Bill Gates is the wealthiest person on the face of the Earth, with a total net worth of $75 billion. He’s the co-founder of Microsoft, a world renowned business man, and one of the most generous philanthropists to ever live. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which he has run with his wife since 2000, has given away tens of billions of dollars to healthcare projects and poverty reduction initiatives, thanks largely in part to the $28 billion that Bill Gates himself has personally committed to the Foundation’s beneficiaries.
You might think that a person such as Gates who has enjoyed so much material wealth would not have a lot in common with the average person. However, you’d be wrong. Gates comes across as warm and thoughtful, as intelligent and polite. He may have been rough around the edges when he was getting started in the software world and building his empire, but he seems to have softened with age, and now is as friendly and charming as anyone with a mind for business and a heart for giving.
Gates has found long term success in his more than 40 years in the tech industry, and he’s had very few setbacks. Clearly, he understands what it takes to succeed in an evolving business climate, and as such, those of us who aspire to be successful entrepreneurs should look to Gates for pearls of wisdom to help us stay on the right path. The good news is, he’s more than willing to oblige. Here are Bill Gates’s ten rules of success.
If you’re going to build a company from the ground up, you need energy.
And not just a little energy — a lot of energy. You’ll need enough to quiet the persistent voices of doubt inside your head and enough to overcome the fear that comes with taking big risks. What’s more, the timing of your energy is important. For example, your energy might be off the charts when you’re just out of college and chomping at the bit to get your entrepreneurial career started, but you lack the practical skills, knowledge, and connections to really succeed. It’s a wise idea to get a job in your desired field to see how things are done; if it makes you feel better, consider it an entrepreneurial apprenticeship. Then, once you have some of this valuable experience and are less impulsive in your mindset, take your high energy level and power yourself toward success.
It’s not enough to have good influences — you need a bad influence.
No, you don’t need someone who tells you to do things that are directly harmful to yourself or to others. However, you do need someone in your life who genuinely believes in you and pushes you to take chances in your professional life — someone who really gets the old entrepreneur’s mantra, “Without risk, there is no reward.” You want a bad influence who will get you out of your rigidly conservative comfort zone and point you toward the risks that lead to success.
You can’t be afraid of hard work.
If you’re going to be successful, you need to work really hard — no, ridiculously hard. If you’re an entrepreneur, you already know that the nine to five workday does not apply to you. While you need to strike the right work-life balance for your own life, you’ll definitely need to put a lot of weight on the work side of the equation. To borrow an old adage, hard work never hurt anyone. And, to quote Thomas Edison, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” If you want something, you need to work for it.
Don’t look at your work as a job for the present — look at your work as creating the future.
Innovation is so important to success. Think about it: time rolls on, with or without you. If you’re going to be successful in your field, you need to get on board and look ahead. Creating for the now will all but ensure eventual failure. Create for tomorrow, and you all but ensure your longevity.
You need to love what you do.
You need to love overcoming big challenges, solving difficult problems, and most importantly, how you spend your time every day. And more than that, you need to love the people you work with. As the old saying goes, if you work only for the money, it will feel like you’ve earned every penny. If you do what you love, on the other hand, you never work a day in your life.
Learn how to play bridge.
It sounds crazy — how can playing bridge lead to success? — but there are in fact several benefits of playing this card game that can help in just about every aspect of life, including and especially business. Bridge teaches you to concentrate on the task at hand and think strategically. It keeps your brain active and your mind sharp. Plus, because you play bridge with three other people, it enforces unspoken rules about being social and respectful and enhances your communication skills. If you can master the bridge table, according to Bill Gates, you’ll have a leg up at the boardroom table.
Seek advice from smart people.
If you’re going to be successful, you’ll need to surround yourself with intelligent and successful people. It’s great to be friends with these people, but don’t hesitate to ask them for advice. They know you, and they are likely strong in areas in which you’re weak. It’s always good to have another set of eyes on a project and another good brain crunching the numbers. You don’t have to rely on help all the time (in fact, you probably shouldn’t), but Gates does believe in seeking wise counsel. Create a small inner circle of smart people who you trust to give you good advice.
Choose good people to work with.
Hiring is one of the biggest responsibilities you’ll have as an entrepreneur, so you’ll want to take it seriously. Look for people you can trust, people who are committed to your mission, and people who share your vision for the company you’re trying to build. Excellent critical thinking skills are desirable in new hires, but so is a skill set that’s a bit different than your own so you complement each other. Hiring good people not only leads to great success, but it makes coming to work everyday a much more enjoyable task.
If you’re a procrastinator, stop now.
Procrastinating is a terrible habit, and like any bad habit, you’ll want to break it — the sooner, the better. To do great work, you need to give yourself time. By not waiting until the last minute to do things, you stay organized, you consistently meet deadlines, and you always put your best foot forward.
Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.
It’s so important to have a sense of humor, and Bill Gates never forgets this. (See, for example, his ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video. Yes, you need to take your work seriously, but the ability to laugh is endearing, and it can help to keep the mood positive.