be.
  12. Always keep a notebook and pen handy to take notes;

Bonus lesson – always protect the downside (risks) of a startup venture.

We should all make a go at growing our businesses. We have nothing to lose, but opportunities. The Christmas holiday was here and then it disappeared without a trace. Here’s to hoping you all enjoyed yourself with family and friends and got the gifts you wanted. The New Year is just a few days away, so here’s to wishing you the very best for 2015.

What I Learned from the Virgin Leader and the Apple Creator

I admire Richard Branson as the CEO of the Virgin Group and Steve Jobs as one of the greatest visionaries in the world of technology of the Apple Inc.

I like Sir Richard Branson for his approach in branding everything that falls under the Virgin brand from Virgin Airlines to Virgin Trains to Virgin Money and the ultra famous Virgin Mobile. All simple and practical names. I applied that concept to the phresh Ideas and Designs brand.

I also liked Steve Jobs’ approach to the Apple brand. His return to the company when it was at its worse, led him to revamp Apple by reducing the many products they had been building to just a handful of great products ergo the dawn of the Apple iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc. I also borrowed Jobs’ model on products and services and applied it to my business.

There is a lot to be learned from these guys and there is always something you can adopt and apply to your own business and personal life. Branson’s approach has always been “Screw it! Let’s do it!” and Jobs’ outlook has always been centered on pursuing one’s passion. A free spirit and a visionary.

On a side note, the name ‘Virgin’ always gets me and it comes with a really good back-story, not to mention its fitting logo and colour recognised anywhere and literally has its presence everywhere in the world. As for Steve Jobs, nothing more needs to be said than “iSalute you”.