Richard Branson on his Dyslexia

A transcript from an interview Anderson Cooper had with Sir Richard Branson on CNN aired May 21, 2004.

Note: you can see Bransons in a similar story on MSN Money.

COOPER: What do you think it is about your brain, about the way you process information and the way you see things that has made you successful? 

RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER & CEO VIRGIN: Well, I was as a child dyslexic, not badly dyslexic but dyslexic had quite a lot of problems in school.

COOPER: You didn’t graduate high school. 

BRANSON: Yes, I mean my problems at school were such that I actually left school when I was 15 and there were some subjects that I just, you know, had a complete blank about. I mean (unintelligible) mathematics or I mean for instance for years I haven’t been able to work out the difference between gross and net. The reason that I think people who are dyslexic seem to exceed quite well in life, having had hell at school, is that you do simplify things. 

COOPER: As a business leader you’re probably unconventional. You’re not sort of the traditional image people may have. Have you always been unconventional in the way you frame things, the way you look at things? 

BRANSON: I suppose. I’ve been running my own businesses since I was 15 and therefore I’ve been able to dress as I feel comfortable, you know, I’ve managed to get a wonderful group of people around me and I don’t sit behind a desk all day. I get out and, you know, meet people and spend time with people, you know. 

So, I think what I’m, you know, quite good at doing is, you know, is creating -- creating something which I’m proud of and the staff who work for me are proud of and then, you know, if you created the best then the figures hopefully, you know, you’ll be able to pay your bills and keep, you know, keep everybody in employment. 

COOPER: I would imagine sort of when I envision your life, you know, you being on Blackberry’s and you being on e-mail and being wired and connected, I understand that is completely not true that you are actually only recently sort of using a cell phone. You don’t -- you’re not addicted to a Blackberry. 

BRANSON: I’m terrified that if I ever did get addicted to, you know, computers or Blackberry’s that, you know, they would crash on me and, you know, so, you know, I use a notebook I carry making lists of everything and I check them off. 

COOPER: I read that you jot things on your hand. I was looking at your hands now. 

BRANSON: Yes, I think actually I’ve just -- anyway but yes, I mean anything urgent I write on the back of the hand but so, I mean I keep everything, you know, pretty simple. 

COOPER: As for those who are listening who maybe their child is dyslexic or has some learning disability what is your message to them? I mean what’s your advice? 

BRANSON: Obviously someone who’s dyslexic you’ve got to try to get them as much help as they can from, you know, the people at the schools and other people who are specializing in dyslexia. But, you know, in the end I think, you know, the chances are that they may well excel in other areas. 

COOPER: Because you had dyslexia at a young age do you think you had to work harder than other people? 

BRANSON: Yes, I certainly had to work, you know, to work enormously hard. I had to learn the art of delegation and not try to do everything myself and somehow, you know, somehow it worked out OK. 

COOPER: It certainly seems to have. Richard Branson thanks very much.

Anderson Cooper, CNN, May 21, 2004