What we can learn from Bill Gates

What we can learn from Bill Gates

As part of our “What can we learn from” series, this week I wanted to talk about Bill Gates, who this year reclaimed the number one spot on Forbes’ list of billionaires. You probably already know that Bill Gates is the co-founder of Microsoft and one of the most aggressive defenders of copyrighting software. But what you might not know is that Bill used some pretty tricky methods to get his first stab at success.

Let’s look at 3 lessons we can learn from the life of Bill Gates.

1) Develop a love for learning.

From the time that he was young, Bill Gates loved to learn. According to one biography, “Bill was a voracious reader as a child, spending many hours poring over reference books such as the encyclopedia.”

His parents noticed that public school didn’t challenge him and so they enrolled him in a prep school where he met his future business partner Paul Allen and fell in love with computer technology.

But Bill continues to learn today. Whether he is tackling food distribution and vaccinations in developing nations or researching new technology and learning about its implications, Bill continues to love learning and to love reading. It is one of the reasons why he is so successful.

2) Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself

Before he and Paul Allen founded Microsoft, Bill Gates had to prove his abilities. He needed a big break. While he had already fixed some flaws in third-party software and done some simple programming, he wanted to impress a computer manufacturer named MITS that he and Allen had what it took to work with them.

But, “Gates and Allen contacted the company, proclaiming that they were working on a BASIC software program that would run the Altair computer. In reality, they didn't have an Altair to work with or the code to run it. But they wanted to know if MITS was interested in someone developing such software.”

Gates was willing to make a fool of himself. He was willing to embarrass himself professionally for a chance at success. As it was, he and Allen were able to develop the promised software in time, got some startup money for Microsoft, and the rest is history.

So often we are held back by our own fear and self-doubts. We can list off a million reasons why we shouldn’t make that investment or change our spending habits. Sometimes we are afraid of how others might react. But Bill Gates did a good job of keeping things in perspective and focusing on his end goal and not on what others may or may not have thought about him.

3) Give back something to the world

After he had reached an outstanding level of success, Bill and his wife Melinda realized that they could do more for the world. They had more money that they knew what to do with, and instead of just sitting at home and counting their riches over and over, they decided to spend what they had earned to help solve some of the world’s problems.

“[Bill] began to realize that he had an obligation to give more of his wealth to charity. Being the consummate student he was, Gates studied the philanthropic work of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, titans of the American industrial revolution.”

Today, “Gates remains focused on his foundation's efforts to eradicate polio (he secured $335 million in pledges to the cause from six billionaire comrades, including $100 million each from Mexico's Carlos Slim and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg) and getting fellow billionaires more involved with philanthropy. He and Warren Buffett have thus far convinced over 100 of the super-rich to sign on to the Giving Pledge, a promise to donate at least half one's net worth to charity.”

These are just three lessons that we can extract from the life of this extraordinary man.

For more information about Bill Gates, have a look at the resources below:


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