By Thomas Shambler
What traits make the most successful man in business and technology? Turns out, being more like Bill Gates is easier than you might think
He was once the 'face of corporate evil', but since stepping down from Microsoft in 2000 Bill Gates has become a role model for lifelong success. The company he founded not only created a whole industry but propelled him to a net worth of nearly US$80 billion. He's still the richest man in the world, despite his many philanthropic activities to wipe out malaria.
Bill Gates once dreamed of a world with a personal computer on every desk. Unlike others with lofty dreams, he actually saw his dream become a reality. While he has stayed involved with Microsoft as chairman and chief software architect, he's branched out in to other avenues, most notably with the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation.
Here are nine ways to emulate his success, taken from the annals of history and his book Business @ the Speed of Thought.
Looking on the bright side is a challenge. However, without optimism no one would ever start a company. Likewise, no one would ever invest in a new product or market. Bill Gates appreciates the value of optimism in business, which might have something to do with his many philanthropic works. "Optimism is often dismissed as false hope," he said in his Stanford commencement speech, "but there is also false hopelessness."
Say no more often
This piece of advice came from Warren Buffet, and is extremely useful for everyone. There will always be a supply of opportunities, another thing to put on the to-do list, for both work and your social life. In this busy world, knowing when to say yes or no to projects, invitations and other requests for your valuable time might be the only way to free your life for what's important. Saying no is a great productivity tool.
Be willing to fail
Everything changes. Even the most popular products of today might be rejects tomorrow. "Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people in to thinking they can't lose," says Bill Gates in his book The Road Ahead. While success is certainly more fun than failing, it's failures that provide learning opportunities.
Seek out criticism
"Embrace bad news to learn where you need the most improvement," writes Bill Gates in his book. It's true, realizing that you have missed an opportunity is never pleasant. But without any kind of feedback, you'll learn to overcome challenges far slower. Even if you might disagree with it, listening to criticism allows you to see a problem from a different perspective. That said, if it's not constructive stop listening.
Bill Gates didn't start with nothing. As documented in Malcom Gladwell's Outliers, Gates attended one of the only schools that had a computer system. His school received an early machine with blocks of processing time. Gates convinced a teacher to excuse him from regular math classes to learn to program.
Ask forgiveness, not permission
Bill Gates didn’t mind sticking his neck out for what he deemed necessary. When his school eventually ran out of funds to keep the computer, Gates (and his friend Paul Allen – the other co-Founder of Microsoft) exploited a bug at the local university to get free computer time. When they were caught, they did a deal for more free computer time.
At Microsoft, Bill Gates had a reputation for being difficult, competitive and hard to work with. Much like his contemporary Steve Jobs, he would regularly trade insults with staff he disagreed with at meetings. However, he also took responsibility. During the first five years of Microsoft, he oversaw (and eventually rewrote) every line of code in the company's products.
Never stop learning
It's important to understand the difference between learning and 'an education'. Despite being an excellent student who scored an almost perfect SAT score to enrol in to Harvard (at the age of 17), Gates never declared a major. Instead, he would lock himself in the computer room. By his second year, Gates had dropped out of Harvard to 'learn by doing.' A year later, he registered the trademark "Microsoft"
Truly successful people choose endeavours worthy of their time. Despite having revolutionised the world of personal computing, Gates' best example of this comes post Microsoft. Having stepped down from the company in 2000, he became a full-time philanthropist. Using examples of John Rockefeller and Warren Buffet, he and his wife now focus on 'big problems' they believe governments are incapable of solving.