Yes, I believe in the Internet. I believe it’ll get increasingly popular, and we’re doing some neat, new things to take advantage of that.
When you have the level of success that we’ve had, when you have a business that’s important as this with this many competitors, you’re going to have people saying some nasty things. The lives all over the world should be treated with the same value that we treat lives here in the rich world.
If you ask people across the United States, “Is the future going to be better than the past?”, most say no.
Evan: He’s an American entrepreneur, author, investor, and philanthropist. In 1975, he co-founded Microsoft which went on to become the world’s largest PC software company.
He’s currently the richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $84 billion dollars.
He’s Bill Gates, and here’s my take on his top 10 rules for success, volume two.
Rule number two is my personal favorite, and stick around all the way to the end for a special bonus clip.
As always, as Bill is talking, if he says something that really resonates with you, please leave it in the comments below and put quotes around it so other people can be inspired as well. Enjoy.
Rule #1: Believe In Your Ideas
You really have to believe the Internet’s going to be mainstream, a lot of people are going to get out there and use it, and that they’re going to be willing to pay for some content.
Charlie: Is that the operating idea that you have?
Each of these businesses is an entrepreneurial business. The overreaching theme is that yes, I believe in the Internet. I believe it’ll get increasingly popular, and we’re doing some neat, new things to take advantage of that.
Charlie: You’ve got a lot of cash on hand. Yes?
Charlie: All right. It puts you in an enviable position. You can experiment with a lot of entrepreneurial ideas and see what sticks and what flies.
We’re in business to make money.
Charlie: The other thing is providing such a cash flow for you.
Well, it all belongs to the shareholders.
We’re not dilettantes.
Charlie: No, I know.
We are business people, and it is true that if you find an idea that requires three or four years of improvement and patience and really sticking with it that we’re very good at that. Take Windows, which we bet our company on. Everybody who doubted that would succeed, IBM did not support us in that. It took longer than we expected, over four years before finally graphical interface got popular and now people take it for granted.
It’s part of every personal computer, and you just expect it to be there. That was one of the grand successes of the company. In the same way we’re betting on the Internet, that our tools there will be popular and that a few of these content plays that we’ve decided to get involved in, that the scale and the users will make those into great businesses.
Rule #2: Create The Best Product
Well, certainly every product we do is absolutely as capable as it can possibly be. There’s no holding back. The people at Microsoft come into work everyday building the best products they can, and they’re very proud. Go into schools and see how kids are using this stuff. Go and ask people about how their jobs have changed because of the personal computer.
We’re sitting there listening to our customers saying how they’d like to make things better. We do absolutely our best job. In fact, that’s why we’ve been successful. Anybody who holds back in this business isn’t going to be around for long because this is a business where you always have to be moving at a very rapid pace.
“The people at Microsoft come into work everyday building the best products they can, and they’re very proud.” – Bill Gates
Rule #3: Don’t Take Things Personally
Barbara: You have, for years, ever since you were a little boy, I hear, have been called a nerd. Do you care? Does it hurt you?
Well, nerd means a lot of things. I’m somebody who can sit and read a book about science for hours on end. I don’t mind being labeled as somebody who finds that interesting.
“When you have the level of success that we’ve had, when you have a business that’s important as this with this many competitors, you’re going to have people saying some nasty things. You have to learn a little bit not to take it too personally.” – Bill Gates
Barbara: There is hardly a day in which something is not written about Microsoft. It has become almost a frenzy. You are being called the evil empire. Forget being called a nerd. You are now being called arrogant, greedy, the Devil. You’ve read all this stuff or heard that this has been said. What do you say about all of this?
Well, it’s a very competitive business.
Barbara: That’s all?
Oh no, absolutely. When you have the level of success that we’ve had, when you have a business that’s important as this with this many competitors, you’re going to have people saying some nasty things. You have to learn a little bit not to take it too personally.
Rule #4: Always Be a Student
Interviewer: You went to Harvard and you dropped out. Have you ever thought how your life could be better off if you had gotten your Harvard degree?
Well, I’m a weird dropout because I take college courses all the time. I love learning company courses and things, so I love being a student. There were smart people around. They fed you. They gave you these nice grades that made you feel smart. I feel it was unfortunate that I didn’t get to stay there but I don’t think I missed any knowledge because whatever I needed to learn I was still in a learning mode.
“I don’t think I missed any knowledge because whatever I needed to learn I was still in a learning mode.” Bill Gates
Rule #5: Be Fanatical
People who have been successful are often, not always, pretty fanatical about the thing they’re trying to do. I remember one industry panel where there were about seven people and the debate was would the computer interface be this character-mode thing or would be it be graphic user interface?
At the time, the graphic user interface stuff was so slow it was laughable. Writing software for it was so bad. It was Windows 1.0. The people on the panel were saying, “No, no. “This is kind of a stupid thing.” I would say, “No, believe me. “This’ll be great.” One of the guys on the panel said, “Hey, Bill is wrong, “but Bill works harder than the rest of us. “Even though it’s the wrong solution, “he’s likely to succeed.”
