Great Lessons from Bill Gates



“Humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.” – Bill Gates

Passion, intensity, and tenacity.   That’s one way to describe Bill Gates.

When I think back to why I joined Microsoft, a very big reason was Bill Gates.

Here was a guy with all the money in the world, yet he showed up every day to change the world.

Rather than just retire and play with his money, he focuses his time, energy, and resources on making a better world.

Leave the World a Better Place Than You Found It

He fights the good fight to leave the world a better place than he found it, and he’s a world-wide giver of epic proportions.  I

n fact, he and Warren Buffet joined forces to drive  a campaign to encourage the wealthiest people to give most of their money to philanthropic causes (see The Giving Pledge.)

Create Systems and Ecosystems to Change the World

It’s one thing to be smart.  It’s another thing to be resourceful.  It’s yet another thing to get results.

Bill Gates is a visionary that makes things happen by creating systems bigger than himself and inspiring people to join him on epic adventures to change the world.

He’s not a seeker of fame or a seeker of fortune, although he has both.  He’s a maker of impact.   Technology is his way, and reducing inequities in the world is his game.

Who better to learn some lessons for life, than from a master of the game of life?  With that in mind, let’s see what lessons we can borrow from Bill Gates’ playbook.

25 Best Lessons from Bill Gates

Bill is full of lessons and insights.

Here are 25 plays we can take from the pages of his playbook:

1. Change the world, or go home.

There is a little sign on many doors at Microsoft.  It features the blue monster and it reads:

“Change the world, or go home.”  Not only does that phrase capture the spirit of thousands of Softies … it speaks to the way Bill Gates drives his life.  He lives to build a better world, whether it’s one version, one platform, one system, one idea, one cause, one innovation at a time.  The beauty is, he knows how to scale and amplify his impact in powerful ways – he’s on top of his game.

2. Blaze the trail.

The path isn’t always there.  Sometimes you have to make it.  Sometimes people will think you’re crazy.

Sometimes you are just ahead of the curve.

It’s a dream for a reason, and sometimes making your dreams happen takes going out on a limb and giving your all for what you believe in.

Bill Gates believed that the personal computer was the future and that there should be one on every desktop and in the living room and it would change the way we work and how we live in unimaginable ways.

3. Make an impact.

Drive from impact.  Bill Gates makes choices based on impact.

Whether it’s following his passion or investing in a cause, he drives from making impact.

He doesn’t just do things because he can.  He does things because they matter and he can make them scale.

4. Humanities greatest advances are the ones that level the playing field.

Bill Gates has a strong belief that “All lives have equal value.” Help those that can’t help themselves.

Everybody deserves a chance at their best life.

Lift the underdogs of the world up.

In his speech at Harvard, Bill says, “Taking a look back, one big reqret is, I left Harvard with no real awareness of the awful inequities in the world.  The appalling disparities of health and wealth and opportunity that condemned millions of people to the lives of despair. 

I learned a lot here at Harvard about new ideas and economics, and politics.  I got great exposure to the advances being made in the sciences.  But humanities greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”

5. A sense of urgency.

The world changes fast.  The market changes faster.

Bill says, “In this business, by the time you realize you’re in trouble, it’s too late to save yourself. Unless you’re running scared all the time, you’re gone.”

6. The market doesn’t always drive the right things.

In one of his powerful TED talks, Bill says, “There are some very important problems that don’t get worked on naturally.  That is the market does not drive the scientists, the communicators, the thinkers, the government to do the right things. 

And only by paying attention to these things, and having brilliant people who care and draw other people in, can we make as much progress as we need to.”

Watch TED – Bill Gates on Mosquitos, Malaria, and Education.

7. Live your values.

When you let the world know what you’re about, you become a lightening rod and you attract people with the same values.

At Microsoft, Bill Gates attracted people with a passion for changing the world and joining him on a journey to help create better lives through technology and innovation.

On the philanthropy side, Gates connects with U2’s Bono beyond the music when it comes to sharing their global mission to end poverty, disease, and indifference.

In 2005, TIME named Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates, “Persons of the Year” for their humanitarian work.

On Bill Gate’s 54’th birthday, Bono had this to say before leading the crowd in Happy Birthday:  “Without him, and without his business, we just wouldn’t be where we are today. It’s his birthday today. Bill Gates is in the house.”

Watch Bono Wishes Bill Gates a Happy Birthday.

8. Your best gets better with the right people.

Don’t go it alone.   You’re better when you’ve got the right people around you.  Bill Gates built a culture of the best and brightest and was good at convincing his friends, such as Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer to join him on his adventures.

By surrounding himself with smart people, Bill was able to scale.  He also had a sounding board for ideas.  More importantly, ideas could get better from the combined smarts and perspectives.

Bill also knows how to complement his strengths by having the right people around that make up for his weaknesses.

9. Innovation is the heart and soul of a business.

It’s about bringing ideas to market and applying research.  If you don’t innovate you die.  The world keeps changing.

To stay ahead of the game, or even to stay in the game, you have to keep innovating: innovate in your products, innovate in your process, innovate in the markets, etc.

Bill Gates uses innovation as a way to drive impact whether it’s shaping software or saving the planet.

10. Be the platform.

Be the platform people can build on.  See the role that you play in building something that let’s other people build on what you do best.

11. Build a better system.

Don’t just solve a one-off problem.  Make the solution systematic and make it repeatable.  Find, create, or leverage systems.

There is always a system, whether it’s at the micro-level or the macro level.  The system has inputs and outputs, cycles, and levers.

Whether you’re creating the system or leveraging the system, you’re more effective when you realize that there is a system.

12. Build an ecosystem.

There are systems and ecosystems all around us.

Bill says, “Personal computing today is a rich ecosystem encompassing massive PC-based data centers, notebook and Tablet PCs, handheld devices, and smart cell phones.

It has expanded from the desktop and the data center to wherever people need it — at their desks, in a meeting, on the road or even in the air.”

On creating partners for your ecosystem, Bill says, “Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.”

13. Know how to turn the crank.

Take action.  Execute.  The problem isn’t a shortage of ideas, it’s execution.  Lots of people have ideas.

There is an overload of ideas.

The real gap is bringing ideas to market in a way that matters.  The secret sauce is ruthless prioritization of the ideas that make the most impact.

14.  Take Care of Your People.

Bill Gates says, “Great organizations demand a high level of commitment by the people involved.”

He set a powerful example of taking care of employees, from private offices for developers to creating a workplace of extreme empowerment, engagement, and passion.

15.  Divide and conquer the problem.

There is always a way to chunk up the problem and prioritize more effectively.

Whether it’s slicing the problem into versions over time, or simply taking the most meaningful or highest ROI (Return On Investment) pieces of the problem and tackling them first, you can make progress on the worst of problems or the best of opportunities.

No problem withstands sustained, focused effort that learns and improves over time.

16.  Improving your odds doesn’t guarantee success.

One of Bill’s stories during his speech at Harvard is how he learned this lesson:

“Radcliff was a great place to live.  There were more women up there and most of the guys were mad science types.  The combination offered me the best odds if you know what I mean.”

17.  You don’t have to be first to win.

You don’t have to be first, but you have to keep learning.

Bill says, “Microsoft has had its success by doing low-cost products and constantly improving those products and we’ve really redefined the IT industry to be something that’s about a tool for individuals.”

18.  The toughest feedback to hear, is the feedback you need the most.

You get better by listening to your toughest critics.  Your greatest source of growth can come from the people that will tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.

