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Be humble about what you don't know
Richard Branson
Chairman, Virgin Group

Until the late 1980s, I have to confess, I was still confusing gross profit with net. Every now and then I would fake it, but not too well. One of my board members finally pulled me aside to give me a mnemonic, or memory aid, which often comes in handy for dyslexics.

He said, "Pretend you're fishing. Net is all the fish in your net at the end of the year. Gross is that plus everything that got away." It has proved invaluable ever since and remains the best financial advice I ever got.

NEXT: Develop a healthy skepticism

Last updated July 22 2008: 11:27 AM ET
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