For those who didn’t know, it’s a surprise: Billionaire Bill Gates never graduated from Harvard, having dropped out after the first three semesters to found Microsoft, which would go on to become a tech giant.
Bill Gates: The three most important things you can learn
Thus, he caused a sensation when, addressing the students of the University of Arizona, he expressed his complaint that he himself had not participated in a graduation ceremony.
“What does a college dropout know about graduating? Not much, personally, to be honest,” he said.
“As I prepared for today, I spent a lot of time thinking about how you, as new graduates, can have the greatest impact on the world with the education you have received here. “, he said, adding, “It made me think about the advice I had never received on a day like this.”
So those are the five things that, as he said, he wished he’d been told “at graduation, I never got.”
“Your life is not a one-way street”
“You’re probably under a lot of pressure right now to make the right career decisions,” Gates said. “It may seem that these decisions are permanent, but they are not.”
Gates remembers struggling with the same pressure as a college student. When he co-founded Microsoft in 1975, he thought “I’ll be working there for the rest of my life”, adding that he was “so glad” he was wrong about it.
Gates worked at Microsoft for years: he was the company’s CEO until 2000 and a director on the board of directors until 2014. “Today, I still work in software, but philanthropy is my full-time job,” he said, referring to his work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which he founded with his ex-wife.
It’s “good” to reevaluate yourself and your goals, even if they don’t match what you originally envisioned, Gates noted.
“You’re never so smart that you ‘get lost'”
Even the co-founder of a multi-trillion dollar company learns new things every day. It wasn’t always like this: When Gates dropped out of college, he said, he thought he knew it all.
Eventually he realized that “the first step to learning anything new is to focus on what you don’t know, instead of focusing on what you know,” he said.
“At some point in your career, you’re going to come across a problem that you can’t solve on your own,” he said. “When this happens, don’t panic. Breathe. Force yourself to think. And then find smart people you can learn from.” In this context, he urged students not to be afraid to ask for help.
“Towards a job that solves a problem”
Gates was responsible for the largest known charitable donation of 2022, giving $5 billion to the Gates Foundation to support its work. Unsurprisingly, he encouraged students to take advantage of opportunities to help others.
“You graduate at a time when you have a tremendous opportunity to help people,” he said. “New businesses are emerging every day that will allow you to earn a living by making a difference.”
“When you spend your days doing something that solves a big problem, it gives you energy to do your best,” he said. “It forces you to be more creative and gives your life a stronger meaning.”
“Don’t underestimate the power of friendship”
One of Gates’ biggest regrets about college, he told Harvard students in 2018, is that he wasn’t social enough. He spent most of his time in class or studying, leaving little room for making friends.
On Saturday, Gates advised recent graduates to continue to value the relationships they developed during their studies.
“The people you’re with [συναναστραφεί] and the people you sat next to during class are not just your classmates. It’s your network,” he said. “Your future co-founders and colleagues. Your best sources for support, information and advice.’
“At the end, [σημασία έχει] how your friends really think of you and how powerful those friendships are,” Gates Buffett recalled telling him.
“You’re not lazy if you let yourself relax a bit”
Hard work can lead to a raise or promotion, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of enjoying life, he advised students, saying he learned that lesson too late.
“When I was your age, I didn’t believe in holidays. I didn’t believe in weekends. I didn’t think I should [να τα χρειάζονται] neither did the people I worked with,” he said, adding that he even tracked his employees at Microsoft to see who was staying in the office late and who was leaving early.
It was necessary, he says, to become a father to realize that “life is not limited to work”.
“Don’t wait as long as I did to take this course,” he said. “Take the time to develop your relationships. To celebrate your successes. And recover from your losses. Take a break if necessary. Be relaxed with people around you when they need the same thing.”