Escaping the Rat Race: High school dropout becomes billionaire

Jennifer Kwon, Copy Editor

Richard Branson was the one who everyone thought was going to fail miserably in life. Receiving an F in class, hanging with the “wrong crowd”, and smoking his problems away—it seemed all too obvious what the future held for him.  

When turning 16, Branson decided to do something that would make him seem more like a flunk: drop out from high school. 

Yet, to Branson, becoming a high school dropout was not his definition of “failing;” rather, he viewed this as an opportunity to pursue his interests in outer space. Little did anyone know he would eventually become the space revolutioneer. 

Today, he is considered to be a classic, renowned figure. When people think of Branson, they don’t think of a “high school dropout.” Instead, titles such as a global billionaire, English business magnate, investor, and author come to mind.  

Then, why did so many people initially label him as a failure and assume the worst of his future?  

The answer is because the majority of people believe it is best to follow the “correct formula:” that is, graduating high school, attending a decent college, and finding a socially acceptable job that pays well. And, from their perspective, Branson did not satisfy the conventional list of milestones to success. 

 It is imperative to recognize that Branson was able to bring more meaning into his life than that of the majority of his high school graduate peers by refusing to blindly follow a path societal convention set for him.  

Branson’s story sheds light on a lesson that I encourage many SIS students to take into account: it is okay to deviate from societal norms to pursue something that excites you. Plus, the best part about all this is that anyone can start out small—with manageable projects. 

For example, Doyun Jeong (11), music enthusiast, started a YouTube channel where he produces, edits, and uploads songs. What started as a seemingly modest project turned into an official YouTube channel, where his videos get over a million views. Taejoo Lee (11), finance whizz, co-founded Finance Investment Club to expand his knowledge within the finance and business industry. Moreover, Bryan Kim (11), creative artist and writer, founded Humanité—a publication site that tackles up-to-date issues using artistic mediums. 

In light of all this, students should be welcome and open to change. Acknowledge that what society says is not always the “correct” option. It is a good formula for some to follow, but not for everyone to thrive in. Realize that you are the artist for your canvas, and each brushstroke is unique and beautiful—do whatever you want to do with your life.