Bill says, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Bill also says, “You’ve got to want to be in this incredible feedback loop where you get the world-class people to tell you what you’re doing wrong.”

19. Business and technology go hand in hand.

Bill says, “Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.” We’re truly living a knowledge worker world, where information technology is front and center.

Bill says, “It’s pretty incredible to look back 30 years to when Microsoft was starting and realize how work has been transformed. We’re finally getting close to what I call the digital workstyle.”

20.  Frame the problem.

Bill says, “I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act.”

Framing a problem is simply how you look at a problem, just like how you frame a picture.  It’s about choosing what to focus on, what’s in and what’s out.  When you frame the problem, you bound it.

Framing also helps you get a better perspective on the problem, as well as share the problem more effectively with others.  Some questions to help frame a problem include:

  • Who’s the customer?
  • What are their needs and priorities?
  • What’s happening in the market?
  • What are competitors doing? What are our options for responding?
  • How do we differentiate?
  • How is technology changing and what possibilities does it offer our customers?
  • What are the priorities for our business?

See How To Think Like Bill Gates.

21. Celebrate success, but learn from failure.

Don’t repeat the same mistakes and don’t wallow in your wins.

Bill says, ““It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

22. Technology is just a tool.

Don’t lose sight of the end in mind or the difference that makes the difference.

Bill says, “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”

23. Don’t automate inefficiency.

Make sure something actually makes sense to automate, otherwise you compound the problem.

Bill says, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

24. Empower people.

Put the right information into the hands of the people that can make the most of it.

Bill says, “The vision is really about empowering workers, giving them all the information about what’s going on so they can do a lot more than they’ve done in the past.”

25. Go digital.

Connect people, process, and technology.  Create a digital landscape or a virtual world to reduce friction and to create new possibilities.

Bill says, ““One of the wonderful things about the information highway is that virtual equity is far easier to achieve than real-world equity…We are all created equal in the virtual world and we can use this equality to help address some of the sociological problems that society has yet to solve in the physical world.”

Top 10 Bill Gates’ Quotes

Here are my top 10 favorite Bill Gates’ quotes:

  1. “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.
  2. If you give people tools, and they use their natural ability and their curiosity, they will develop things in ways that will surprise you very much beyond what you might have expected.”
  3. “If you show people the problems and you show people the solutions they will be moved to act.”
  4. “In terms of doing things I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen.”
  5. “Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time.”
  6. “Often you have to rely on intuition.”
  7. “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
  8. “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
  9. “You’ve got to want to be in this incredible feedback loop where you get the world-class people to tell you what you’re doing wrong.”
  10. “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Quotes by Bill Gates

Here is an extended list of useful or interesting quotes by Bill Gates:

“Analytical software enables you to shift human resources from rote data collection to value-added customer service and support where the human touch makes a profound difference.”

“At Microsoft there are lots of brilliant ideas but the image is that they all come from the top – I’m afraid that’s not quite right.”

“Capitalism is this wonderful thing that motivates people, it causes wonderful inventions to be done. But in this area of diseases of the world at large, it’s really let us down.”

“Every day we’re saying, ‘How can we keep this customer happy?’ How can we get ahead in innovation by doing this’, because if we don’t, somebody else will.”

“Great organizations demand a high level of commitment by the people involved.”

“I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act.”

“I do think this next century, hopefully, will be about a more global view. Where you don’t just think, yes my country is doing well, but you think about the world at large.”

“I like my job because it involves learning. I like being around smart people who are trying to figure out new things. I like the fact that if people really try they can figure out how to invent things that actually have an impact.”

“I really had a lot of dreams when I was a kid, and I think a great deal of that grew out of the fact that I had a chance to read a lot.”

“I think it`s fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we`ve ever created. They`re tools of communication, they`re tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.”

“If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1000 MPG.”

“If I’d had some set idea of a finish line, don’t you think I would have crossed it years ago?”

“If you can’t make it good, at least make it look good.”

“I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.”

“In this business, by the time you realize you’re in trouble, it’s too late to save yourself. Unless you’re running scared all the time, you’re gone.”

“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.”

“Instead of buying airplanes and playing around like some of our competitors, we’ve rolled almost everything back into the company.”

“Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.”

“It’s pretty incredible to look back 30 years to when Microsoft was starting and realize how work has been transformed. We’re finally getting close to what I call the digital workstyle.”

“Microsoft has had its success by doing low-cost products and constantly improving those products and we’ve really redefined the IT industry to be something that’s about a tool for individuals.“

“Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time.”

“One of the wonderful things about the information highway is that virtual equity is far easier to achieve than real-world equity…We are all created equal in the virtual world and we can use this equality to help address some of the sociological problems that society has yet to solve in the physical world.”

“Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.”

“Patience is a key element of success.”

“Personal computing today is a rich ecosystem encompassing massive PC-based data centers, notebook and Tablet PCs, handheld devices, and smart cell phones. It has expanded from the desktop and the data center to wherever people need it  — at their desks, in a meeting, on the road or even in the air.”

“Software is a great combination between artistry and engineering. When you finally get done and get to appreciate what you have done it is like a part of yourself that you`ve put together. I think a lot of the people here feel that way.”

“Smart is an elusive concept. There’s a certain sharpness, an ability to absorb new facts. To ask an insightful question. To relate to domains that may not seem connected at first. A certain creativity that allows people to be effective.”

“Step back, build a better system, make sure that the government money gets to the people who deserve it.”

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

“The great thing about a computer notebook is that no matter how much you stuff into it, it doesn`t get bigger or heavier.”

“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”

“The Internet will help achieve “friction free capitalism” by putting buyer and seller in direct contact and providing more information to both about each other.”

“The vision is really about empowering workers, giving them all the information about what’s going on so they can do a lot more than they’ve done in the past.”

“This is a fantastic time to be entering the business world, because business is going to change more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 50.”

“This is a very exciting time in the world of information. It`s not just that the personal computer has come along as a great tool. The whole pace of business is moving faster. Globalization is forcing companies to do things in new ways.”

“Until we’re educating every kid in a fantastic way, until every inner city is cleaned up, there is no shortage of things to do.”

“Virtually every company will be going out and empowering their workers with a certain set of tools, and the big difference in how much value is received from that will be how much the company steps back and really thinks through their business processes … thinking through how their business can change, how their project management, their customer feedback, and their planning cycles can be quite different than they ever were before.”

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

“We are always saying to ourself, ‘We have to innovate. We got to come up with that breakthrough.’ In fact, the way software works, so long as you are using your existing software, you don’t pay us anything at all. So we’re only paid for breakthroughs.”

“We don’t have the user centricity, until we understand context, which is way beyond presence.  Presence is the most trivial notion, just, ‘am I on this device or not’ — it doesn’t say ‘am I meeting with something, am I focused on writing something.”

“We’re only at the beginning of what we have to do here.”

“When you want to do your homework, fill out your tax return, or see all the choices for a trip you want to take, you need a full-size screen.”

The Opportunity Bill Gave Us at Microsoft

On Bill Gates’ last day at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer reminded us of the opportunity Bill gave us:

“Every one of us has had an opportunity to realize our own potential: we’ve had a chance to contribute to society … we’ve had a chance to develop and grow as professionals … we’ve had a chance to work with the best and the brightest in the world … we’ve had a chance to prosper personally … we’ve been given an enormous, enormous opportunity … and Bill gave us that opportunity.”

Watch the video, Bill Gates’ Last Day at Microsoft.