“People who have been successful are often, not always, pretty fanatical about the thing they’re trying to do.” – Bill Gates
That was the best compliment I ever had. Just by working day and night, I could send the industry in some direction. I was fanatical in that period of time, that is, I didn’t believe in vacation. I didn’t believe in weekends. It turned out that worked for me that we got our company going at a speed that allowed it to make mistakes faster than other people were and kind of see those mistakes.
Rule #6: Take Your Competitors Seriously
“I think, you know, part of Microsoft’s success is that we don’t underestimate the importance of the work that other companies are doing.” – Bill Gates
Charlie: Do you worry about Linux as a competition for operating systems?
Yes. We’ve competed against various forms of Unix over the years, and Linux is growing in popularity and definitely a competitor.
Charlie: How threatening a competitor?
It’s a competitor we take very seriously. I think, you know, part of Microsoft’s success is that we don’t underestimate the importance of the work that other companies are doing. We look out. We think, “Are there aspects of that that are “best practices?” For example, online supports and the community things that are done around Linux are done very well. We’re thinking about it and making sure that our innovation will make sure that our value and our leadership stays in front.
Rule #7: Learn To Say NO
First I met Warren. We were talking about getting together and doing something again. He pulled out his calendar, and the pages were so blank. I said, “Wow, “you’ve managed to avoid getting tied in “to a lot of kind of meaningless activity.” Warren said, “Yeah, you have to be good at saying no “and picking the things that really make a difference.” That’s one of many things I’ve learned from Warren, but that’s one of my favorites so I can blame it on him whenever I’m turning things down.
” You have to be good at saying no “and picking the things that really make a difference.” – Bill Gates
Rule #8: Make A Difference
Charlie: You have made a significant contribution in the fight against AIDS in Africa. You have funded, to a large degree, vaccines and vaccine research. Give me a sense of where that’s directed and what success you think we’re making and your own particular interest in public health in the world.
Well, this is a real passion for me.
Charlie: I know.
I’ll give a succinct answer. People, I think, don’t have a full awareness how four billion of the six billion people on this planet don’t have basic health needs met. The death rate of infants, the epidemic infectious diseases that are just a way of life in most of the world don’t exist in the developed world, yet the research isn’t going on for the medicines that would get rid of these diseases.
Even diseases like tuberculosis, where for a few hundred dollars lives can be saved, that’s not being done. Vaccines aren’t being moved from the rich world to the poor world. AIDS is the most extreme where the prevention measures that could prevent this from becoming a huge epidemic in countries like India and Nigeria and many countries where it’s not in huge percentages today.
Charlie: It hasn’t reached the proportions of Africa.
The right things, I think, are not being prioritized. The foundation that my wife and I have have taken as its top priority these world health issues, the research, getting the vaccines out. It’s been fascinating to learn about this and to try to say that all these lives, the lives all over the world, should be treated with the same value that we treat lives here in the rich world.
“We can make a difference, and we can encourage others to get involved.” – Bill Gates
Charlie: Just to sum up in a sense, what you have learned from your own involvement, from funding it in terms of more money than had ever been applied, is that it can make a difference.
Absolutely. Millions of lives can be and should be saved through these efforts. We can make a difference, and we can encourage others to get involved.
Charlie: That was my last question. Is that happening? As you fund these efforts, is it becoming a kind of wedge that other governments and other foundations and other sources are following suit or matching?
We’ve seen a good start, I would say. The vaccine fund we put together, we put in $750 million now. Governments have agreed to put up $500 million in addition to that. In the AIDS area, some of the things we’ve backed have been able to attract additional money.
Having said that, this is a cause that somehow deserves more visibility because when you talk to people about this and they hear about malaria or AIDS, they really do care and they think their government’s doing more. When I’m not working, a lot of my creativity is going into what could be done to show people that their money would be well-spent, it would make a difference, and try and make sure that world health gets more priority.
Charlie: Then you can save lives.
That’s what it’s all about.
Rule #9: Surprise The Pessimists
If you ask people across the Unites States, “Is the future going to be better than the past?”, most say, “No. “My kids will be worse off than I am.” They think innovation won’t make the world better for them or their children.
Who’s right, the people who say innovation will create new possibilities and make the world better or the people who see a trend toward inequality and a decline in opportunity and don’t think innovation will change that? The pessimists are wrong, in my view, but they’re not crazy. If innovation is purely market
driven and we don’t focus on the big inequities, then we could have amazing advances and inventions that leave the world even more divided. We won’t improve public schools. We won’t cure malaria. We won’t end poverty.
“You can do better at this than I did. If you put your hearts and minds to it, you can surprise the pessimists. We’re eager to see it.” – Bill Gates
We won’t develop the innovations poor farmers need to grow food in a changing climate. If our optimism doesn’t address the problems that affect so many of our fellow human beings, then our optimism needs more empathy.
If empathy channels our optimism, we will see the poverty and the disease and the poor schools. We will answer with our innovations, and we will surprise the pessimists. Over the next generation, you Stanford graduates will lead a new wave of innovation.
