Seve Ballesteros and Richard Branson’s Dad

First published on Brand Republic - 27 June 2011

I never have enough time to read.

Often, I find myself scanning the newspaper without the time to read articles that I really want to read – and concentrate on reading.

One example is obituaries. I hate not reading about the lives of people who I have admired and respected – and I love reading about the lives of people about whom I knew nothing but whose lives, on reading about them, I find fascinating.

So, by my favourite armchair at home, there builds a steady pile of unread material. Sometimes these pages are there for so long they go sepia in the sun.

Yesterday, on the sunniest day of the year, she who must be obeyed ordered me to work my way through this ageing and unsightly pile – or she would throw it away.

Then a strange thing happened. As Jung would have said, synchronicity occurred.

As long ago as 9 May, I had kept the obituary of Severiano Ballesteros. What talent. (I admire talent).

Then, just as I finished reading about Seve (most of which I knew but might never read again), my eyes were drawn to a photo of Richard Branson and his father, Edward Branson.

I have met Richard Branson a couple of times and enjoyed doing so. And I thought it might be interesting to read about his father (about whom I knew nothing).

I learned that Edward Branson had wanted to be an archaeologist, but his own father had insisted that he prepare for a career in the law.

Later, Branson père would recall a similar exchange between himself and his son:

“There was a time when I felt Richard ought to get a qualification, so I walked him up and down our lawn at home and said I would like him to qualify as a barrister.

Later, I felt awful because I had said to him just what my father had said to me. So, the next weekend, I walked him up and down the lawn once again and told him to forget everything I’d said.”  Respect.

As you will know from my post before last, and here is further synchronicity, I have been meeting University leavers to discuss possible career choices.

And I remembered something I had just read about Seve, one of the most naturally talented golfers ever to have played the game. I returned to his obituary:

“practice was carried out in the family’s barn, in which he would drive the balls again and again into a hanging backcloth. He later said that between the ages of 12 and 18 he had probably driven as many as 1,000 golf balls a day.”

So, there you go, two men – one born in 1918 and the other in 1957 – whose
obituaries were published on exactly the same day in 2011, come together to give all the career advice anyone needs now and forever:

DO WHAT YOU LIKE AND WORK YOUR BALLS OFF.

Then, in the immortal words of Arthur Daley, the world is your lobster.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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