You can learn a lot about someone or a company by their values.

The values of a company reflect the leadership.

Here are the values and guiding principles that can help you see a little more about Bill.

Microsoft Values (during Bill’s leadership)

  • Integrity and honesty.
  • Passion for customers, partners, and technology.
  • Open and respectful with others and dedicated to making them better.
  • Willingness to take on big challenges and see them through.
  • Self-critical, questioning, and committed to personal excellence and self-improvement.
  • Accountable for commitments, results, and quality to customers, shareholders, partners, and employees.

Guiding Principles of the Gates Foundation

  • Guiding Principle #1: This is a family foundation driven by the interests and passions of the Gates family.
  • Guiding Principle #2: Philanthropy plays an important but limited role.
  • Guiding Principle #3: Science and technology have great potential to improve lives around the world.
  • Guiding Principle #4: We are funders and shapers—we rely on others to act and implement.
  • Guiding Principle #5: Our focus is clear—and limited—and prioritizes some of the most neglected issues.
  • Guiding Principle #6: We identify a specific point of intervention and apply our efforts against a theory of change.
  • Guiding Principle #7: We take risks, make big bets, and move with urgency. We are in it for the long haul.
  • Guiding Principle #8: We advocate—vigorously but responsibly—in our areas of focus.
  • Guiding Principle #9: We must be humble and mindful in our actions and words. We seek and heed the counsel of outside voices.
  • Guiding Principle #10: We treat our grantees as valued partners, and we treat the ultimate beneficiaries of our work with respect.
  • Guiding Principle #11: Delivering results with the resources we have been given is of the utmost importance—and we seek and share information about those results.
  • Guiding Principle #12: We demand ethical behavior of ourselves.
  • Guiding Principle #13: We treat each other as valued colleagues.
  • Guiding Principle #14: Meeting our mission—to increase opportunity and equity for those most in need—requires great stewardship of the money we have available.
  • Guiding Principle #15: We leave room for growth and change.

Bill Gates 12 Rules

Bill Gates identified 12 rules for managers to master the digital universe:

  1. Insist that communication flow through e-mail
  2. Study sales data online to share insights easily
  3. Shift knowledge workers into high-level thinking
  4. Use digital tools to create virtual teams
  5. Convert every paper process to a digital process
  6. Use digital tools to eliminate single-task jobs
  7. Create a digital feedback loop
  8. Use digital systems to route customer complaints immediately
  9. Use digital communication to redefine boundaries
  10. Transform every business process into just-in-time delivery
  11. Use digital delivery to eliminate the middle man
  12. Use digital tools to help customers solve problems for themselves

You can read about each of these rules at Bill Gate’s New Rules (

Bill Gates’ 11 Rules of Life

There is a list of rules for life that you don’t learn in school that often gets attributed to Bill Gates:

  • Rule 1: Life is not fair
  • Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem.
  • Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school.
  • Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
  • Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity.
  • Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
  • Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now.
  • Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT.
  • Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters.
  • Rule 10: Television is NOT real life.
  • Rule 11: Be nice to nerds.

I think it’s worth clearing up that this list of life rules is not actually by Bill Gates.

The rules are actually a pared-down version from an article by Charles J. Sykes, that appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune on September 19, 1996.

You can read about this at Bill Gates’ 11 Rules of Life.

Bill Gates’ Resources at a Glance

Here is a quick reference table for more information on Bill Gates:

Category Items
Key Links

More videos …

Awards and Recognition
  • 2010 – 2010 Bower Award for Business Leadership of The Franklin Institute
  • 2010 – The Silver Buffalo Award by the Boy Scouts of America (the highest award for adults)
  • 2008 – Honorary doctorate from Cambridge University, United Kingdom
  • 2008 – Honorary doctorate from the Karolinksa Institute, Stockholm
  • 2007 – Honorary trustee of Peking University, China
  • 2007 – Honorary doctorate from Harvard University
  • 2007 – Honorary doctorate from Tsinghua University, China
  • 2006 – Ranked #8 in “Heroes of Our Time — The Top 50“, by New Statesment
  • 2006 – Order of the Aztec Eagle (a Mexican order — the highest decoration awarded to foreigners in the country)
  • 2006 – One of “The 100 Most Influential People”, Time magazine
  • 2005 – “Persons of the Year”, Time magazine
  • 2005 – Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) (knighted by Queen Elizabeth II)
  • 2005 – Honorary doctorary from Waseda University, Japan
  • 2005 – One of the 100 Most Influential People, Time magazine
  • 2004 – One of the 100 Most Influential People, Time magazine
  • 2002 – Honorary doctorate from The Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm
  • 2001 – One of the Top 100 Influential Pople in Media, The Guardian
  • 2000 – Honorary doctorate from Nyenrode Business University, The Netherlands
  • 1999 – Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century
  • 1999 – Ranked #2 in the Upside Elite 100
  • 1998 – Ranked #1 in the Top 50 Cyber Elite, Time magazine
  • 1994 – 20th Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society
  • 1994 – CEO of the Year, Chief Executive Officers magazine
  • 1987 – Declared a billionaire in Forbes’ 400 Richest People in America issue

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Photo by Gobierno de Chile.


  1. What I love about Bill Gates is his commitment to continually create himself anew…Quote 12: “If I’d had some set idea of a finish line, don’t you think I would have crossed it years ago?” Creating the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and all of his philanthropic work is a perfect example of that. Talk about walking your talk!

    • Very well said Rob.

      He seriously is the perfect example of what ever businessman or businesswoman should strive to be like. I look forward to seeing what he does in the future!

  2. Typo on the first word in the article: “Humanities” should be “Humanity’s”… Unless you are talking about the humanities, in which case it should be “The humanities'”…

  3. Lessons learned from Bill Gates:

    A product so dreadful that people will pay to go back to an earlier version of your product can still be profitable (why????)

    If you have more money than you could ever spend on yourself and give away the surplus you get a lot of credit. Those who are poor and give their lives to raising good children don’t (our culture’s values are stuffed).

    Expecting the kind of hours of work from people that destroys families is acceptable (why????)

    Instead of putting in the time to innovate, buy up startups (Bill did little innovative technically after his original work in basic)

    It may be wrong to automate inefficiency but it is certainly possible for the automation to be inefficient. Anyone had a problem free installation or upgrade from a Microsoft product?

    If you can ally with the market leader (IBM) you can use market dominance to beat products of vastly superior quality (apple computers).

    This is probably a culture clash (I’m Australian – our culture heroes are not business people as they can be in the US). I find Bill distinctly unimpressive.

    However, there are far more inspiring business people you could have chosen I think. The guy who changed the carpet business to being a recycling/service industry for example.

  4. JD, you really pulled out the stops on this one, didn’t you? I absolutely LOVE the TED talk! one of my favorites (and I’m a TED junkie).

    I love this quote: “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

    I’m pumped now, man. Ready to succeed and help others get there!

  5. J. D.

    I love the way you captured Bill Gates in 3 words and then went on to elaborate. Changing the world and righting inequity is a magnet for me. It’s inspiring to see how it is for so many others as well. Thanks for this elaborate guide to inspiration Bill Gates style.

  6. J.D. – wow, this was a lot of information. One theme that comes to mind when I think of Bill Gates is his ability to continuously reach for new heights. He’s made it so far, but still he fulfills his inter-calling for even bigger and better. Thanks for the share.

