Entrepreneurs

Bill Gates: 4 Choices in Life Separate the Doers From the Dreamers


Bill Gates has given plenty of advice about how to live a successful life or lead a successful business. The high bar that the Microsoft co-founder sets daily is not impossible to reach.

It will, however, require developing and practicing some new habits. To pave your own road to success means dreaming less and doing more of what Gates himself has done while becoming the world’s fourth-richest person.

Here are four things that clearly separate the doers from the dreamers:

1. Doers cultivate their curiosity

In 2019, Gates spoke to students, parents, and alumni at his high school alma mater in Seattle. One question posed to Gates is especially noteworthy for the next working generation: What are the skills today’s students need to know to thrive in the world of 2030 and 2040? 

Gates answered, “For the curious learner, these are the best of times because your ability to constantly refresh your knowledge with either podcasts or lectures that are online is better than ever.” 

Gates stressed the critical importance of curiosity as a framework for acquiring knowledge. A growth mindset as the foundation and drive to stay curious and keep learning, said Gates, will help prepare future workers for the immense changes that will take place. 

Gates has maintained an incredible appetite for curiosity and learning new things over the years. In an interview with The New York Times, Gates said he reads up to 50 books each year: “It’s one of the chief ways that I learn, and has been since I was a kid.”

Not only is curiosity key to the learning process, but it’s also great for overall life satisfaction, according to science. Several research studies suggest curious people have better relationships, connect better, and enjoy socializing more. In fact, other people are more easily attracted and feel socially closer to individuals that display curiosity.

2. Doers empower those they lead

As the CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates once expressed an ideology now in demand in people-centered work cultures: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

One thing remains more true now than ever: good leaders set themselves apart by effectively influencing and empowering their human workers in a time of crisis. They do it by responding daily to the challenges facing their people and doing whatever it takes to protect employees or the business.

It is being mindful of the mental health needs of employees and their families as social isolation, economic hardships, and other uncertainties of life weigh on people in unique ways.

This is how great leaders courageously shine with heroic displays of empathy and compassion when other human beings are down. It’s also the type of leader we will need in a post-pandemic economy, as we recover and move on.

3. Doers delegate their weaknesses

Another type of mindset required to build your own success is something that can be a benefit to every busy professional: Learn to delegate better.  

Gates admits delegating didn’t come easy to him in the early days of Microsoft. He knew his obsession with programming wasn’t sustainable if the company was to scale, so he had to consciously trust other people’s ability to write software. 

As Microsoft grew, so did his management responsibilities. Gates soon realized that he had to learn to delegate his weaknesses — like managing the people side of the business –to other people’s strengths. 

If your responsibilities have outgrown your capacity to handle them, the first pillar to successful delegation is to have a great team around you who can handle the task. And two-way trust must be established for anyone to feel comfortable delegating and sharing responsibilities.

4. Doers focus on the things that matter the most

Gates is also quick to acknowledge his close pal Warren Buffett as a teacher whose life wisdom has made a huge impact on his life. Acknowledging one of Buffett’s greatest strengths, Gates gives Buffett full credit for one basic life lesson that has led to his own success:

“No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy more time,” writes Gates. “There are only 24 hours in everyone’s day. Warren has a keen sense of this. He doesn’t let his calendar get filled up with useless meetings.”

This takes focusing intently on what is essential for you, and your business, and blocking out distracting ideas, information, and opinions. The question to always ask in the course of your day is: “Is this important right now?”

To truly understand how valuable your time is, start by assessing your meetings. Useless meetings are certainly one obstacle in the path of being focused and making the most of your day.

And successful people, like Buffett and Gates, are keenly aware of centering their whole day around the things that matter the most. They manage themselves extremely well in order to manage their time to focus on that “one thing.”

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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