5 things I have learned from Bill Gates

Remember high school? Remember how the world was divided into semesters, into castes of popularity? Appearance was everything and it didn’t matter how hard you worked. People you knew never opened their books and got good enough grades to get into college. Maybe you were one of those people who partied all weekend and slept through classes and still managed to graduate in the top 20% of your class. What you didn’t realise then, what you maybe still haven’t realised is how important hard work is. More important than hard work, is working efficiently. Remember that nerd you didn’t talk to? Remember how you mocked the way he looked, the way he dressed and talked? That kid might one day be someone like Bill Gates.

Bill Gates is one of the most successful CEOs of the 20th century and it was no accident that got him there. He’s a great role model for those planning on heading out on their own, or for those already in the midst of a career. One of the richest men in the world, he came from humble beginnings to rise to the top of the business world. According to his own reports, he never took school seriously, rarely bothering to study, and never took business seriously until Microsoft was already on its way to success. His life shows that it’s never too late to start trying and pushing to find real and lasting success. Here are some of the best lessons he’s given in his long career.

1. Life is not fair. Get used to it.

Most of us won’t start out with a rich dad or uncle or grandfather to leave us a fortune so we can start our business. Most of us have to work twice as hard as the next person just to stay one step ahead of them. That’s life. There’s no secret there. Life is hard and success is harder, so if you want the world to take your business seriously, you need to stop waiting for gifts and start making your own success. No one is waiting or expecting you to succeed. No one wants you to succeed. It’s up to you to make this happen.

2. Learn from your mistakes.

When bad things happen, don’t blame your parents or the economy or your boss. Learn from every mistake. Every failure is an opportunity to learn. There are those who learn from their failings and those who pass blame or wallow in how unfair it all is. Which one are you going to be? Which one do you think finds success? Stop feeling sorry for yourself and go do it again, but this time better.

3. Life is not divided into terms.

When school ends, so do summers off. Your employers don’t care about you ‘finding yourself.’ Do that outside of work. When you start your first real job, work begins. There’s no final test and you don’t get three months off every years. You’re expected to do your work and do it well. If you fail this month, you don’t start with a clean slate for the next one, so keep pushing yourself to do better.

4. You won’t make $90,000 a year right out of high school.

You just won’t. Even if you start your own business and it’s the greatest idea anyone’s had for years, it’s very unlikely that it’ll be super successful right away. Even with a Bachelor’s Degree, most of us won’t be making $90,000 right away. Even with a Master’s we might not see that kind of money our first year. But that should motivate you. Push yourself to get there as fast as you can rather than complain about how unfair it is.

5. Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

This is sort of a joke that’s also very true. Don’t look down on people who seem less socially functional than you. While you’re out partying, they’re figuring out how to change the world. Learn from the nerds. Learn from the outcasts. If you’re doing the same things everyone else is doing, you’ll always only be doing what everyone else is doing. If you want to succeed and get ahead, you need to separate yourself from the rest of the pack. Nerds know this and that’s why they run the world.

While Bill Gates didn’t set out to make a million or billion dollars, he ended up there. With all of his experience, it’s well worth your time to take notes and learn from what he has to offer. Let’s face it, you don’t get to be Bill Gates by being lazy. Most of his advice may just sound like he’s telling you to work harder, but look at it in a different way. He’s telling you to work smarter. Hard work only gets you so far, but working smart can really get you to where you want to be.

Check out my related book:

Cool Boss: The Art of Leadership in the 21st Century