  7. Wow, this is a treasure trove of all things Bill Gates. For me, the best thing about Bill Gates is he does what he wants to do and he’s authenticate and sincere about it despite popular opinion.

  8. @ Rob — He’s a lifelong learner and I really like the fact he shifted his focus to full-time philanthropy.

    @ gm — Fixed. Thank you.

    @ Agile Scout — Thank you.

    @ Positively Present — Thank you.

    @ Evan — If those are your best lessons, you might check out the Gates Foundation or his TED talk. From your comments, it doesn’t sound like you know where he works — it’s not Microsoft.

    @ Liara — I think it’s interesting how he uses his business skills and technology prowess for philanthropy. He really does offer food for thought.

    @ Bryan — I wanted to really surface some of the insights that I just don’t think are well known, about a guy who dedicates his life to making a better world.

    That TED talk really gave me a new respect for Bill. I thought it was great the way he shared how he prioritizes. I also love the fact he uses his smarts to save lives more effectively.

    I totally get why Warren Buffet, a smart investor, donated his billions to the Gates Foundation — he trusts it will be put to the most effective use.

    @ Sandra — “Inspiration Bill Gates Style” — I like it. It sounds like a good post title.

    If you want some serious inspiration, check out his TED talk on malaria and education. It’s incredible and a real eye-opener.

    @ Jk — It’s “Bill on a Page” 🙂

    “Keep reaching for new heights” would be a powerful one-liner reminder. I like that.

    He’s a great example of spending more time doing what he loves … in this case, it’s making impact and philanthropy.

    @ Kevin — Thank you. I really like that you called that out. It’s so true. He’s not about chasing popular opinion. He’s about living life on his terms, doing what he thinks is right, and living authentically.

  9. I do indeed know where Bill works now JD.

    Those such as he – including Rockerfeller and Carnegie – who indulge in not terribly good business practices and then decided to do worthwhile things: well, I suppose it’s better that they eventually decide to do something worthwhile.

    I’d prefer to see them apologise for their lousy products and the poor business practices that allowed them to get astronomically wealthy.

    Not all my comments applied to his previous business.

    The comment about those who have a lot of money getting more credit than those with little (such as parents – perhaps because they aren’t adequately rewarded for building companies like Bills? – it was an awful lot of people who contributed, not just Bill – applied to his current endeavours.

  10. P.S. Here’s a new height for Bill to reach for. A company dedicated to a socially worthwhile purpose, that rewards it’s staff in proportion to their contribution (those at the top don’t make a profit from the surplus value of others’ labour), that does not produce products so bad they need to be continually updated (or that attempts to lock people into their products) and that only permits work for a maximum of 35 hours so that people can purpose a full life and spend time with those they love.

    This is a challenge I would like to see him take up. I’m glad that Bill is now doing something worthwhile.

    If you choose an individual as a hero then there are always going to be downsides to them. As to malaria, research is worthwhile. Also putting kerbs on roads and teaching people to not leave water standing around. Research and big science won’t solve malaria.

  11. His 11 rules are my favorites.
    I just can’t pick the greatest out of these 11.
    They are so in-your-face and true.
    I think he distilled mark Twain’s “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
    My biggest lesson form Bill is that no matter what happens and no matter what people say he moves up the stack and find new ways to win.

  12. @ Evan — Help me follow — Do you consider your statements on the reward system, business practices, and Bill’s role as assumptions, opinions, perceptions, or facts? That will help me follow your mental model.

    You seem passionate, so I’ll share some insight with you. Bill never told me how many hours to work or not. If you’re really curious, you can read my post on 40 Hour Work Week at Microsoft.

    I’m with you that work-life balance is key, but I have a different solution. I’ll share it soon.

    @ Alik — Just remember those aren’t his 11 rules 🙂

    Yes, they are great rules to leverage though.

    > moves up the stack and find new ways to win
    Now THAT is a golden lesson!

  13. hello jd
    how are you?
    i had to print this off and read it during my lunch break at work lol!!!
    you really put a lot of work into it.
    a few things that stand out for me are make an impact. i believe we should leave a lasting impression or contributions wherever we find ourselves.
    nothing/no one is too little.
    live your values: this clearly spells out living with integrity.
    your best gets better with the right people is a true statement: because they provide you with the right support that’s needed for your to succeed.
    and finally celebrate the success and learn from the failure: learning from failure gives us experience and it could also serve as a springboard to success.
    i could go on but…
    as for the quotes number 18,23, 37 stood out for me
    and for the rules
    certainly number 1 is so important, i totally agree with 5 and is working on 6
    thanks for sharing
    take care of yourself and enjoy the rest of the day.

  14. @ Ayo — Thank you. Living your values really is a key to the good life. In my experience, a lot of people run into the following challenges in terms of living their challenges:
    1. They don’t know their values (at least, not in a simple way where they can use them to help prioritize their time and energy)
    2. If they do know their vital few values, it can still be tough to bake them into their life style
    I think the tricky part is that it’s an on-going challenge find ways to spend more time in your values. It’s both the challenge and the opportunity.

  15. I’m a programmer from WAY back – I know what CP/M is and even have an original set of DEC manuals for it.
    When I started in computer there were hundreds of brans, each running their own blend of software. I remember coding houses that had 15 computer out the back so that they could ‘port’ the software from one maching to another.
    Bugs flew with abandon because there was always a little difference between compilers, processors etc.
    Even with one particular brand of computers – machines a,b,c could not run each other software, often requiring one to purchase a new suite or try and ‘port’ the code yet again between them.

    Then in the early 80’s two wonderful things happened. The IBM PC and Microsoft.

    Suddenly developers had a standard platform with consistant memory locations for video, DMA, I/O and program code. Developers also had an operating system (MSDos) that was standarised so that if it ran on machine A then it will also run on machine B without changing.

    PC’s were able to be made cheaply and software – because it was easy to develop for such a large market – also became cheaper.

    Windows 3.1 came out and we had a system that had a GUI, mouse, multi tasking and so computer became easier to work with in regards to how we people work.

    Mid 90’s Visual Basic came out and that gave programming to the masses. Nolonger did one have to learn C++ and the multitomed MFC just to create a ‘hello world’ window.

    Since then new programmers have joined the ranks. No-longer do they need to worry about file placement on drives for speed, nor crimping code to gain the last few bytes of memory.

    But I still remember the early days and what the first steps really meant. I owe a lot to Bill Gates and so do many without even realising it.

    Take Care

  16. Evan sounds like a low level employee that is bitter about the success of others. Bill Gates’ success has empowered many others to become successful and wealthy. I don’t envy a single dollar that he has made over the years as he has built a very successful company that has also allowed me to make a moderate living. And no, I don’t have any ties with Microsoft, only its products.

    If you want to direct class envy direct it to those that haven’t earned it. I can think of several heads of financial companies that were fired for ruining their companies and received 10’s of millions of dollars to leave quietly and live a life of leisure while many stockholders got left holding an empty bag. They neither built a company from scratch nor created wealth for others as Bill did, but are getting along famously for being failures.

  17. Bill Gates and his team have always been an inspire ration to me. Long before Microsoft was born I was lucky to find a position in a new UK computer company, the first samples of the new 1bit x 64 semiconductor memories had arrived. When I read a couple of books on how MS structured there development and employment it reminded me of the fun I had working all sorts of odd hours, no we did not have a coke machine but we had a Bar (yes beer) and ice creme fridge.I was lucky to be coached by people who have gone on to be leaders in the industry.
    I think I first bumped in to Bill at the 1st Boston Computer Fair in 1977
    I am sure it was him with Peter Alan and they had a trestle table selling copies of Basic for one of the Micro’s I gave up trying to get close as the table was jam packed with onlookers.
    Since those days I have been lucky to have been present at 2 live Bill presentations and have worked closely with some very inspirational staff here in Australia. I have been able to give them a hard time with constructive criticism, with which they followed through with the results I was after. The only other company of that size with a similar heart was IBM who have a similar ethos.

