Be Like Bill: GATES

A few years back, a popular meme called ‘Be Like Bill’ became widely popular on social media. But people have been wanting to be like Bill for over three decades now. The Bill I am talking about is none other than Bill Gates. A man worth more than hundred billion dollars, Gates is right at the top of the pyramid of success. Most successful businessmen always have someone richer or more successful to look up to. Gates, however, had no one as he was the richest man in the world for more than a decade. All of us can’t hope to become the richest man in the world like him, but we can surely learn about who he is as a person and try to imitate some of his habits so that we too can rub shoulders with success someday. Here are few things we can learn from one of the most influential people of our generation, Bill Gates:

  1. Never Stop Learning

Bill Gates is currently 64 years old and has more money than he could spend. If we were in his position we would probably spend our days and nights partying around the world, buying expensive yachts and gifting ridiculously fancy cars to our friends and families. Bill is, however, different. He has always been a voracious learner and his curiosity to learn complex subjects has not died over time. If anything, it has grown tremendously as he still spends weeks in an isolated place reading, dedicated to understanding in detail a single subject. He even has a name for it, its called Think Week. His assistant sorts books and reading materials out for him which he carries in a bag with him wherever he goes. He also doesn’t learn about a subject from one book, he learns it from at least four to five books and additional sources if possible (like reports). Bill’s continuous will to learn comes from his insatiable need to solve complex problems. If we wish to be anything like him, we need to eliminate the mindset of looking for quick answers and develop the strenuous habit of researching and studying subjects in detail. Bill doesn’t want to just understand problems, he wants to dive in deep trying to understand all the why’s and how’s of the problem. Although he is a Harvard dropout, Bill frequently sat in classes he wasn’t signed up in because he was interested to learn them. Bill also publishes an annual list of books he recommends to his followers. So, if you are someone who snoozes off at the very sight of books chances are you are making your path to great knowledge more difficult. Besides Bill Gates, other great minds like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg have openly stated their love for reading and if you want to be anything like them, this is the first and possibly the easiest step. Pick up a book that intrigues you and start reading.

2. Be a Relentless Optimist (Bet on Yourself)

Bill Gates was always a smiley kid, so much so that his family members gave him the nickname ‘Happy Boy’. However, his optimism varies slightly from the conventional optimist, in that, he is optimistic about global issues that most of us don’t even think possible. Gates is optimistic that he can work towards a time when every child in the world is educated. He firmly believes his foundation along with their supporters will be able to eliminate Polio from the face of this planet. His foundation has been fighting the battle against Polio in African countries like Nigeria and Asian countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan for several years now. And despite threats and attacks from terrorist groups like Boko Harram and Taliban, which even resulted in casualties of volunteers, Bill continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to educate people in these areas about the need for rapid vaccination while also deploying the vaccination process. With this level of perseverance, Gates and his foundation were able to reduce the annual new number of Polio cases in Nigeria from 780 to 21 in six years. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t fail or get frustrated. In fact, his wife Melinda Gates and his coworkers have reported in his documentary (Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates) that he gets ferociously frustrated. But his frustration rarely leads to giving up. If he fails one way, he will do his best to urge himself and his team to look at the problem in another way to find a solution around the problem. An example of this was seen few years back when he was working on developing a model of a toilet that consumed less energy and water and did not produce a lot of waste. He approached more than ten different universities to design such a toilet for people of under developed countries. But he didn’t get many replies of interest. He didn’t lose hope or give up. He organized a competition among those universities to design the most energy efficient toilet and the result was that several prototypes of usable toilets were made by competing universities out of which few models were taken into production and implemented in several under developed countries that lacked a modern sewage system. This helped reduced the sanitation problem in those areas tremendously. Like Bill, we need to understand that problems always don’t need to have a single solution and the belief that we can do it can help us gain new perspective on an existing recurring problem.

Bill’s optimism was also not purely mental. He believed in things because he believed in his abilities and his will to work. During his first years of coding for Microsoft, he would work nonstop for several hours, doze off on his keyboard, wake up and continue his work unfazed. Today he values sleep and tries to get seven hours of sleep every night, but during his initial startup years, he grinded till 3 am at night. His optimism was always backed up by his love for work and his belief that he, with the right information and the right group of people, could find solutions around the most difficult problems. Whenever he was confronted by someone with a difficult problem, he always gave the same answer, “Work Harder”. Bill Gates was constantly told that computers and software would never become household items but he still kept working and bet on himself. And we all know how that went.

3. Find out what you are good at and Laser Focus on it

We live in the world of multi-tasking and people are often bragging about how they are good at handling multiple tasks at once. But if you want to follow Bill, then turn of your phone, lock yourself in a room and get to work on what you are good at. Bill knew very early on that he was good at storing information in his brain and analyzing it. He was exceptional in class and won a nationwide math contest in eighth grade. He didn’t then go to learn acting or sports. He realized his best bet was to develop his skill of learning and analytical reasoning and devoted all his time to this. In life you mostly have two choices, either be good at few things and remain mediocre, or work hard to become great at something and be like Bill. As discussed before, Bill focuses his attention on a subject by reading several books about it and analyzing it for weeks without being distracted. Its an ability he has developed and for any of us to get good at anything, we need to first harness it as well. Continuous focus is especially hard for us today with so many online distractions that constantly keep budging and beeping for our attention. Emails, telephones, social media alerts, YouTube notifications are all useful modern tools but most of the times they take our focus away from something that really needs our undivided attention. Trying to learn something and working hard are efforts we must make but without uninterrupted focus we will take an eternity getting there. We can’t all take week long isolated trips to an island like Gates does to order our thoughts, but we can schedule a time (few hours) of our day to focusing on something that we believe we are good at and could be our most valuable skill. At the age of sixty two, devoting most of his time to philanthropic causes, Bill Gates believe that ‘Innovation Based Social Businesses’ are what drive him best to bring the most out of him. Just like Bill, devoting calculated time to realizing and enhancing your strengths are the most important things you can do for yourself.

