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#290 Bill Gates
February 13th, 2023 | E290

What I learned from rereading Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire by James Wallace and Jim Erickson.


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[4:00] Gates read the encyclopedia from beginning to end when he was only seven or eight years old.

[4:00]  Gates had an obsessive personality and a compulsive need to be the best.

[5:00] Everything Bill did, he did to the max. What he did always went well, well beyond everyone else.

[6:00] You want to maneuver yourself into doing something in which you have an intense interest. —  Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger.

[7:00] Gates devoured everything he could get his hands on concerning computers and how to communicate with them, often teaching himself as he went.

[9:00] A young man with no money and tons of enthusiasm. — The Dream of Solomeo: My Life and the Idea of Humanistic Capitalism by Brunello Cucinelli. (Founders #289)

[10:00] He consumed biographies to understand how the great figures of history thought.

[11:00] The idea that some people were super successful was interesting. What did they know? What did they do? What drove those kinds of successes?

[12:00] Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft by Paul Allen. (Founders #44)

[13:00] “I’m going to make my first million by the time I'm 25.” It was not said as a boast, or even a prediction. He talked about the future as if his success was predestined.

[15:00] Gates and Allen were convinced the computer industry was about to reach critical mass, and when it exploded it would usher in a technological revolution of astounding magnitude. They were on the threshold of one of those moments when history held its breath... and jumped, as it had done with the development of the car and the airplane. They could either lead the revolution or be swept along by it.

[17:00] Bill had a monomaniacal quality. He would focus on something and really stick with it. He had a determination to master whatever it was he was doing. Bill was deciding where he was going to put his energy and to hell with what anyone else thought.

[18:00] Don’t do anything that someone else can do. — Edwin Land

[21:00] You've got to remember that in those days, the idea that you could own a computer, your own computer, was about as wild as the idea today of owning your own nuclear submarine. It was beyond comprehension.

[23:00] There would be no unnecessary overhead or extravagant spending habits with Microsoft.

[25:00] “Pertec kept telling me I was being unreasonable and they could deal with this guy [Gates]. It was like Roosevelt telling Churchill that he could deal with Stalin.

[27:00] Four years in and Microsoft had only 11 employees.

[28:00] Gates sustained Microsoft through tireless salesmanship. For several years he alone made the cold calls and haggled, cajoled, browbeat, and harangued the hardware makers of the emerging personal computer industry, convincing them to buy Microsoft's services and products. He was the best kind of salesman there is: he knew the product, and he believed in it. Moreover, he approached every client with the zealotry of a true believer.

[29:00] When we got up to 30 employees, it was still just me, a secretary, and 28 programmers. I wrote all the checks, answered the mail, took the phone calls.

[31:00] This might be Bill’s most important decision ever: IBM had talked to Gates about a fixed price for an unlimited number of copies of the software Microsoft licensed to IBM. The longer Gates thought about this proposal the more he became convinced it was bad business. Gates had decided to insist on a royalty arrangement with IBM.

[34:00] You have to be uncompromised in your level of commitment to whatever you are doing, or it can disappear as fast as it appeared. 

Look around, just about any person or entity achieving at a high level has the same focus. The morning after Tiger Woods rallied to beat Phil Mickelson at the Ford Championship in 2005, he was in the gym by 6:30 to work out. No lights. No cameras. No glitz or glamour. Uncompromised. 

Driven From Within by Michael Jordan and Mark Vancil. (Founders #213)

[36:00] Overdrive: Bill Gates and the Race to Control Cyberspace by James Wallace. (Founders #174)

[42:00] You can drive great people by making the speed of decision making really slow. Why would great people stay in an organization where they can't get things done? They look around after a while, and they're, like, "Look, I love the mission, but I can't get my job done because our speed of decision making is too slow."

Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos (Founders #155)

[43:00] Alexander the Great: The Brief Life and Towering Exploits of History's Greatest Conqueror--As Told By His Original Biographers by Arrian, Plutarch, and Quintus Curtius Rufus. (Founders #232)

[44:00] Gates was intolerant of distractions.


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