Sir Richard Branson is an entrepreneur whom I enjoy watching for a long time. What he does always excites and inspires me: From Virgin Megastore, Virgin Atlantic Airlines, to the island and the catamaran. He is the fourth richest man of the UK with estimated 4.6 billion dollars wealth and numerous success stories. He is shown as an exemplary leader and an entrepreneur in the British world.
I started thinking of him as a serious narcist after seeing his photo kite surfing (with a naked model on his back who is 40 years younger than him) Why would a man who has been so succesful, had enough money, gained appreciation all around the world, do this? After meeting him personally, I understood that he is one of the most decent man I have ever met. But he is marketing himself very well – and sometimes with a naked lady on his back.
Another foreign entrepreneur I would like to mention is someone whom I will not give a name. Let’s call him “Michael”.
“Michael” is someone who has successfully done investments in various countries around the world. Not married, no children and he has dedicated himself to his work. However, he has ended up his business relationships badly with everyone.
As I investigated further, I realised that he is a person who never socialises with his coworkers, has close relationships, and he talks about people as the way he talks about money and time. I think the reason for this is Asperger Syndrome, which is a kind of autism. As autistic people find it beneficial to focus on something or work in an order; those with Asperger syndrome have almost no social contact. Therefore, ‘Michael’ has always been at the losing side from the social perspective – however, in terms of business, he is one of the best entrepreneurship decision makers whom I ever met. Such a contradiction, right? Very succesful at business but failing at private life..
And of course, Steve Jobs. Another leader who followed perfection and who had a very fluctuant life. Steve Jobs was someone who said he had difficulties in reading and writing, was an unsuccessful student and also he was a person who was described as psychopath, angry and passionate by others. At the same time, he was a person who mesmerised the world with his vision.
It is possible to find a lot of examples around the world: Winston Churchill, who described his depressions as ‘my black dog’, was the Prime Minister of the UK at its hardest times. Another example is John Forbes Nash, who won the Nobel Prize, a MIT professor and the mastermind of the Game Theory (His biography was filmed in “A Beautiful Mind”).
There seems to be no contradiction between being a difficult person, having psychological issues and being succesful. There are a lot of leaders whom the public would describe as ‘This guy is crazy, he has lost his mind’.
I would also like to mention my observation about Turkey as well.
In Turkey, there is a having an idea with less knowledge syndrome. I can say that I experience this regularly, however I would like share one unforgettable memory: Company valuation has had an important part both in my university education and in my occupation.
I believe I have received all kinds of education regarding this and gone through dozens of experience practically. Let’s assume I know the drill.
One day we are talking about a company valuation in Istanbul. I explained the main principles and suggested a professional valuation due to the fact that the company had complications. One of the people there took the floor and said ‘ Sina, at the end of the day valuation means the total number of cash flow we expect for the coming years, I can do this tonight’. Even though I thought of throwing something at the person, I explained calmly that things do not work in the way it is explained. The next morning that person did what he knew (having an idea with less knowledge) and gave the price from his valuation that was made.
His company was never sold.
A cliché story. It can happen all around the world, you might say. That’s true too, however in Turkey this happens more than the other countries I work with.
After being succesful, some people start thinking that what they do is always the best. I think these people are the most dangerous ones: People who are at the top of the organisation is always alone. Generally, due to their position, people behave respectfully and distant. In societies, where the criticism tolerance is low, (Turkey is included), people at the top are criticised less and there is a corporate flattery going around. After some time – when the success brings self-confidence and less criticism – people start thinking that whatever they do is always right. I believe there is nothing more dangerous than this.
If you observe, you will see that the chances of making mistakes get higher. And keep out. I think one of the main differences of being a senior manager and a leader lies into this.
There is not only one path to success, everyone’s path is open- having a different psychology is not an obstacle. On the contrary, in some cases it is beneficial.
There is no worthless experience, there is just unutilised experiences.
When you lose modestness, you lose success.
Focusing on one target,
Making some (big) decisions not only analytically but also instinctively,
Adapting to changing conditions,
Running faster than others,
may seem to be a part of the path to success.
“If it’s not challenging you, it’s not changing you.”