On Thursday I was reading City News (a free weekly paper in Brisbane) and there was an article about Virgin Blue’s new headquarters in Brisbane. In the article, when asked about whether Sir Richard Branson was going to come to the opening:

A Virgin spokeswoman said while the entrepreneur would regularly drop by the headquarters, including a visit this weekend to the existing headquarters, his schedule was full for the mid-year opening.

(emphasis mine)

Thursday night it occurred to me that if Branson was going to be in my neighbourhood, it could be possible for me to meet him. I’ve admired the guy since I read Let’s Not Screw It, Let’s Just Do It last year and figured he would be quite an interesting fellow to talk to. (Also: hello EducateDeviate interview and KaosPilot mission.)

I look up Virgin Blue’s contact details and find Colin Lippiatt, who is their Public Affairs Manager. I mull the idea over with Mark, who thinks it’s crazy, but still worth a try.

Friday morning I call up Colin. Told him that I read that Richard Branson was coming over, could I have a meeting? He told me he didn’t have Branson’s schedule, but gave me the number for Danielle Kieghery at Virgin Management – the woman with Branson’s schedule.

Aha!

I ring up the number and get her voicemail, which helpfully provides a mobile phone number. I debate whether to call the mobile. I leave a message, saying I’d like to do a short interview for EducateDeviate, my youth blog. After a few minutes I call up her mobile number, and reach her.

The background is noisy; turns out she’s in the middle of an interview. She tells me that Branson’s schedule is super full so she can’t really slot me anywhere, but I can send her an email over. Before I get her email address though, she has to leave.

I Google her name (and find that I’ve been misspelling it) and find her email address. I shoot off five quick questions and thank her semi-profusely for talking to me and giving me the opportunity.

I haven’t received a reply or a call-back, and I’d be quite surprised if I get either. But at least I am now one degree closer to Sir Richard Branson. The weekend’s just started, and if I wasn’t so busy today (Saturday) I would have stalked their Fortitude Valley office (thank you Yellow Pages) and just hung around until Branson and crew showed up. I’ll only need 10 minutes, after all. It did work for Astrid. Perhaps by Monday this story would have a pleasant ending.

I was expecting to be asked a lot more questions and be interrogated over who I was and what I wanted, so I was surprised that I was let through really easily. Tim Ferriss (he of the 4-Hour Work Week, which I just bought yesterday, damn my book addiction) had a challenge to contact some of the most prominent people around, and I think I did a pretty good job. This guy’s got a whole blog dedicated to meeting Richard Branson; I wonder if he’s been successful.

Who else should I contact? I’ve been trying to work out how to talk to Sir Ken Robinson after this brilliant TED talk, but his website’s under construction. And there’s Oprah Winfrey, whom I’ve been emailing for years without success (perhaps it’s because I am not American). If Anita Roddick was still around I’d like to talk to her too.

I’ve been successful with a few others – Dad led me to Jack Sim, who runs the World Toilet Organization (and whose email I really should reply to), and Uffe Elbaek, who formed the KaosPilots, is surprisingly approachable, quick, and very friendly. Then there’s all the fantastic people I meet by accident – I didn’t know how great they were till I met them and got to know them better. (also: hola, spidey! Really my best story of this kind, though now she’s not a celebrity to me but a dear friend and sister. Love you.)

There’s a few other people I’d like to swap ideas with – not just in relation to KaosPilots, but in general about life, education, making the world a better place, and being alive. Some of them aren’t quite as famous as others, but they’re still all inspiring and awesome.

What’s your story? Who did you get to meet under extraordinary circumstances? Also: if you can control Sir Richard Branson’s schedule, can you slot in 10 minutes for me? 😉

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