Being a Billionaire is Strange, Microsoft Co-Founder Tells Students

This is the single best piece part from this article on Bill Gates:

A student from Beijing said her dream as a child was to be one of the richest people on Earth, so she asked Gates “what is one word of advice that you would give to someone like me to become someone like you?”

“I didn’t start out with the dream of being super-rich. And even after we started Microsoft, and the guys who ran Intel—Gordon Moore and those guys—were billionaires, I was like, ‘Wow, that must be strange.’ And so—it is, it’s quite strange,” he said to laughs from the crowd.

“But I think most people who’ve done well have sort of found something that they just are kind of nuts about doing. And then they figure out a system to hire their friends to do it with them. And if it’s an area of great impact, then sometimes you get financial independence,” Gates said. [italics mine]

It makes a huge difference if you can do something that you enjoy working at rather than just doing it for a quick buck. If you enjoy what you are doing you will have the commitment and perseverance to keep going when you hit an obstacle or when nothing appears to be happening.  Conversely, it’s easy to lose interest if you’re only doing it for the money.

However, I won’t parrot the old cliche “Do what you love, the money will follow.” Many people love things that don’t have any potential for making money but still try to build a business from it. In the technology sector there is an old rule that you need to “sell aspirins not vitamins. ” Why? People buy aspirins to make a pain go away. When you have a pain of any type (it needn’t be a physical one), you are willing to pull out your wallet and pay for a solution that will make it go away or at least reduce it. In contrast, vitamins (and their equivalents) are just things that would be nice to have although there’s no pressing need to buy them today–or tomorrow.

The lesson here is to find a problem (or pain) that a lot of people or businesses suffer from and that you would love to develop and sell an “aspirin” for. If you are a totally rookie when it comes to business, I recommend watching those television shows such as Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank to get a sense of how savvy investors evaluate business ideas. You can find the American, Canadian, and British versions all on YouTube. All are worth watching.

Read the Bill Gates piece here.


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