What We Can Learn From Richard Branson’s Near-Death Experience

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Richard Branson really does have nine lives.

Earlier this week, the lauded Virgin Group founder was thrown from his bicycle and onto the road, sustaining injuries to his cheek, knee, chin, and shoulder. Branson confirmed the accident via Twitter on Friday:

“The next thing I knew, I was being hurled over the handlebars and my life was literally flashing before my eyes,” he explained in a new blog post, crediting his safety to the helmet he was wearing.

Branson had been training on the Virgin Gorda for next month’s Virgin Strive Challenge, a pentathlon (hiking, cycling, swimming, mountain biking, running) extending from the Matterhorn in Switzerland to Sicily’s Mount Edna. Through the event, Virgin Group hopes to raise about $2 million for Big Change, a youth charity group.

This isn’t the first time Branson has faced his own mortality. In the past year alone, he had his teeth knocked out–twice–from playing tennis, was attacked by a stingray, and ran face-first into a bullet-proof glass door. Over the course of his life, Branson has been pulled from the sea five times by helicopters, and once from a frozen lake. In 1974, he survived a shipwreck in Mexico. His voyages in hot air balloons have led the entrepreneur to crash into the Algerian desert and the Pacific Ocean. Another time, the Chinese Air Force threatened to shoot him out of the sky, as he crossed over the Himalayas.

As the New Yorker pointed out in 2007, one might wonder to what extent Branson’s highly publicized accidents are something of a publicity stunt to promote his business ventures.

“The PR experts actually have said that as an airline owner the last thing I should be doing is heading off in balloons and boats and crashing into the sea,” Branson responded at the time. He has a point.

This time around, the entrepreneur took the opportunity to reiterate his business philosophy: “My attitude has always been, if you fall flat on your face, at least you’re moving forward,” he wrote. “All you have to do is get back up and try again.”

Or as the writer Hunter S. Thompson more prosaically put it: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!”