Posts Tagged ‘Bill Gates’

Bill Gates predicted that the world’s wealth would go down by about $3 trillion in a pandemic.

Gates knew what he was talking about five years ago, and we didn’t listen.

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I remember 1977 and then the early 1980s very vividly. Those were the years when I came of age. There were other men that are close to me in age that grew up then, also. Each of them changed the world, and I am sure each of them, at the time when these pictures were taken, had no idea who they would become and certainly they would not have expected that every person in the world would eventually know them.

Three Humans - Gates

Bill Gates – December 1977

Above is Bill Gates in a mug shot after he was arrested for a driving violation in New Mexico on December 13, 1977. If somebody had told him then that he would be the richest man in the world for at least half his life I am sure he would not have believed it then. Microsoft was just a couple of years old, with less than 10 people in a small shop in Albuquerque.

Three Humans - bin Laden

Osama bin Laden – circa early 1980s

I am a martial artist, and so was bin Laden in the early 1980s, when he was in his mid twenties. Martial artists usually exhibit discipline, a strong sense of honor, and deep respect for their fellow man. That’s what martial arts is all about. If somebody had told the Black Belt on the right that he would end up being one of the most recognized and iconic terrorists of all time, I am sure he would not have possibly believed it  then.

Three Humans - Obama

Barack Obama – circa 1977

Barack Obama was a teenager when this picture was taken, I estimate around 1977. He was a black boy in a white basketball team. I am sure he was probably the most unlikely person to become President of the United States in his entire high school. He had no idea where he was going to go in his life.

All three of these men are contemporaries to each other and to me. The circle of life took them into very different directions. Looking at these photos, and thinking about my own journey in parallel to theirs, I cannot help but realize that life is not what we are born as, and who we are when we are young.

Life is what we do with our time. We become what we think about.

Let’s choose our thoughts well.


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Bill Gates [photocredit Borowitz Report]

With the announcement of Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, the company did some more restructuring. Bill Gates is coming back to take a more active role as technology adviser.

Since Steve Ballmer was blamed for lack of vision and sluggish execution, causing much of Microsoft’s decline, I concur that having Gates back inside the company, working technology, should be very helpful to the new CEO – perhaps.

On his very first day back on the job, Gates tried to install Windows 8.1 on his laptop, upgrading from Windows 7. But he couldn’t do it for several hours. He got Nadella to help. Still, by noon, no success. After some choice expletives, they both gave up and Gates will stay on Windows 7 for now.

I know what that’s like. I have needed help installing many a Microsoft product in my career. I can already tell, having Gates back at work at Microsoft will be great for the company. At least the install programs will be working soon!

This reminds me of what Steve Jobs supposedly said when he came back to Apple in 1996 when the company was close to bankruptcy. When his team asked him what he thought the problem was, he said: “The products suck!”

I can just see it:

Bill Gates returned to the company and he saw that the products sucked.

And Bill Gates said: Let there be cool products. And there were cool products.

And Bill Gates said: Let there be a cool CEO with a hoodie. And there was a cool CEO with a hoodie.


Satya Nadella [photocredit: The Frontline]


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Here is an excellent article by Darren Hardy about how to turn the business down-turn in December into a success-generating engine.

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There are many people who write (and post comments) about how lucky Bill Gates was, being born at the right time, living in the right place, and having priviledged parents. All luck, right?

In his book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins has a good section on this topic:

Why did Bill Gates become a 10Xer, building a truly great software company in the personal computer revolution? Through one lens, you might see Bill Gates as incredibly lucky. He just happened to have been born into an upper-middle-class American family that had the resources to send him to a private school. His family enrolled him at Lakeside School in Seattle, which had obtained a teletype connection to a computer upon which he could learn to program, something unusual for schools in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He just happened to have been born at the right time, coming of age just as the advancement of microelectronics made the personal computer inevitable; born 10 years later, or even 5 years later, he would have missed the moment. His friend Paul Allen just happened to see a cover story in the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics titled “World’s First Microcomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models.” It was about the Altair, designed by a small company in Albuquerque. Gates and Allen had the idea to convert the programming language BASIC into a product that could be used on the Altair, which would put them in position to be the first to sell such a product for a personal computer. Gates went to college at Harvard, which just happened to have a PDP-10 computer upon which he could develop and test his ideas. Wow, Gates was really lucky, right?

Yes, Gates was lucky, but luck is not why Gates became a 10Xer. Consider the following questions:

  • Was Gates the only person of his era who grew up in an upper-middle-class American family?
  • Was Gates the only person born in the mid-1950s who attended a secondary school with access to computing?
  • Was Gates the only person who went to a college with computer resources in the mid-1970s? Was Gates the only person who read the Popular Electronics article?
  • Was Gates the only person who knew how to program in BASIC?

No, no, no, no, and no.

Lakeside might have been one of the first schools to have a computer that students could access during those years, but it wasn’t the only such school. Gates might’ve been a math and computer whiz kid at a top college that had computers in 1975, but he wasn’t the only math and computer whiz kid at Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, MIT, Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley, UCLA, Chicago, Georgia Tech, Cornell, Dartmouth, USC, Columbia, Northwestern, Penn, Michigan, or any number of other top colleges with comparable or even better computer resources. Gates wasn’t the only person who knew how to program in BASIC; the language had been developed by professors at Dartmouth a decade earlier, and it was widely known by 1975, used in academics and industry. And what about all the master’s and PhD students in electrical engineering and computer science who had even more computer expertise than Gates on the day the Popular Electronics article appeared? Any of them could have decided to abandon their studies and launch a personal computer–software company, as could have computer experts already working in industry and academia.

But how many of them disrupted their life plans (and cut their sleep to near-zero, inhaling food as fast as possible so as not to let eating interfere with work) to throw themselves into writing BASIC for the Altair? How many of them defied their parents, dropped out of college, and moved to Albuquerque—Albuquerque! New Mexico!—to work with the Altair? How many of them got BASIC for the Altair written, debugged, and ready to ship before anyone else? Thousands of people could have done the exact same thing as Gates, at the exact same time, but they didn’t.

The difference between Bill Gates and similarly advantaged people is not luck. Yes, Gates was lucky to be born at the right time, but many others had this luck. And yes, Gates was lucky to have the chance to learn programming by 1975, but many others had this same luck. Gates did more with his luck, taking a confluence of lucky circumstances and creating a huge return on his luck. And this is the important difference.


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