If you’ve ever seen Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group and the fourth wealthiest citizen of the United Kingdom, in action, "shy" is not the first word you’d use to describe him.
"Cocky," "confident," "swaggering," "bold," "cheeky," "brash," "daredevil," "nuts" — these are words more often than not associated with Branson’s name and house of Virgin brands. But it hasn’t always been that way for the face (and head) of Virgin.
In fact, Branson and Virgin wouldn't be household names today if it wasn't for his tenacious mother, Eve, who took drastic measures during his childhood to push him out of his shell and into the world — literally.
Documentary filmmaker Mary C. Mazzio met Branson’s mother while producing a 2004 documentary about entrepreneurs and their mothers, Lemonade Stories, and discovered that Branson’s mother laid her own form of tough love on her son in his childhood.
Eve Branson disclosed during her interview that her son’s shyness was “disabling,” Mazzio writes in Time, noting that he wouldn’t talk to adults and clung to his mother’s skirt as a youngster whenever adults were around. “‘Shyness is being introverted and thinking only of yourself,’” Eve Branson said, according to Mazzio. “On the way home from a shopping trip to a nearby village, Eve stopped the car about three miles from home and let Richard out. ‘You will now walk home. You will have to talk to people to find your way home,’ she told him.”
According to Branson’s story, which is recounted in Richard's 1999 autobiography, Losing My Virginity, it took about 10 more hours for the youngster (aged around "7 or so," Eve recalled to Mazzio) to finally arrive home, and he started to be more able to interact with grownups after that experience.
So Mazzio has some advice for parents who want to raise kids who think entrepreneurially. No, it isn’t drop your kid off three miles from home and let them fend for themselves, which would merit a call from child protection services nowadays. As she writes in Time, “It might serve us all well if we stepped back and let our sweet darlings make mistakes and fall on their faces from time to time.”
Food for thought — even if it's particularly hard to swallow for many parents (and bosses)!