Spirit of success

Bill Gates Sr, father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, was once asked on a public TV programme about how he had brought up the world's wealthiest entrepreneur. "I always say he had a great mother," Gates Sr replied. Then, in a more thoughtful mode...

Spirit of success
Bill Gates Sr, father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, was once asked on a public TV programme about how he had brought up the world’s wealthiest entrepreneur. “I always say he had a great mother,” Gates Sr replied.

Then, in a more thoughtful mode, he recalled that his son was so headstrong and rebellious that the parents had to consult a counsellor.

After meeting with junior, the counsellor advised the parents that in the ongoing ‘war’ with their son, he was going to win! So, how did one react to such advice?

Not by asserting one’s parental authority or by trying to curb the child! “Eventually, it all worked out,” Gates Sr said. “Part of the trick lay in taking one’s kids seriously.”

This led to a surge of self-confidence, the younger Gates said, which helped while building up a company as a 21-year-old dropout from Harvard and selling software to people twice or thrice his age. In his book Outliers, writer Malcolm Gladwell offers a different take: not just talent, timing — being at the right place at the right time — is everything, he says.

That almost sounds like astrology: one has to be lucky enough to go to the one private school in Seattle that has a new computer linked to a larger machine downtown . That means one can learn programming without being bogged down in the laborious punch-card process used for programming computers just a year or two earlier. Gates had thousands of hours of programming experience by the time the new Altair came out and was able to take full advantage of the ensuing PC revolution.
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But he was also a more tenacious businessman than a longtime friend, who became an embittered rival. (He lost out in the crucial deal to IBM despite having developed the original PC operating system. In his book, They made America, renowned editor Harold Evans suggests that IBM and Gates may have connived to deprive Gary Kildall of untold riches and credit for a seminal role in the PC revolution.)

On his part, Gates merely says, “Success is a lousy teacher; it seduces smart people into thinking that they can’t lose.” Also, “instead of buying planes and playing around like some of our competitors (a jab at Kildall who reportedly flew off when IBM came calling), we’ve rolled almost everything back into the company.”

But even Gates didn’t catch the true potential of the Internet on its debut. That’s the story of the company that says, Do no evil.
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