How did Bill Gates reach the top of the world? How did he do it? You’ll be surprised that one of the richest men in the world credits a lot of his success to a few habits he’s picked up over the years. From habits he’s had from childhood, to ones he learned in college after much trial and error, here we go!
Today, we’re bringing you 5 habits that made Bill Gates one of the richest people In the world. Let’s get started!
The Power of Habit
by Charles Duhigg
⏱ 14 minutes reading time
🎧 Audio version available
He’s Always Learning and Reading
Bill Gates incorporates reading into his everyday routine. Even his father has commented about this, saying that a young Bill Gates was an obsessive bookworm, saying, “Just about every kind of book interested him — encyclopedias, science fiction, you name it.” This escalated to the point that the Gates family had to create a no books at the dinner table rule!
This habit and love for books grew with Gates. Every year now, he publishes a list of his favorite books of that year. He aims to read around 50 books a year.
The billionaire always makes time to sit down with a good book, setting aside at least one hour every day to read and learn something new. The proof lies in his Xanadu 2.0 home, where he has a massive library, packed with books– enough to put the Beauty and the Beast’s library to shame. This library is reportedly 2,100 square feet and features two secret bookcases with one that reveals a hidden bar.
And here’s a fun fact! If you look up at the beautiful dome roof, you’ll find a quote from “The Great Gatsby” that reads, “He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.”
This massive library is several stories high and it features anything from Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari to Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester, which he purchased at an auction for over a whopping $30 million! That’s shows how willing he is to splurge on his love for books!
Even if he didn’t have a chance to pick up a good journal or book that day, he always has his morning exercise to count on, which– believe it or not, involves learning. More on this later!
He’s Careful With Money
When you think about billionaires, the first word to come to mind may not be “money conservative,” but Bill Gates has a unique policy when it comes to money and spending.
Even back in 1998, he told an interviewer,
“I wanted to have enough money in the bank to pay a year’s worth of payroll, even if we didn’t get any payments coming in, and I’m true to that almost the whole time.” He also added, “We have almost $10 billion now, which is pretty much enough for the next year.”
If you skip ahead to 2019, he still maintained a firm belief in being careful with money as apposed to spending it lavishly. This also applies to his three children. Gates has spoken about how it’s not the best idea “for your kids to give them a whole ton of money.”
So, where does Bill Gates believe money is best spent? Other than charity, which he’s poured billions into and will continue to do so, he believes investing in education is one of the most lucrative things that will come back positively to you.
He Gives Credit Where It’s Due
Something that is often missing in the cutthroat world of business is giving credit where credit is due– but you’ll find Bill Gates at the forefront of those who believe that it’s okay to not hog the limelight. He also believes relationships are incredibly important.
This– being mindful of the company he keeps– is something he’s always maintained. He met his fellow Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, back in the seventh grade. He credits Paul with his world-changing ideas. He shared in a blog post,
“Paul foresaw that computers would change the world. Even in high school, before any of us knew what a personal computer was, he was predicting that computer chips would get super-powerful and would eventually give rise to a whole new industry. That insight of his was the cornerstone of everything we did together.”
Another relationship habit that led to his success is carefully choosing who he keeps around as company, especially as employees. He says,
“Having someone who you totally trust, who’s totally committed, who shares your vision and has a little bit different set of skills and also acts as a check on you… The benefit of sparking off someone who’s got that kind of brilliance has not only made it fun but it’s really led to a lot of the success.”
And when it comes to friends, he once told Warren Buffett that friends challenge you in everything you do. He added that “that level of intimacy is great.” He went on to speak about his wife, Melinda, and how“ it’s really worth the investment to have those people, as you’re always there to help them and vice versa.”
He Follows a Routine
Bill Gates is passionate about structure and scheduling. In fact, he’s so organized that he maps out his day in five-minute intervals. That’s right. The schedule of one of the richest men in the world can be broken down into 5 minute chunks. Everything has a fixed time slot, so that he doesn’t get stuck for too long and to avoid distractions. This goal-driver way is something he credits his success with.
Gates’ schedule starts the moment he wakes up. He’s, as you probably guessed, an early riser. He starts his day like all the greats do: with exercise– cardio to be specific. Every day, he spends no less than an hour on the treadmill in his private gym.
Like every other aspect of his life, Gates tries to make sure he gets everything he can from this task. As he runs on the treadmill, he takes this time as another learning opportunity. He watches educational DVDs. He is reportedly addicted to watching videos from the “Great Courses” series by the Teaching Company. These subjects cover a lot of ground and are very educational. One morning, he might learn about geology; the next, meteorology– another day, he could learn interesting facts about U.S. history or oceanography.
Then his habit of reading appears in his routine. After this beneficial and productive exercise session, he tackles another item on his to-do list: his daily catching up with the world news. He reads the latest headlines from The New Times, The Economist, and The Wall Street Journal. This routine sets him up for a successful day ahead, keeping him energized and productive.
He Doesn’t Procrastinate
Yes, Bill Gates was once a fellow procrastinator, but he’s gotten over the habit. Addressing the students at the University of Nebraska Lincoln College of Business Administration with a Q&A session with Warren Buffett, he talked about the drama he used to get into as a heavy procrastinator.
When he was an undergraduate student at Harvard, he was both overconfident and just plain lazy. According to him,
“I liked to show people that I didn’t do any work, and that I didn’t go to classes and I didn’t care.”
But he did get serious about exams– but only two days before at best. People would think it was funny. He soon became known as “the guy who did nothing until the last minute.”
His brazen behavior continued with another habit. Revealed in a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread, he let in millions of fans into another “method to the madness” that ultimately turned out to be another bad habit.
He would attend classes he wasn’t signed up for. Eventually, he was caught. He said,
“This worked out in a funny way when the final exam for a Combinatorics class (which I signed up for) was given at the same table as my Brain studies class (which I attended and did not sign up for). My friends from Brain studies thought it was very strange that I sat on the wrong side of the table and took the Combinatorics exam even when I was the most vocal student in the Brain class.”
So, when did he stop? And when did he kick that procrastination habit?
When he entered the business world and found himself in over his head. No one in the business world appreciated him putting things off until the last minute, nor were they particularly forgiving. It took him a couple of years to get over it, but he succeeded in kicking the habit. And now? Look at any of his employees when he was chairman of Microsoft. He was so notoriously strict that he said he didn’t believe in vacations and holidays.
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