Entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard Business School to co-found Microsoft – now the world’s largest software business. In 2014 he stepped down as Microsoft’s chairman to focus on his charity foundation. Here are our top 20 favourite pearls of his wisdom
On failure: It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.
On learning from mistakes: We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.
On not being complacent: We always overestimate the change that will occur over the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.
On expectations: Expectations are a form of first class truth; if people believe it, it’s true.
On the end goal: If I’d had some set idea of a finish line, don’t you think I would have crossed it years ago?
On innovation: Innovation is a good thing. The human condition – put aside bioterrorism and a few footnotes – is improving because of innovation.
On enjoying your job: Like my friend Warren Buffett, I feel particularly lucky to do something every day that I love to do. He calls it ‘tap dancing to work’.
On thinking outside the box: I’ve always been amazed by Leonardo da Vinci, because he worked out science on his own. He would work by drawing things and writing down his ideas. Of course, he designed all sorts of flying machines way before you could actually build something like that.
On one’s own uniqueness: Don't compare yourself with anyone in this world ... if you do so, you are insulting yourself.
On decision-making: Don't make the same decision twice. Spend time and thought to make a solid decision the first time so that you don't revisit the issue unnecessarily. If you're too willing to reopen issues, it interferes not only with your execution but also with your motivation to make a decision in the first place. After all, why bother deciding an issue if it isn't really decided?
On taking risks: To win big, you sometimes have to take big risks.
On focusing on one’s dreams: Life has a tendency to just happen. But it happens because we make choices. The life you create and design for yourself is going to accumulate from the choices you make over time. Sure, there are unexpected things that can derail dreams. But we can control where we put our focus, and if we choose to put one dream ahead of another.
On overcoming one’s circumstances: If you’re born poor it’s not your mistake. But if you die poor it’s your mistake.
On getting the job done: I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.
On the pitfalls of success: Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.
On change: People always fear change. People feared electricity when it was invented, didn’t they?
On leadership: As we look ahead, leaders will be those who empower others.
On education: ‘I don’t know’ has become ‘I don’t know yet’.
On inspiring others: If you show people the problems and you show people the solutions they will be moved to act.
On successful business: In business, the idea of measuring what you are doing, picking the measurements that count like customer satisfaction and performance… you thrive on that.