    When I purchase a Microsoft product I know that some of the profits will go to a good cause. That the product will receive free updates and last 3-5 years. We need a few more Bill’s he has shown the world what can be done with determination. I just wish I was in a position to be able to donate sums that can make such an impact.

    At least I can say I have been a small part of the 20th Century revolution for 43 yrs, now retired but very active in technology.

    Cheers Bill

    Tony (EchoShack)

  18. @Evan

    I’m Australian too if that counts for anything.

    However the way Bill Gates ran Microsoft was not unethical, business is business, the whole point of having a business is to make money and the best way to do that is to be the best. What he did was what all businesses do, you reference apple, how is their products any better? They make a product that looks good, sticks the apple logo on it, spends more money on advertising and marketing than they do on actually making the product and then sell it to the suckers who fall for their scam. iOS doesn’t even compare to Google Android yet more people know about the iphone/ipad/ipod than anything else.

    Business is based on money and the concept of money itself is evil, humans are driven by greed, what Bill Gates did was absolutely amazing, if it weren’t for him you wouldn’t have the computer you used to make this comment, he put a computer into every household and he continued to make it better and revolutionized the business industry with his enterprise software.

  19. @Evan
    I guess you do not properly read a “readme” file before installing or upgrading a software. So it is natural that you tend to get bad upgrades. figures. well “readme” is pretty straightforward isnt it?

    And you talk about long working hours. If you dont want to work so long get a “better” job. no one is forcing you to do something unless you are enjoying it.

    And buying businesses is not wrong. It is called being smart. Hotmail guy isnt whining about selling it to MS. He is happy about it and is doing what he likes now. If he didnt know the true value of what he was selling maybe he didnt work too hard on writing it in the first place, so dont go about saying he buys everything. Would you like to buy a screwdriver and use it smartly or make one yourself?

    Like Bill himself says ” you dont make 60k a year right after high school. work on it and be wise, i.e learn how to market yourself better from others around you and you’ll get there.

    I think enough said. btw prejudice is never a good thing unless you are facing a monster in the fight for your life.

  20. The lesson I learned from Bill Gates was to make your money in the United States but to outsource as much of your labor force as possible.

  21. @ Evan:

    No offense, but you seem to be incredibly sour and embittered towards Microsoft and Bill Gates. You also have some very wild ideas about things, how it all works and the reality of the topic.

    #1) Apple computers are NOT superior. They are made of the same parts that a “PC” (by which I mean any non-Apple computer) is made of. Intel processors (sometimes AMD), Seagate or WD HDDs, 3rd party RAM chips, 3rd party optical drives, nVidia GPUs (sometimes ATI or lower-quality “built-in” GPUs), usually a “built-in” sound card, etc… Basically all of the same stuff. The only real technical difference, 99% of the time, is the motherboard! And they are in NO way “superior” to any of the 3rd party mobos one can order online or pick up at a computer shop. Remember, Microsoft doesn’t make motherboards or any of these other computer parts. They’re made by other manufacturers whom Apple also buys components from.

    With that being said, there are some MAJOR drawbacks to buying an Apple. They take the same components found on a PC, put them together and stamp some Apple logos on it, then put it into a “special” Apple-logo’ed case, and they instantly jack the price up. The price increase can be between 200-1000% (or more), in many cases.

    They also specially modify the mobo (sometimes other components), so that they can run their operating systems. Their OS’s won’t even run on a non-Apple-modified computer. This is to prevent people from running their OS and software on 3rd party systems. One must build a “Hack-intosh” to run their OS on a custom computer or PC. And you complain about “vendor lock”? Windows, Linux, BSD and practically every other OS can freely be installed on any capable hardware! Not to mention, the Apple “Mac” operating systems are basically proprietary variants of Unix. The OS’s are good, but NOT worth the huge price tag and plethora of technical inconveniences.

    So what is so great about an Apple computer? Ever tried customizing one? Ha! When you do, you’re stuck to a small selection of things you can do with it, and you are going to pay BIG… You’re not getting anything without going through Apple and paying those big premiums. If you want to build a “custom” Apple from scratch, you’re also screwed. Everything must come through Apple, be “Apple approved” and/or specially modified to unlock your Mac OS. And you’re going to pay many times more for the same components (and CAPS) that you could get through the manufacturer to build a custom PC.

    I just built about two weeks ago) a custom computer from scratch. It’s essentially a “super-computer”… I’m a simulation/games developer, and specialize in “next-gen” graphics/physics/AI/etc for DirectX-11 and OpenGL. So I spared no expense in top quality parts. I guarantee you that, for the couple thousand I spent, there is NO Apple computer available that even comes close to the raw power and reliability of my new machine. If I had built a comparable machine through Apple, I would have probably had to spend between $10-20K… no way in hell I’m doing that when I can build a “PC” straight from manufacturer parts without the “Apple tax”.

    #2) “Anyone had a problem free installation or upgrade from a Microsoft product?” Uhhh, yes, actually… In fact, I can’t think of EVER having a problem upgrading or installing a MS product, hmmm… I just installed Windows 7 on the new machine I built. It finished in just a couple minutes, and was absolutely painless — only took a few clicks. So far my experience with Windows 7 has blown everything I’ve ever used out of the water! I also run Ubuntu Linux on another partition (which I enjoy), but it’s still lagging behind Vista (and even XP, in many ways — so is Mac). The only time we’ve been compelled to pay the huge “tax” for a Mac is for getting a few specially built machines or video editing, which I give them credit for (my brother runs and produces his own national television show).

    Let me think of some other things… Microsoft Visual Studio: ZERO problems, simple installation/upgrades, vastly superior to other IDEs and development tools. I even use Visual C# Express: same story. Microsoft Works toolset: ZERO problems. Microsoft Office: ZERO problems. This list could go on and on…

    Furthermore, I’ve NEVER been hit with any type of virus or malware, in the many years of my profession. Through using a little caution online and knowing what you’re doing, you’ll never have a problem. The only AV software I use is Malwarebytes. In the last couple years, it’s found nothing more than a few suspicious cookies and minor issues which were easily removed/fixed (and not the fault of Microsoft). I only had ONE “BSOD”, while running Vista — it was caused by an experimental piece of code which I wrote…my own fault. and it was easily fixed; no further problems afterward.

    #3) Wanna talk “vendor-lock”? I’ve already mentioned it above. The most brutal company in this department is, beyond any doubt, Apple. Microsoft has become very “libertarian” in their policies in the last few years. Commercial development is free for anyone, as is the IDE — free download for VS Express editions, and no licenses needed. Microsoft is allowing the Mono Project (and other open-source projects) to implement the .NET Framework on other systems (including Mac). Now we can develop powerful .NET applications which run on Windows, Linux, Mac, BSD or any other system with a .NET implementation. Microsoft let’s this go out of mutual self-interest. They’ve also released their own source code for things like “ROTOR” (their own open-source .NET implementation), Singularity, Effects 11, drivers and much more. More mutual self-interest…the more you embrace and empower developers, the more awesome software and technology can benefit Windows and the world itself. Microsoft also has a plethora of free information/documentation/tutorials online for developers which explains how Windows works internally, how to develop on Windows and tons of other things. NO other company has done so much for the programmer/developer before.

