Bill Gates: Super U Podcast
Our new episode of the Super U Podcast is live! The Super U Podcast delivers curated tips from top performers and thought leaders to help unlock and unleash your inner superpower. This week’s episode features tips from Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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[1:24] Episode Intro — Welcoming Bill Gates
Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft, the largest software company in the world. Valued at a net worth of $98B, he has historically been the richest man, only recently surpassed by Jeff Bezos. He and his wife founded the Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charitable foundation.
[1:35] Know Your Strengths
As the founder of Microsoft, Gates has had to take on many different roles. Primarily, he was a leader and reviewer of managers. He had to make sure his top people pursued a common vision. While Gates needed a framework to know what skills Microsoft needed, the people he hired were often better at managing than he was. Gates’ value-added was in designing graphic user interface, building an integrated office, or deciding to go global. He emphasizes the value in picking what you’re good at and finding people to fill in the gaps. Many founders have trouble scaling and giving up hands-on tasks they find a lot of pleasure and comfort from pursuing. Figuring out where we derive joy and strength helps us to become self-aware and work within a team where others can fill in our weaknesses.
[3:48] Optimism Fuels Innovation
“In dire situations, optimism fuels innovation and leads to new approaches that eliminate suffering,” Gates says. But if we never really see the people suffering, our optimism can’t help them and we’ll never change their world. Gates sees a paradox: the modern world is an incredible source of innovation that creates both possibilities and inequality. Most people don’t think the future is going to be better than the past, and skeptics focus on the inequality that innovation creates. Gates says the pessimists are wrong but have a point: if innovation is purely market-driven, the world will become more divided. However, innovation has the power to improve public schools, cure malaria, and end poverty. If empathy channels our optimism, we can use our innovation to solve the world’s problems. Erik Qualman encourages companies to focus on their WHI: What’s your mission? How do we differ from the competition? If we went away tomorrow, what’s the loss to the community and society?
[8:12] Know Your Competitors & Market
Microsoft succeeds because they don’t underestimate the importance of the work other companies are doing. Microsoft wants to make sure their innovation, value, and leadership stay in front. We have to make sure we’re a year ahead of our competition, but not a year ahead of our market so that we’re cutting-edge but not bleeding-edge. Consumers have to be ready for our product.
[9:25] Be a Lifelong Learner
Bill Gates dropped out of college but continues to take courses to drive his professional development. He doesn’t feel as if he missed any knowledge by dropping out because he is still in learning mode. In today’s world, we can be lifelong learners. We just have to take advantage of all the knowledge that surrounds us.
[10:43] Don’t Take Things Personally
When dealing with a company as big as Microsoft, people say a lot of nasty things. Gates can’t take them personally. We have no control over what people say about us, we only have control over how we react. At one point, Gates had the license plate numbers of every employee memorized, keeping tabs on when they arrived to work and when they left. Once the company reached a reasonable size, he realized he had to loosen the reigns and stop micromanaging and allow employees to rise to their best expectation. We should learn to let go of things we are holding onto personally. Qualman remembers his hot-tempered college basketball coach and how he had to learn to focus on why his coach was yelling at him and disregard the vulgar, often discouraging, delivery. He couldn’t take those things personally.
[13:29] Models for Problem Solving
There are two models to get more of the brightest minds focused on life’s most important problems such as donating and volunteering more. One model is getting people to take on these problems within their full-time work. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to start working for non-profits, some of the most innovative work is being done by large and small businesses that are not in the non-profit sector. The second model to solve these problems is by delegating excess time and money through donating or volunteering. If we can bring 20% of the people currently implementing the second model up to 80%, then this will be a greater impact than the first model.
[16:43] Trade Expectations for Appreciation
When Gates makes a mistake, he’s usually very hard on himself. This harsh standard for self-discipline and careful thinking can be dangerous if we extend it to others. Qualman says we should trade in our expectations of other people for appreciation. Holding others to a fair standard is helpful, but if our expectations are not met, we should learn to appreciate the work that people are doing.
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