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Bill Gates' advice to graduates: 3 fields and 3 important things

Sunday, June 04, 2017


It is graduation time in America – first college and then high school. In an age where it is all too common to tell grads that they can do whatever they set out to do, and other “sweet nothings”, Bill Gates recently tweeted some no-nonsense advice to new graduates (May, 15 on his Twitter page: twitter.com/BillGates).

I find his thoughts useful and uplifting but at the same time I think it is important to add to them elements of what constitutes a life lived for God, serving him and others, bringing to our businesses the opportunity to help all our stakeholders to see how one can follow Jesus. Bill Gates refers to “making a difference in other people’s lives” and he has done that through job creation and through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, there is one other component which truly brings transformation – a new life in Christ!

Excerpts from @BillGates, May 15,2015:

New college graduates often ask me for career advice. I was lucky to be in my early 20s when the digital revolution was just getting under way, and Paul Allen and I had the chance to help shape it. (Which explains my lack of a college degree—I left school because we were afraid the revolution would happen without us.) If I were starting out today and looking for the same kind of opportunity to make a big impact in the world, I would consider three fields.

One is artificial intelligence. We have only begun to tap into all the ways it will make people’s lives more productive and creative. The second is energy, because making it clean, affordable, and reliable will be essential for fighting poverty and climate change. The third is the biosciences, which are ripe with opportunities to help people live longer, healthier lives.

But some things in life are true no matter what career you choose. I wish I had understood these things better when I left school. For one thing, intelligence is not quite as important as I thought it was, and it takes many different forms. In the early days of Microsoft, I believed that if you could write great code, you could also manage people well or run a marketing team or take on any other task. I was wrong about that. I had to learn to recognize and appreciate people’s different talents. The sooner you can do this, if you don’t already, the richer your life will be.

Another thing I wish I had understood much earlier is what true inequity looks like. I did not see it up close until my late 30s, when Melinda and I took our first trip to Africa. We were shocked by what we saw. When we came back, we began learning more. It blew our minds that millions of children there were dying from diseases that no one in rich countries even worried about. We thought it was the most unjust thing in the world. We realized we couldn’t wait to get involved—we had to start giving back right away.

You know much more than I did when I was your age. Technology lets you see problems in ways my friends and I never could, and it empowers you to help in ways we never could. You can start fighting inequity sooner, whether it is in your own community or in a country halfway around the world.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self. Melinda does that for me, and I am a better person for it. Like our good friend Warren Buffett, I measure my happiness by whether people close to me are happy and love me, and by the difference I make in other people’s lives.


Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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