    As I said above, Windows can be installed on any hardware with reasonable capabilities and feature sets. So can Linux. Mac CANNOT! Microsoft doesn’t try to control what hardware I use, what applications I develop (and how I do so) and what other products I use on my machine. Apple does all of those things, and they charge you for their logo.

    #4) Lots of animosity towards old Billy-Boy and his success! To begin with, he didn’t do anything wrong to attain his fortune. He is a shrewd businessman. If he had done anything illegal, he would have been prosecuted and wouldn’t have made it this far.

    You want to criticize his philanthropic work? That’s ridiculous! He didn’t profit from doing any of those things. He actually cares about other people and what he’s doing. He’s aware that he doesn’t “need” all of the money he now has, but it’s his money. He earned it. If he wanted to, he could hoard every penny of it and not give a penny to anyone or anything (but taxes). But he CHOOSES to give huge sums to charity and other worthy causes. Some people think that’s somehow “not enough”, which just blows my mind. Do you expect him to give it all away and live off $50K a year? Hell no, and you wouldn’t do that if you had that sort of money either.

    The way you criticize people like Carnegie and Rockefeller is also silly. You seem to buy into the “robber baron” myth. They were also great philanthropists and shrewd businessmen. Business is a brutal struggle, and these people were the victors. Yet they turned around and gave tons of their wealth to the lowest echelon of world society. That’s something worthy of our respect. Rockefeller gave about half of his fortune away (maybe more)…and people call him a “robber baron”? I can only laugh at that… But that’s what they teach kids in school today, to try to foster a hatred of wealthy people, corporations and free enterprise. You’re preaching ideas which amount to “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need…” You sound just like a Marxist, my friend. 🙂

  22. Hi JD, perception, values, assumptions and facts probably all mixed together. Look forward to your post on the alternative to balance (I’m not much in favour – if there is a ‘work-life’ balance I wonder what balances life).

    Hi NickNac, currently no one’s employee – and quite happy about it. Authority stuff during my times of employment has usually been quite good (one significant exception).

    I wasn’t defending the payouts to corporate execs – don’t know why you raise this. As to earning rewards, this was the subject I raised. My view was that our culture’s rewards are skewed: Some are paid millions for playing dress-ups in front of cameras, parents who dedicate their lives to raising good people aren’t. (This seems wrong to me; does it seem right to you?) With regard to Bill – some of the ways and the products with which he got extraordinarily wealthy are distinctly uninspiring (other people share these views from what I can gather).

    Please be assured I wouldn’t want to be Bill Gates or have any part of his lifestyle.

    Hi meh, I don’t define myself by what I dislike. I’m quite happy with who I am. I don’t define myself in favour of others either (the kind of thing that this post does – maybe that’s the problem). I do have preferences – I’m for some things more than others and against some things more than others. Eg. in the usual collection of US business heroes I prefer Ford to Carnegie and Rockerfeller because Ford paid his workers well (so that they could then afford to buy what they were producing – he was somewhat self interested I guess). I quite like Mohammed Yunus (although his idea that charity must be demeaning I think is wrong).

    Hi Gabriel, I do think business can be unethical. I think that we disagree on this – legality and ethics are not unrelated but not the same either. I’m typing these comments on an apple – around before the PC, so yes I would have a computer without Bill.

    Hi Rishi, I don’t work long hours. I think it’s silly. (Depends what you define as work of course.) My point was about Microsoft employees – other companies give people time even to work on their own stuff. Buying businesses is fine – but it isn’t a creative contribution to the field (my point was about Bill’s lack of creativity – after basic – not his business acumen; which I don’t think anyone could dispute).

    I try not to be prejudiced. I do have preferences (for examples see above). I trust I have clarified what mine are (some people thought I was saying different things to what I was saying). I am very happy to discuss them and why I hold them – I think they make sense. If you (or anyone else) wants to clarify thinking about this you are most welcome to email me. I believe my positions are usually thought through and I’m happy to give my values and reasoning.

  23. I find it interesting to note that most posters counter Evan’s arguments by attacking him rather than presenting their viewpoints and backing them up with facts.

    To set the record straight I am a programmer and like Marcwolf, I know what CP/M is. I’ve been making my living since the late 80’s as a Windows programmer and served as a founding member on Microsoft New England’s NET Architects Council. I do not think that Bill Gates is a candidate for Sainthood, and do think that he and Balmer have done their best to lower their labor costs by outsourcing the work to slaver countries like India and China.

  24. Hi Jon, interesting to hear from someone else with experience of Microsoft. I don’t think Bill is the devil incarnate (as some people seem to think I’m saying). But like you I don’t think he is a candidate for sainthood either – I guess this is the problem with proposing people as models/worthy of emulation – being human they’ll have faults and some people won’t want to emulate them (as I don’t want to emulate Bill).

  25. @Dan

    100% agree Dan.
    I use Delphi & Visual Studio C# easy and quick to develop apps.
    I do have an Apple great for video & images but not much else being so restrictive. Given up on ixxx development to much prating about now moving to Android.

    I am afraid that in Australia we have a strong dose of ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome'[“I did not think of it so why should it be given any support”].

    I have been fortunate enough to have worked in UK, USA and Europe where idea’s were encouraged. I will say this though here in Oz we are changing as a new breed of young people take over from the old farts, yes I am old & retired but avidly follow new technology and encourage others when the opportunity arises.

    Well done Bill and others alike we need more of you.


  26. Hi Dan, your comment came after I finished typing.

    I’m no geek (I’m the opposite, we need a word for that). I fully accept what you say about components.

    I don’t like apple attempting vendor lock any more than microsoft. If JD had published something about Steve Jobs instead of Bill I’d have similar reservations.

    I haven’t criticised Bill’s philanthropic work. I said that I am glad he is now doing it. The wealthy who do nothing worthy with their wealth are contemptible in my view. However giving away surplus is much easier than giving that costs (like parents raising their children).

    As to Rockefeller and Carnegie. I didn’t attack their philanthropy but their business practices. These were attacked while they were alive and others at the time treated their workers better. People that wealthy could do something about making business less brutal – Ricardo Semler has done a little about this for instance. It is the ‘turnaround’ I have the problem with – I wish they had done business in a better way. Others at the time did. Others now do. As to whether being robber barons is a ‘myth’, maybe; I suspect we’d need to go into it more deeply. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to.

    Marx was not the first to say, ‘from each according to his ability and to each according to his need.’ Name calling is different to showing why this would be a bad idea.

  27. I’ve always preferred Lenin – “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.” That would take care of everybody starting their third year on unemployment.

  28. I like Bill gates one sentence for life time, This made me to Grow in life.
    ” Born Poor is not our Mistakes,
    But Dying Poor is our Mistakes”………

  29. “He is an inspirational man to the whole universe, who revoulutionise the whole world with this technology. No matter generation will pass on but this man will remember as long as the computer technology goes on”.

    For me he is excellent inspiration man, who catalyst me to move towards an making significant mark in an field.

  30. I wonder how Bill sees how the world works? I ask this question because he seems to want to make this world a more equal place and I wonder how he plans to do it!!!

    Well to me, the answer is simple because I have a pity simple mind. Well the answer is all base on the idea of usefulness. To fix unequal in this world, I believe there is a need for create an environment that allows unequal people to have a chances to be or become useful at something and to some group of people.

