Do you ever daydream?
I know that I do. And I think it’s healthy. I hope so at least. I daydreamed about winning that state football championship in 1981. I daydreamed about playing bass for an ’80s hairband that played in stadiums bigger than my high school gym.
I’ve daydreamed about standing up to thugs who were trying to harm my children. I’ve had nightmarish daydreams about a world without semi-boneless ham.
And I admit: I’ve daydreamed about what it would be like build a company like Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, or Microsoft.
Bill Gates actually lived out that last dream. And he became the youngest billionaire in history and the world’s richest man—a title he held for 13 years until 2008. Now, Bill and Melinda are living out their big dream of changing the world by throwing billions of dollars at really big problems. And they’re making a huge impact. My hat is off to them.
How Did Bill Do It?
I recently read about Bill’s “simple” three-step process to becoming the world’s richest man. And as I meditated on what he had done, I thought it was profound. Still, it’s something that you and I could replicate.
I have no idea where it will lead you, but I bet that following this process will help you along your path, as well. Whether you’re currently an entrepreneur or an employee, a student or a non-profit volunteer, a son or a daughter or whoever, I’m guessing you’ll find an application for you here.
Here Are Bill Gate’s 3 Steps to Getting Rich
1. Decide What You Want to Do in Life
Did I hear anyone say, “Duh”?
Sorry if that seems obvious. But it is not as clear for all of us as we wish it were.
From middle school through high school, I was sure I wanted to be a parapsychologist. The Ghostbusters movie later fueled my fire, but by then I had learned that there were no degrees like that—at least not from any colleges my parents were willing to pay for.
Then I spent four years thinking I wanted to be a petroleum engineer, and I got a degree in that field. When oil prices dropped to $12 per barrel in 1986, I had second thoughts and went on to earn an MBA.
Then, after almost five years in corporate America, I went on a journey of serial entrepreneurism (yep, it’s a word), which took me from running three staffing firms, to the fool’s dream of multi-level marketing success, to running a non-profit, then into real estate where I was sure I’d found my niche—about nine different times over 18 years.
I won’t bore you with further details (wait, perhaps that ship sailed several paragraphs back), but it took me until my early 50s to be absolutely certain of what I was called, and designed, and destined to do. (I’m doing it now and loving every day of it.)
Not so with Bill Gates. Bill followed his dad’s footsteps into prelaw (at Harvard), but he didn’t last long. His childhood fascination with computers overtook him, and he shifted to rigorous math and computer courses.
In his dorm room from 1973 to 1975, he became obsessed with the hardware and software that would soon lead him to take his first leave of absence from Harvard. (I wonder: If you or I were Bill’s friends, would we have written him off as a failure?)
Bill was certain of what he wanted to do. He wanted to develop software to run computers.
2. Find the Biggest, Wealthiest, Most Influential Player in That Space Who Is Willing to Partner With You
Bill did this twice. First, in 1975, he contacted a company called Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) from his dorm room phone. MITS was the maker of the world’s first personal computer. Bill offered to develop software for the MITS Altair microcomputer. MITS accepted his offer and eventually bought his software for $3,000 plus royalties. “Micro-Soft” was born.
Two years later, Bill took a second leave from Harvard, and with childhood friend Paul Allen, he set up Microsoft in Albuquerque New Mexico—where MITS is headquartered.
In 1981, after relocating to Washington and finally incorporating, Bill was secretly contacted by IBM, which was desperately looking for someone to develop software for its new line of revolutionary desktop computers.
IBM, for those who weren’t around early last century, was already the world’s iconic computer and office-technology company. With origins in the 1880s, IBM’s high-tech dominance and prestige could not be overstated. Though its employees numbered in the hundreds of thousands, at the time, IBM had reportedly never laid off a single one. When they expanded from mainframes over to the personal computing world, they were sure to win. And they would do so (for a while at least).