4. Make Time by Managing Time

Bill Gates is currently the second richest man in the world and we would be hard pressed to name anything he couldn’t buy with the unimaginable amount money he has at his disposal. But there is something that Bill realized early on that he couldn’t buy. TIME. Bill has the same 24 hours in a day that all of us have but he has a lot more responsibilities that he needs to take care of in that time. He wakes up at 6 am everyday (being rich doesn’t always mean waking up on your time) and by 8 am he is already in his first meeting. Each part of his day are carefully scheduled with about five minute intervals between all his meetings. He uses his walks to organize his thoughts (which as discussed have far more engaging and difficult world problems than one could hope for) and dedicates separate time for gathering information.

We are far less involved in multitudes of work then someone like Bill Gates, yet we frequently find ourselves overwhelmed by our work, friends, family and personal needs. We want to manage time and wish for it dearly, but choose to ignore the fact that managing time is like any other work. It takes dedicated planning and effort. You have to make a schedule and stick to it. There is simply no other way. It doesn’t have to be eight hours of grueling work that make you hate your life, but when you do make time for something, stick to it for at least a few months and see the results for yourself. If you plan to work out then stick to working out at least twenty minutes every day for three months (not two weeks). Managing time is all about consistency and the more you manage it, the more you will have of it.

5. Value and Appreciate Your Partners

You would think that successful people are constantly talking about themselves, their achievements and their abilities but in reality its quite the opposite. In frequent interviews, Bill Gates has been repeatedly quoted complimenting and acknowledging his partners (including his wife, partners at work, investment partners and colleagues at work). He sincerely believes that, although a combination of continuous learning, relentless optimism and deep focused work were vital to his success, he still wouldn’t have made it this far without the right people in his life. In his documentary, Gates says that his wife Melinda has been the most complete partner who has always helped better his judgement. She listens and respects him but doesn’t shy away from poking him with important questions. Melinda double checks Bill’s faiths, hopes and ideas, but also supports him in his setbacks.

His mother, who he had a troublesome relationship with earlier in life, never gave up on him and pushed him towards coming out of the shell of a highly introverted kid. She took him to social gatherings and made him work on his social skills (against his will) so that he wouldn’t lose the opportunities in front of him simply because he felt awkward. He was rebellious and at times even disrespectful towards her, but she still did not quit on him by labeling him unworthy of her time or effort. She was a force of nature that expected her children to succeed. If she had left him alone, he might have never gained the social skills required to succeed. I understand that not everyone has parents like Bill’s but we can still choose to have mentors like his mom who push us beyond our limits and recognize our potential. Without guidance and mentors, even the most talented people can lose their way.

Bill also admits that in pursuing any endeavor in his life, whether business or philanthropic, he always looks for the right people because he knows they are the greatest key to solving the biggest problems. After meeting Warren Buffet (at the time the third richest man on earth), Bill has collaborated with him on several projects to carry out some of the biggest, global philanthropic endeavors, with a pledged funding from Buffet alone exceeding thirty billion dollars. He values his partners deeply and works with even more conviction so that their trust in him and his work remains strong and resolute. Bill partnered will Paul Allen to start his first company Microsoft which as of today is valued at more than one trillion dollars (you read that right). Paul first explained to him about coding chips and together they started working on several problems like analyzing traffic problems and solving their university’s complex student schedule. Later he partnered with Steve Balmer to grow Microsoft into the global giant it has become today. In all his journeys, he was never alone and he was always vocal about it. This is how he kept them motivated to work diligently with him and how we kept himself accountable to the unsurmountable tasks before him.

Bill Gates is a ferocious competitor, a fearless problem solver, an unrelenting optimist, a faithful and appreciative friend, a focused learner but most of all, he is a man who knows how to persevere and persist. These two final qualities are what I feel define him most. Because most men read, and solve problems but very few tackle the world’s biggest problems. He could easily have chosen to enjoy the rest of his life without a care in the world but he didn’t. He chose TO CARE. He chose to give a damn about the world and said, we are not looking at the problems the right way. We don’t need updated solutions to the problems of the rich. We need new solutions that work for the poor and needy. He has been continuously working to solve problems like revolutionary sewage systems, low waste toilets that can produce clean drinkable water, eradicating some of the most vicious and contagious diseases (like Polio and recently Covid19) and solving the world’s clean energy creation problem. Perhaps the best lesson we can learn from Bill is that life is lived best when it is lived not just to reach your potential for your own benefit but for the cumulative benefit of others. We live to make a difference and if we learn from Bill and try to be even a little like him, perhaps we can.