Bill Gates may not fit the description of a rag to riches story, but when you look through his early life before starting Microsoft with his childhood friend Paul Allen – you will see a young chap whose decisions and actions prepared him for success.
In this video, I’m going to share with you 5 life-changing lessons people under the age of 25 will learn from the early life of Bill Gates. Before we get to it, I’ll like to invite you to subscribe to After School TV and hit the notification bell to get notified when we publish more insightful videos like this.
1. Choose friends with shared interest
Bill Gates met Paul Allen at Seattle’s Lakeside School, at the age of 13. Despite that Allen was two years older than Gates, they bonded over their shared interest in computers, and stayed good friends. While at Harvard, Gates also met Steve Ballmer who later became the CEO for Microsoft for 14 years. From an early age, Gates understood the importance of choosing friends that shared in his interest.
One of the most important benefits of school is the friends you make. If you spend your entire school years, without making friends with people who share your interest, you have wasted those years. If you make the right friends, they would later become your strongest network.
Very often young people are swayed by peer pressure and want to fit in. In the process of wanting to do things that will make them feel accepted by the group, they bury their real passion and interest.
Some of my early businesses – like my jewelry business – were inspired by my school days friend. He introduced me to the jewelry business, and I introduced him to take the business outside the shores of the country. In fact, the university friends I’m still in contact with today are those that shared my passion for entrepreneurship.
The wrong friends will call you weird for being so obsessed with computer programming, writing, or doing those side hustles. They will make you feel awkward. But when you surround yourself with people that are as weird as you, you wouldn’t feel weird anymore. You will be free to express your deepest interest and passion, and they too will be free to express theirs. Take this lesson to heart – choose friends that share your interest and passion.
2. Sieve every opportunity that sparks your curiosity
While attending Lakeside, a computer company offered to provide computer time for students in the school. This was where Gates’s passion for technology ignited. Gates used this opportunity to write a program in a BASIC computer language that marked the genesis of his dominance in the computer world.
It didn’t stop there. Out of active curiosity, Gates, Allen, and two other students discovered bugs in the computer software that allowed them to obtain free computer time. They took advantage of this loophole and exploited their computer privileges. They were caught and banned from using their computer privileges. Once the ban was lifted, the students offered to help find bugs in the company’s computer software in exchange for computer time. You can only imagine how much that exposed them to the world of computer programming.
Curiosity may lead you to do stupid things. But it’s better to be a curious kid trying to figure things out than to just let life pass you by. I grew up with three brothers; each of us has a high level of curiosity for figuring out how things work and how to fix them. We fixed electronics, fixed broken furniture. We built kites, electric cars, designed building models, had a chemical lab, and much other stuff. It’s not an accident that each of us had built businesses from what we do with our hands and brains rather than what we were taught in school. The lesson here is this; don’t be afraid to express your curiosity.
3. Do creative stuffs with your friends
When Gates was 17, he went into business with Paul Allen developing “Traf-o-Data”; a computer program that monitored traffic patterns in Seattle. Although the program was a business failure; but according to Paul Allen, it prepared them to make Microsoft’s first product a year later. It also helped them understand microprocessors; knowledge that was crucial to their future success.
It’s not enough to choose friends who share your interest. You also have to do stuff with them around those interests. There are many successful businesses today that were started by friends who had done many creative things together. They had applied to competitions together, applied to scholarships together, built software applications together; things like that. The important thing is not whether what you do is successful; the important thing is what you learn in the process.
4. Your parents don’t know it all
It was only a few years ago that my dad stopped asking me when I was going to get a job. His belief, like most normal parents, is that the reason you go to school and graduate is to use your certificate to get a job. Doing anything to the contrary is going against the laws of nature. Some parents cannot even understand it; why let your academic qualification go to waste?
Bill Gates’ dad was a successful corporate lawyer. So he wanted his son to become a lawyer, just like him. Gates wanted to stay off school after his success with the traffic monitoring computer program, but his parents wanted him to go to college to study law. So Gates attended Harvard University to study law. If Gates had his way, he may not have gotten into Harvard in the first place.
Anyway, while at Harvard, he spent most of his time in the computer lab, and crammed for his tests to make passing grades. During all of this, Paul Allen had already dropped out of school and was working at a technology company. Gates later got a job in the same company as his friend Allen. Maybe it was Allen that convinced or influenced Gates to later drop out of school. But the point here is that your parents always want the best for you. But they don’t always know what’s best for you.
The bitter truth is that a time may come in your life when you’ll have to go against your parent’s will. The important thing to note when that time comes is where your inspiration is coming from. Like Bill Gates, are you influenced by friends like Allen who share your interest and are on a path to exploit an opportunity, or are you simply following after a trend to look good among your peers?
5. Start looking into the future
In 1975, Bill Gates read an article that changed everything. The article was on the Altair 8800 mini-computer made by MITS. Gates and Allen saw a bigger opportunity in the personal computer industry; much bigger than what they had envisioned before then.
Eager to get more involved in personal computers, Gates and Allen wanted to know if MITS was interested in a BASIC software program that could run the Altair 8800. They called the company and lied that they were working on a BASIC software program that could run the Altair 8800.
Fortunately, MITS was attracted to their proposal. Allen and Gates ended up developing the BASIC software for the Altair 8800 and were hired to work at MITS. Less than a year later, Gates dropped out of Harvard and formed “Micro-Soft” with Paul Allen.
People often talk about Bill Gates dropping out of Harvard as a reference for why you shouldn’t go to school or why you should equally drop out. But they don’t talk about the journey that led him to drop out. Bill Gates didn’t drop out of school to figure out what to do with his life. He dropped out to focus on pursuing an opportunity he was already positioned in. This was the same with Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk – yes Elon dropped out of his Master’s program. These guys dropped out because they looked into the future and saw that what they had in their hands was worth more than what school could offer them. Keep that in mind when a life coach or motivational speaker tries to use these people as references for why you should drop out of school.
I’m not a fan of school. The point I am trying to make is that before you start using someone else’s life as a model for your life’s decisions, you need to understand what led to those decisions in the first place.
With that said, you are not too young to start observing where the world is going. A lot of technology innovation is going on today. Industries are getting disrupted. Start looking into the future. And don’t be afraid to go all out to exploit an opportunity you identify.
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