I just left Necker Island yesterday, after what are up there as five of the best days of my life. The invite came three months ago, and it was one of the (rare) instances where I said yes immediately and decided to figure out how to make it happen later. As the man himself says: “Screw it, just do it!”.
I travelled there with 22 members of Business Chicks and I don’t quite have the words to describe the week.
Magical, inspiring, motivating, gratifying, nurturing, connecting, healing, loving…
In my time on the island – and in the 24 hours since I left – my brain kinda felt like a freshly-shaken snowglobe, where the sheer amount of experiences, new people and new information were all floating around furiously. It’s only today that my thoughts have started to settle and clear “take-outs” have materialised.
I’m writing now from my hotel room in Miami, fuelled up on key lime pie and an iced coffee from the local diner. I wanted to first get down in black and white what seems to be in the running so far for the biggest take-out I had – and it’s something I learned straight from Richard himself.
We had a lot of time with him during our time on Necker – he joined us for almost every meal and we also had a one-hour Q&A session over cocktails one evening, in which the Global CEO of Business Chicks Emma Isaacs posed some thought-provoking questions to Richard. I was lucky to get to sit next to him that night for dinner, and have the opportunity to chat to him one-on-one.
Throughout all of this time, there were a lot of topics covered: leadership, happiness, giving back, family, Brexit, mindset… however there was one massive “aha” moment for me from my time with Richard.
Once dessert was finished on the night I sat next to him, he leaned in conspiratorially to me and said: “If I get up and dance on the table, will you join me?”
Now, hitting the table while still pretty sober in front of a group that I still didn’t know very well and while wearing a short dress is up there with things-I’d-perhaps-rather-die-than-do.
However people, let’s remember that this is Richard Branson asking.
“Umm yes ok”, I found myself replying.
Richard beckoned to one of the Necker team and asked her to “put on the Greek music”. Once it was blaring, he leaped on the table with his napkin and did a pretty solid job on a traditional Greek dance along the length of the very-long table. He spun around a couple of minutes in and gave me the nod.
I clambered up on the table and tried my best to copy his napkin-twirling, then thankfully the rest of the group got involved and what resulted was a giant Greek/Conga line around the benches of the table.
You know what? It was AWESOME!!
Fast forward to two days later and we were wrapping up our last working session around lunchtime, and Jean Oelwang (President & Trustee of Virgin Unite) tasked two of the group with getting everyone dancing for one whole song. They stepped up and got the dancing going, and another Conga line kicked off.
About two minutes in – and I don’t know who started it – someone jumped into the pool fully-clothed. Then another, then another, then another.
When about five people were in, I muttered “f*ck it” under my breath, and flung myself in – freshly washed hair and all. This is mortifying to admit, but this was the first time I’d ever jumped into a pool wearing clothes in my entire life. WTF have I been doing with my life?
People were pushed/carried/coerced into the pool until absolutely everyone was submerged – even the bartender and video crew (minus their camera…). Then Richard somehow materialised and cannon-balled into the pool. Champagne corks were popped and we had a pool dance party.
One of the most fun moments of my life.
I had a quick chat with Richard afterwards and told him that because of him, I had danced on a table and jumped into a pool in my clothes for the first time… at the ripe old age of 33. He laughed and said words that I suspect will stick with me for a very long time.
He said: “Just say yes”.
Such simple words that actually say so very much. Words that I want to take on as a personal mantra.
Life somehow feels very serious and it can be easy to forget – it is for me anyway – to just have bloody fun. I get so sucked in by planning, having things to do and making shit happen that fun falls by the wayside.
I realised this week how buzzy having fun is – letting that inner child peek out and express itself is somehow extraordinarily enriching.
It’s also seriously relaxing.
Maybe TMI, but I put on a bra that I hadn’t worn since the start of the week yesterday and the whole day that I spent travelling was also spent yanking up its straps. Every five minutes they dropped off my shoulders.
I couldn’t understand how the straps had somehow stretched in five days, then it hit me what was going on: my shoulders were more relaxed than they had been for years – so the straps that were normally taut were now sitting slack.
Richard Branson runs a multi-billion dollar empire, is working behind the scenes on major global issues, is on a mission to crack space travel and is a devoted husband, dad and granddad – yet he seems to have more fun than anyone I’ve ever met… and inspires other people to have fun in their businesses too.
I’m hoping I can carry this new discovery back to my life and practise a little fun and silliness every single day – while always remembering to “just say yes”.
Thank you Richard.
PS: I’m noting down as much as I can about the week on Necker Island – so send me any questions you might have so I can answer them for you!
PPS: Thank you to everyone who has sent emails/DMs/photos about/of my book – they are so very appreciated. 🙂