Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. —Bill Gates encyclopaedia Britannica describes Bill Gates (born William Henry Gates III) as an ‘American computer programmer, businessman and philanthropist rightly so. However, the man and his achievements are so vast that even a big, fat encyclopaedia would not be enough to document his entire life. In his teenage years, Gates acquired the reputation of being quite a hacker. At thirteen, he hacked his school computer and got himself into a class ‘with a disproportionate number of interesting girls’. then, at fifteen, he hacked the computer of a big Corporation. He has even been arrested. His life took a dramatic turn in 1975 when he decided to drop out of Harvard. Soon after, he and Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft Corporation out of a garage in albuquerque, new Mexico. By the end of the 1980s, Microsoft had become the largest software company in the world. A billionaire since 1986, Gates is currently the second richest man in the world, behind amazon’s Jeff Bezos. This book is about a man who changed not only the way people live and work every day, but also redefined the meaning of ‘giving back to society’ by pledging most of his wealth to charity.
In Conversation with Ajay Sethi
The Early Years
Bill Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, on 28 October 1955. His father, William Gates Sr., was a prominent lawyer, and his mother, Mary, was a teacher, community activist and businesswoman. Bill was the second child in the family after his sister Kristianne (Kristi), who was one year older than him. He has another sister, Libby, who is nine years younger. The Gates family were important members of the local Protestant community. Conscious of her duties as a mother, Mary had quit her teaching job earlier, devoting her time mainly to raising family.
Overall, it was a happy and loving family, devoted to Christian values, and caring and supportive of one another. As a child, Bill especially enjoyed non-team events liked roller skating, and later as he grew up, tennis and water skiing. Given their Protestant background, the family encouraged competition—
a trait that would stay with Gates for the rest of his life. ‘It didn’t matter whether it was hearts or pickle ball, or swimming to the dock…there was always a reward for winning, and there was always a penalty for losing,’ once a visitor to the family noted.
However, despite all the love and care, certain aspects of Bill’s behaviour had started causing concern among his parents as he was growing up. Without any apparent reason, he had begun to withdraw into a shell—becoming more and more quiet and aloof. Sometimes just to check, when his father would call and ask, ‘What are you doing?’ His reply would be, ‘Thinking. Don’t you ever think?’
He would be easily bored—and when bored, would need some change. At school he would often get into trouble with other children, and even talk back to his teachers. He was generally struggling in life. His parents had started getting worried about his behaviour and feared he might become a loner. His father decided to consult a counsellor. After a few sessions, the counsellor too didn’t sound too hopeful. He said to his father that there was no use trying to force him to conform. ‘You’re going to lose. You had better adjust.’
They thus sought to channelize his energies in positive productive directions. They made him participate in boy scout activities (he even earned his Eagle Scout badge) and also encouraged him to take part in team sports. They were happy to discover his growing interest in reading and so fuelled his curiosity further through science fiction books. These steps worked to improve matters and things began to change.