Bill actually passed the opportunity to software pioneer Gary Kildall, who famously fumbled. Apparently, Kildall didn’t recognize the opportunity of the millennium and was too demanding and difficult to deal with. He refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement guaranteeing IBM’s protection. Gary and his wife reportedly wasted precious days quibbling over contract language, and IBM soon realized this would not be a marriage made in heaven.
Frustrated and up against a looming deadline, IBM returned to Gates, who accepted the challenge. Gates purchased Quick and Dirty Operating System (QDOS) from Seattle Computer Products for $50,000.
After renaming it Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS DOS), Gates immediately refocused all of Microsoft’s employees (with their exhausting 24-hour workdays and massive collective brainpower) on one single task: to hone MS DOS for the successful launch of the IBM 8086 just months later.
Other important Microsoft initiatives came to a screeching halt as Bill, Paul, and the team threw every possible effort at making MS DOS work, so that IBM would have a successful launch. Though DOS was launched with hundreds of flaws and users experienced frequent errors, Microsoft continued to work tirelessly to get it up to speed before and after its launch.
And the rest is history. The personal computer revolution was born. And our lives will never be the same.
WAIT… What about step three in the simple process to become the world’s richest human?
I promised you three steps. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.
Did you catch it? Step three flowed naturally out of step two above. Though it seemed to come naturally for Gates and Allen, it probably is unnatural (and counter-intuitive) to most of us. And that’s because most of us spend our lives building our own kingdoms.
We expend endless efforts daydreaming and plotting and grappling to push ourselves to the front of the line. We focus on our own fame and fortune.
We don’t see the opportunity that Gates saw that would lead him to quickly become the world’s most successful entrepreneur and richest man.
Once Gates identified (see step two) the wealthiest, most influential player in the space who would partner with him…
3. Gates Did Everything in His Power to Help Them Succeed
And that’s where counter-intuition kicks in. You know what I’m talking about. We all naturally look out for ourselves, and we all spend our efforts and time and talents and fortunes to build our own kingdoms.
But it’s been said that, “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ascribing any saintly halo to Gates for laying down Microsoft’s goals and plans to serve MITS and later IBM. (I would grant Melinda and Bill the halos now, in light of their amazing efforts to end the suffering of millions around the world.)
But I am saying that there seems to be a clear pattern of Gates choosing to do everything in his power to make a successful partner much more successful.
Did Gates think and plan this through in advance? I have no idea.
But you can.
I believe this three-step pattern can apply to most of us. I believe that we can carve out some meditation time to think through:
- What we really want to do in life. How were you designed? Where have you succeeded and failed? What are your strengths and weaknesses? In what field were you educated and trained? What do you love? What do you hate?
- Who is the biggest, most influential, wealthiest company (or person) who will partner with you? It could be your current employer. It could be your dream employer. It could be a real estate developer or investor or syndicator who builds or remodels or owns hundreds or thousands of units. It could be a property management firm or a real estate broker or even BiggerPockets (we are looking for some key employees right now).
- And what can you do to make them as successful as possible?
Maybe the next step to building your own kingdom is to focus your heart and soul and mind and strength on someone else’s first.
I recognized this simple, three-step Bill Gates approach only a short while ago. I immediately sat down and strategized how this would apply to my life. With lightning bolt clarity, I saw the path forward to implement these three steps in my life.
I actually implemented this in both my business (raising capital for multifamily and self-storage projects) and my not-for-profit endeavors (to fight human trafficking and rescue its victims).
I cannot begin to tell you how much this mindset and action shift has already paid off. I can point to a list of powerful advancements I’ve made in a variety of areas, and I’m thrilled at the prospect of what lies ahead.
How about you? Have you…
- Identified what you want to do?
- Identified a successful ally?
- And strategized how to make them as successful as possible?
Who would’ve thought being the world’s richest human would be so simple?
How do you think you can apply these steps in your own life and business endeavors?