    I am sure no one will ever read this, but anyway, thanks for sharing Bill.

  31. Very nice and inspiring page.
    Content, layout,release year.
    makes me copy it to my documents and read it more than twice.

    Thank you!!!

  32. I would just like to congratulate the author of this article and the authors of the comments that follow. All very thought provoking.

    I am another Australian working for a a US company with very similar business practices and management techniques to Microsoft. I find they are very risk adverse because “losing is not an option”. That approach stifles innovation.

    They believe buying a company that has already researched, developed, commercialised and marketed a range of products to be a much lower risk option to doing it yourself, and I believe they are correct.

    The problem is hey then stop investing in and developing the products they get when they absorb smaller compnies, and that is a real shame.

  33. Hi JD .. #1) so often we go into a workspace and think why are we here – there’s no optimism, and people aren’t working to help each other .. and therefore despondency sets in & the job is 9 – 5 and I get paid .. so his door motto of “Change the World, or Go Home” – sets the tone ..

    SOme of his other points … don’t just do one thing and it’s finished … as the task occurs roll it up and project it forward to doing more from it .. not just a means to an end, but to a beginning too

    Everything is interconnected .. everything human, every piece of nature .. life: every jot of dust has its life ahead .. fulfil our lives while we’re human and have life ..

    #19) .. only refers to the western world .. we need to extrapolate that out – as he’s done with his Foundation – to encompass the rest of the world

    #21) Makes a lot of sense!

    So many valuable lessons here …

    Business and people – we need to change it & us .. not just re-write the wording ..

    That Opportunity you are given at Microsoft .. is not yet recognised by business – so many foster themselves first .. without thinking of the benefits of helping at the people at the bottom & thereby garnering more sof their support and better public relations along the way ..

    I love the value be “Open and respectful with others and dedicated to making them better”

    Thanks JD .. certainly generated lots of thoughts here! Cheers Hilary

  34. @ Evan:

    My apologies if my reply came off as offensive at all! I certainly did not intend it to. When I said “you sound like a Marxist…”, I added a little smiley face so you wouldn’t take it too seriously. 🙂 But calling someone “Marxist” isn’t really an offense, IMHO. Some people do think it is a sort of “taboo” though (especially old school American conservatives). I know several people who are real communists. Though I absolutely abhor their ideology (in a political sense — I’m a Libertarian, so we’re virtually complete opposites), they’re still cool people. Anyway, thank you for your civil response!

    When you were saying things like: “If you have more money than you could ever spend on yourself and give away the surplus you get a lot of credit,” it sounded very much to me like criticizing Bill’s philanthropy. But on the other hand, you seem to acknowledge it is nonetheless a very kind thing. I’m also happy he’s doing it, along with other extremely wealthy people. That money never would have gotten to those needy people had it not fell into the hands it did. I hope that one day I will be successful enough to give away such sums of money to needy people around the globe. I could even do it secretly — it would only matter to me that it went where it matters!

    Unfortunately though, no one is ever going to make business any less brutal. Business is simply human competition — it’s our “more evolved” form of the competition found in nature; in the animal, plant, fungi, protist and monera kingdoms. All living organisms compete for resources. We are fortunate that we’re now competing for money, rather than chucking spears at our neighbors and fighting over dead animals. 🙂 “Brutal” as it may seem, it’s competition which drives us. Competition is the vehicle of progress. It is our insatiable appetite for wealth and comfort which brings about new technological advances with increasing rapidity…all of life is a struggle. I don’t view this in a negative light, rather I embrace it for what it is — though it can be harsh, it ultimately moves us forward.

    Free enterprise is the only economic system which will be able to survive the ticking of time. It may take many hard falls before we realize that…this whole darn country might collapse before it is reborn as a sustainable model (who knows!). Without free enterprise, the world is doomed to stagnation. It is the system by which human beings freely exchange commodities and improve the material condition of mankind. The reason the west is so much more developed and prosperous than the east is because they have never embraced economic nor individual freedom like we have. It’s some food for thought as you flip through a history book. Governments intruding in economic affairs always creates negative impacts — sometimes immediately, sometimes taking very, very long times to creep up on us. Some may say, “Then what protects us from businesses who don’t play fair?”…but the answer is obvious. It’s YOU, and the money in your pocket. You encourage and discourage business practices and commodities every time you do or don’t spend your money. If company X publishes a paper tomorrow full of racist hate speech, then we stop buying their products — they die, and are replaced by a more ethical company. There will certainly be problems and kinks in the line, but they ultimately work themselves out naturally. I could explain in even greater detail — but I don’t want to ramble on too long! 🙂

    As for Mr. Henry Ford, he was a very admirable businessman. We may look at the rich and their luxuries today with contempt — we may see them as unnecessary excesses that we hate. But in Medieval times, people looked with the same scorn upon the nobles and lords who could afford candles to light their home, sugar and spices. Now these are things which we can buy for a dollar, and we all have. It’s because the free enterprise system of competition brought about that progress and improved the material condition of mankind. Looking into the history books, there are countless other examples. Glass, cloths, meats and fish were also once inaccessible to all but the extremely wealthy — but merchants competing for profits brought these goods to the common man. Merchants, such as those in the Hanseatic League, are the ones who brought about the modern world. The same thing will happen over and over! We might think it’s ridiculous that every CEO has their own private jet to travel about the skies. But in another hundred (maybe a few) years, I’m sure everyone will have access to private air vehicles (and ones which don’t emit harmful exhaust)!

    So think about it. Try not to look at business and its ups and downs as a bad thing. What you’re looking at are the turning gears of human progress; something beautiful and worthy of protecting! 🙂

    Sure, I’ll send you an email tomorrow. But it’s bed time now. About to collapse!


  35. JD,

    Great work here (despite some of the comments here). There are those who will gladly laud others who have had similar business attitudes but different products (Steve J vs Bill G – who screamed louder at employees? ) – and jokes will always abound with comments like “quality is job 1.1” – but regardless, Bill G deserves great credit for his accomplishments and his ability to inspire others to do the same.

    My favorite story will always be Excel 3.0 – don’t build something better than Lotus 1-2-3; just build the best spreadsheet tool period.

  36. Evan-
    Couple points, while it would be great to laud every parent (feel free to laud me…) based of scale and practicality, doesn’t that seem a bit off? We cheer the exceptions… in other words, not appluading Gates ethic (if you agree with the rosey view) is a lot like not enjoying the sunshine because others are getting rained on. It would be great to pay school teachers more, but they serve a audience of 20-30, a quarterback may serve an audience of several million.

    Vista has been a sticking point with me, I personally didn’t care much for it on release, but I think it got a bad rap. Wasn’t it found that nvidia drivers caused a disproportionate amount of crashes? It also suffered from living in its predecessors shadow. Win 7 is considered great by many people, but the shift off XP is still tough going. I think we’re seeing the transition out of the infant stage of pc’s…
    I also never really saw how MS was predatory, they generally didn’t prevent the use of another product, they just encourage their own. A lot of their dominance came more from enlisting developers rather than treating the PC as an appliance. That lack of treatment did open the door to instability.

    There might be better people to choose, but generally those people ARE covered elsewhere.

