By Terence Loose
Some 40 years ago, Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft and set out on a road to become the richest man in the world. But his goal was not money at the time; it was to revolutionize the world by putting a computer on every desk.
Gates was focused, driven, and most of all, thinking big. He’s offered up some valuable advice over the years, and when a man worth $79.2 billion speaks, you should probably listen.
Wait, didn’t Gates drop out of Harvard? Yes, he did. But in a 2014 Reddit Ask Me Anything session, someone asked him: “What is your best personal financial advice for people who make under $100,000 a year?”
“Invest in your education.”
That seems like good advice, considering that people 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of 40 percent more than those with only a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In a separate event, Gates told Harvard students that when he was in college, he was a procrastinator. He said that he was the guy who never did any work, never went to class, and at the last minute would cram for a test. His fellow students thought it was funny, he said, and Gates enjoyed the attention. Then he went into business and grew serious.
EMBRACE YOUR CRITICS
In his 1999 book, “Business @ the Speed of Thought,” Gates wrote about the importance of negative feedback. He said complaints and dissatisfaction were to be studied in order to do better.
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest sources of learning,” he wrote. “Embrace bad news to learn where you need the most improvement.”
LEARN TO SAY NO
No matter how ambitious you are, there are still only 24 hours in anyone’s day. And often, the difference between the successful and unsuccessful is how they spend those hours.
No one knows that better than the richest man in the world, who, in a video interview at Harvard University, repeated the words his friend Warren Buffet said to him: “You have to be good at saying no.”
Gates said that was among the best advice he had ever received. He explained that saying no allows you to concentrate on the things that really make a difference.
Gates and his wife Melinda gave a commencement speech to Stanford University students in 2013. He spoke at length about his faith in optimism. Using his philanthropic work in Africa as an example, he told students that they needed to be optimistic in order to achieve their goals.
“Optimism is often dismissed as false hope. But there is also false hopelessness,” he said.
THINK CRITICALLY ABOUT YOUR SUCCESS
In his 1995 book “The Road Ahead,” Gates wrote that failure often teaches you more about succeeding than success.
“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose,” he wrote.
He went on to say, “What seems the perfect business plan or latest technology today can soon be as out-of-date as the 8-track tape player, the vacuum tube television or the mainframe computer. I’ve watched it happen.”
MEASURE YOUR PROGRESS
In his 2013 annual letter for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates wrote about a book he was reading, “The Most Powerful Idea in the World.” It was about the invention of the steam engine but Gates drew an important lesson from it.
“You can achieve amazing progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal,” he said.
That seemed like pretty basic advice, he said, but added that he was amazed at how seldom it was followed and how hard it was to get right.
Gates has clearly mastered that. Can you?
Terence Loose writes for GOBankingRates.com, a leading portal for personal finance news and features, offering visitors the latest information on everything from interest rates to strategies on saving money, managing a budget and getting out of debt.