Which problems will you decide to solve? If your world is wide, you can create the future we all want. If your world is narrow, you may create the future the pessimists fear. I started learning in Soweto that if we’re going to make our optimism matter to everyone and empower people everywhere, we have to see the lives of those most in need.
If we have optimism without empathy, then it doesn’t matter how much we master the secrets of science. We’re not really solving problems. We’re just working on puzzles. I think most of you have a broader worldview than I had at your age. You can do better at this than I did. If you put your hearts and minds to it, you can surprise the pessimists. We’re eager to see it.
Rule #10: Earn Respect
Kara: You’re obviously going to go down in history, history books already set kind of thing, but what’s the greatest misunderstanding in your relationship and about each other? What would you say would be this idea of cat fight, which of the many?
Steve: We’ve kept our marriage secret for over a decade now.
Kara: Canada. That trip to Canada.
Bill: I don’t think either of us have anything to complain about in general and I know that the projects, like the Mac project, was just an incredible thing, a fun thing where we were taking a risk. We did look a lot younger in that video.
Steve: We did.
Kara: You looked 12 in the first one.
That’s how I try and look.
Steve: He was 12.
No, it’s been fun to work together. I actually kind of miss some of the people who aren’t around anymore. People come and go in this industry. It’s nice when somebody sticks around. They have some context of all the things that have worked and not worked. The industry gets all crazy about some new thing. There’s always this paradigm of the company that’s successful is going to go away and stuff like that. It’s nice to have people seeing the waves and waves of that and yet been willing, when it counted, to take the risk to bring in something new.
Walt: Has it been important? One last question and then we’ll go to the
Steve: I’ve got an answer for that too.
Kara: No, he didn’t answer us because he just said this
Walt: I’m sorry, what?
Steve: I have an answer for that too.
Walt: Oh, I’m sorry.
Kara: He only talked about his secret gay marriage.
Walt: Okay, yeah. I thought that was your answer.
Steve: No, that wasn’t my answer. When Bill and I first met each other and worked together in the early days, generally we were both the youngest guys in the room, right, individually or together. I’m about six months older than he is but roughly the same age. Now, when we’re working at our respective companies, I don’t know about you, but I’m the oldest guy in the room most of the time. That’s why I love being here.
Walt: Happy to oblige, happy to oblige.
Steve: I think of most things in life as either a Bob Dylan or Beatles song, but there’s that one line in that one Beatles song, “You and I have memories “longer than the road that stretches out ahead”, and that’s clearly true here.
Kara: It’s sweet.
Walt: You know what? I think we should end it there. Let’s just end it there.
Kara: I might have a little tear right here.
Walt: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Kara: Thank you so much.
Evan: Thank you guys so much for watching. This was an experimental video doing a volume two of a top 10 rules so I’m curious to figure out, did you guys like this? Do you want me to do more like this in the future or not? Leave it in the comments below. Let me know.
I also am curious to figure out which of the rules did you like the best. What is most applicable to your life or to your business right now? What immediate change are you going to make after watching this video? Leave it in the comments, and I’m going to join in the discussion.
Finally, I want to give a quick shout-out to Tuan Nguyen. Thank you so much for picking up 10 copies of my book Your One Word and sharing it with some of your friends and clients. I really, really, really, really appreciate it.
Thank you guys again for watching. I believe in you. I hope you continue to believe in yourself and whatever your One Word is. Much love. I’ll see you soon.
Don’t Get Ahead Of Yourself
Even in the early days, if you said, “A computer on every desk in every home”, and you’d say, “Okay, how many homes “are there in the world? “How many desks are there in the world? “Can I make $20 for every home, “$20 for every desk?” You could get these big numbers, but part of the beauty of the whole thing was we were very focused on the here and now. “Should we hire one more person? “If our customers didn’t pay us, “would we have enough cash to meet the payroll?”
We really were very practical about that next thing and so involved in the deep engineering that we didn’t get ahead of ourselves. We never thought how big we’d be. I remember when one of the early lists of wealthy people came out. One of the Intel founders was there.
“The everyday activity of just doing great software drew us in. Some decisions we made, like the quality of the people, the way we were very global, the vision of how we thought about software, that was very long-term.” – Bill gates
The guy who ran Wang Computer Factory, Wang was still doing well. We thought, “Boy, if the software business does well, “the value of Microsoft could be similar to that”, but it wasn’t a real focus. The everyday activity of just doing great software drew us in. Some decisions we made, like the quality of the people, the way we were very global, the vision of how we thought about software, that was very long-term.
Other than those things we just came into work everyday, wrote more code, hired more people. It wasn’t really until the IBM PC succeeded and perhaps even until Windows succeeded that there was a broad awareness that Microsoft was very unique as a software company and that these other companies had been one-product companies, hadn’t hired people, couldn’t do a broad set of things, didn’t renew their excellence, didn’t do research. We thought we were doing something very unique, but it was easily not until 1995 or even 1997 that there was this wide recognition that we were the company that had revolutionized software.
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