  37. Good points, Ken!

    If you think about it, it might seems strange that entertainers and athletes get paid so much while people like soldiers, parents and teachers get paid very little (in comparison). But the fact is, it’s not some “rigged” system. We’re the ones who pay football players and movie stars. They’re satisfying a demand of the public in huge quantities — millions of people pay for the entertainment. That’s where their money comes from. One entertainer serves a base of millions (even billions) of customers. A teacher or a soldier plays a small role in an organization, which while it serves a massive “audience” as well, they’re just a small cog of a big machine. They’re willing to take the job because it’s economically viable and profitable to them too — and it meets their needs.

    And the fact is, NOTHING stops any of us from becoming the next star athlete or movie star. That is, nothing except ourselves. We have only ourselves to blame for not ousting Microsoft or Apple, for not beating the chocolate tycoon, for not vanquishing the automotive giants… The beautiful thing about free enterprise is that we all are not limited by law or society on what we can achieve. We are not born into a rigid, feudal caste system which locks us into a social class by heredity. The only limit we have is our ability and willpower to serve the demands of the public — the consumer! If we find a way to serve the consumers’ interests better than existing businesses or in some new and uncharted way, our success is guaranteed. We are born with the guarantee of opportunity, no matter how badly life starts for us. Even the most poor and disadvantaged have overcome their obstacles to reach the pinnacle of success. People less fortunate than us have climbed from the bottom up and made billions! So we’re left with no excuse for failure. Some people don’t like that though. It sucks to admit your own failure. But to me, it’s 100% motivation. I tell myself I will not fail and cannot fail. And that’s what gets me up out of bed each morning and gets me writing code like a madman! I’m 22 years old… I’ve made it pretty darn far already… but I’ve got many more years ahead, and I’m going to make every second count! 🙂

    Money changes hands in our civilization when someone offers a commodity/service which someone else desires enough to part with that money. No one makes money from nothing (well… except for the governments who use the atrocious fiat system)! Some people, especially communists, consider it “regrettable” that people make fortunes off of buying/selling businesses, land and manipulating money. But those things count too! People who play the stock markets, move money, trade in land and invest in businesses keep cash flowing through the system. Their finances help small businesses get up and moving…and many of those small businesses grow and forever change the world. So even the investment tycoons who, while not producing any goods, make fortunes from moving/manipulating money DO contribute to society. They are the enablers who give the economy fuel and keep it oiled and running. To hate them or consider them “undeserving” is, in my opinion, a simpleton’s view point. We have to remember that all of the money people get paid comes from us. We are the ones who buy things. The things we buy the most will reap the biggest reward for their suppliers.

  38. Well Dan, I have thought about this and have reached different conclusions to yours. I don’t hate people (I don’t even blame them) but you are welcome to regard me as a simpleton.

    It was fun a few years ago when the US president criticised the communist Chinese for saving too much (ie. being better capitalists).

  39. No, no, Evan… I don’t regard you as a “simpleton”. You give very civil and intelligent replies, even though we might disagree on things. I just think you’re misinterpreting what I’m saying as targeting you. I’m strictly talking ideology. I think you’re a good guy, and definitely very nice. So again, sorry if you felt offended. But try not to look at what I’m saying as going on the warpath against you. I will often go after statements, claims and ideology — but I steer clear of personal attacks on people. Everyone’s opinions are different, and even if you hate the idea you have to respect the person! 🙂

    As I said earlier, I actually know quite a few people who are hardcore Marxists. People who I’m sure have extremist views far beyond your (rather moderate) ideals. We’ve had some pretty harsh debates and back-n-forth rants…but at the end of the day, we’re all still friends. 🙂

  40. Great article. I just have to say that given Gate’s position (being a billionaire) it’s so much easier for him to carry out these tasks compared with the average person. Most people just don’t have to time or the money.

  41. @ Scott — Thank you. The irony is that Bill Gates never chose to do things because they were easy, or he had time, or he had money. His pattern is making impact in his passion using his strengths, which is a pattern anybody can follow (and, of course, results will vary.)

  42. Thanx for mindbloing lesson!!

    I like Bill gates one sentence for life time, This made me to Grow in life.
    ” Born Poor is not our Mistakes,
    But Dying Poor is our Mistakes”………

  43. […] Fumbled the Future of Microsoft (thoughtful review) On a completely different point of view…more lessons we can learn from Bill […]

  44. […] Fumbled the Future of Microsoft (thoughtful review) On a completely different point of view…more lessons we can learn from Bill […]

  45. Very good article and I greatly admire Bill Gates. With that said, your opening (at least as it pertains to Warren Buffet), leaves little to be desired. How Mr. Buffet attempts to portray himself within the Public is quite unfortuntely much different than how the man I once greatly admired conducts his business in private. He has abused the tax system to his benefit, along with a plethora of other abuses which clearly demonstrate that Mr. Buffet is very much a significant part of (if not strong advocate) the system he chastises. Further, as historically one of the wealthiest men in the world for decades, nothing has prevented Mr. Buffet from “leading by example” as it relates to his various business interest (many of which do not pay taxes), nor he himself from simply writing a check to Uncle Sam to show, in good faith, that he understands the importance of leading by example & “allowing your actions to speak much louder than your words…”. Indeed, I would encourage readers to ‘dig a little deeper’ when it comes to Mr. Buffet, as an un-biased review of the facts would reflect who the man truly is as opposed to the carefully crafted image that has been presented to us. Thanks

  46. Hi JD
    that was a great article about Bill Gates

    i really like the line “All lives have equal value”
    on 25 Lessons Learned from Bill Gates

    i really believe in that, whenever your rich or not

  47. thank you for this website it is very helpful to the others because
    there are many advantages to use our own information to help our country
    become industrialized

  48. […] your BAs on a public forum. The value for marketers is opportunity to learn from these people. As Bill Gates famously said: The toughest feedback to hear, is the feedback you need the most.  You get better by listening to […]

  49. […] Lessons Learned from Bill Gates – Sources of Insight Jan 19, 2011 … Bill Gates Passion, intensity, and tenacity. … Rockerfeller and Carnegie – who indulge in not terribly good business… […]

  50. […] A blog by a former “Softie” (Microsoft employee) explains–if you automate something that it doesn’t make sense to automate, you compound the problem. How do you know what you should automate? How do you choose from the one million+ apps available? ? […]

  51. […] – Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft (Source) […]

  52. […] When asked if he still wrote code, Gates replied, “Not as much as I would like to. I write some C, C# and some Basic. I am surprised new languages have not made more progress in simplifying programming. It would be great if most high school kids were exposed to programming.” He has more time to work with the Gates Foundation. (His three children will get ‘only’ $10 million each — the rest goes to the foundation.) Has he learned other lessons besides these mentioned? Sure.  (In fact, this writer came up with  25 more lessons Gates learned over the decades.)  […]

  53. WOW. As always, thank you so much for your thought provoking posts. Bill Gates and Bill Nye have really become my heroes in the past few years.

    Your detail is incredible.

    Also, I agree 100% with ella valentino.

    Keep it up JD!

    • Thank you.

      Bill Gates is a dreamer, a doer, a director, and a driver. His capabilities are extraordinary and he’s truly one of a kind. There will never a another Bill Gates.

  54. Great article JD. I think you’ve been a Bill Gates follower for a while. Lots of interesting information here.

    • Thank you.

      Yes, Bill Gates inspired me to join Microsoft long ago.

      He’s one of the great visionaries of our time. His ability to see the future before the rest of us catch up is uncanny.

  55. […] where you will feel there is no need of technology, at least for preliminary education. As Bill Gates puts it “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, […]

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