Founder at Virgin Group
If I Were 22: Have A Blast But Build Your Purpose
If I were 22, I would be out working hard, playing hard and having the time of my life. Hang on, what’s the difference between 22 and 63?!
There are lots of things I know now that I wish I had known when I was 22. I would have loved to have known that Sir Tim Berners-Lee was going to invent the Internet, so that I could have invented LinkedIn – not to mention Google, Twitter and Facebook! It would have been useful to have known that Steve Jobs was going to launch the iPod and the Internet was going to revolutionise the music industry – I would have sold our record shops and got out of the music business a lot earlier.
If I were 22 today, I would embrace the opportunities technology has given us. While I am in my sixties, I am incredibly excited about the transformative power of the web and all sorts of new technology. From opportunities to tackle climate change to research to beat terrible diseases, as well as inventions to improve everyone’s lives, I am sure the coming years will be a period of tremendous innovation. Most 22-year-olds today think that the way to make their fortunes is through setting up tech businesses, and it is true that can be a fruitful direction. But other more conventional businesses shouldn’t be forgotten. There are still plenty of different sectors that need shaking up. It is more important to follow your passion than going into tech simply to make a fortune. Not everybody is technically minded anyway, and if you don’t really love what you do you won’t succeed.
As a 22-year-old starting again, I’d love to spend my life from a really young age doing things that completely transform the world. We started Student Magazine in order to protest against the Vietnamese War and other outrages, and the Student Advisory Centre to help young people going through various troubles. However, we didn’t really embed true purpose into Virgin Records from the beginning. If I was to go back, I’d start Virgin Unite, our non-profit foundation, at the same time as the record label. I’d also look into incubating initiatives such as The Elders and the Carbon War Room even earlier.
Having said that, as a 22-year-old it is important to have an absolute blast. You are only 22 once! Make sure you have the time of your life, stay up for plenty of sunrises and meet all kinds of people in as many places as possible. If you get the opportunity to travel, grab it with both hands and don’t forget your toothbrush (ok, condoms)! Get out there, dance and play as well as working hard and creating things.
I never looked 40 years ahead. It was one step at a time, building block upon block and sometimes finding those blocks fell to the ground on the way. But I’ve been extraordinarily lucky, have a wonderful family and friends, and would change very, very little. I absolutely love being in a position to make a positive difference in the world – I am going to do my best not to waste that position. I don’t have any regrets about my decisions aged 22, and would try to live with the same zest for life whether I was under 20 or over 100. Age isn’t as important so long as you are surrounded by people you love, doing things you passionately believe in.