Guest Post

I am proud to say that this guest post is from Erik Calonius, an author, former foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and a writer for Fortune. His latest book is “Ten Steps Ahead“.


In one of your recent posts, Marlon, you advised your readers to keep a notebook with them at all times. I noticed, in fact, that you even advocated a particular kind of notebook, one with three sturdy staples holding the pages firmly together.

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Branson In A Houseboat

That rang a bell with me, and I’ll tell you why. Several years ago I spent quite a bit of time with Richard Branson. He wasn’t Sir Richard at the time, he was a still-struggling entrepreneur (of course he was worth about $100 million even then.) Branson lived in a houseboat on a canal in the London suburb of Maida Vale.  I spent a fair amount of time there one summer, on the houseboat with Branson, drinking wine and enjoying the long twilight of the English summers.

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Branson was certainly an easy-going guy. He had a big smile, and the same merry blue eyes that he has today. Sometimes I’d find him working at a round patio table atop the houseboat. When the weather was warm, he’d be stripped to the waist with his sneakers kicked off. Branson was definitely the  essence of nonchalance. But I noticed one thing about him. He always had a notebook around. And he was always jotting things down.

Branson and His Notebooks

This memory rose to the surface of my mind while I was reading your post about the importance of carrying a notebook. It made me go to my library and pull Branson’s autobiography off the shelf. I found this passage on page 407 of the paperback. So listen to what Branson has to say:

I have always lived my life by making lists: Lists of people to call, lists of ideas, lists of companies to set up, lists of people who can make things happen. Each day I work through these lists, and it is that sequence of calls that propels me forward.”

He continues, “As anyone in my office knows when I’ve misplaced it, my most essential possession is a standard sized school notebook, which can be bought at any stationery shop on any high street across the country. I carry those everywhere and write down all the comments that are made to me by Virgin staff and anyone I meet.

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I make notes of all my telephone conversations and all meetings, and I draft out letter and lists of telephone calls to make.” And how many of these notebooks has Branson employed? “I have worked my way through a bookcase of them,” he says.

Over the years I’ve spent time with many successful business visionaries, and they range from Branson to Steve Jobs. They are all driven, all passionate, and despite outward appearances, extremely performance oriented. I’ll bet that Branson isn’t the only one among them who has a long line of notebooks on the library shelf. Sounds like a good habit to keep!

Note: If you’re interested in Richard Branson’s story, grab his autobiography book from Amazon. – Marlon :-)

pixel How Richard Branson Lives Life By Making Lists