The Surprising Advice Bill Gates Would Give to His Younger Self

It makes perfect sense to take advice from billionaires. After all, they must be smarter than most people if they’ve managed to amass such great wealth, right? Well, not exactly.

Take Bill Gates for example. He’s one of the wealthiest people in the world (as of 2019, he’s ranked second) with a staggering net worth of $96.5 billion. Only Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is richer. But even though Gates spent his early adulthood accumulating money at a rapid pace, there are quite a few things he admits he would have done differently.

What advice would Bill Gates give his former self if he could? It’s all right here, and it’s not what you think.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Self-awareness is crucial

The problem with youth is it often clouds judgment. In an AMA session on Reddit, Gates admitted that he wasn’t always looking at issues clearly. “I would try and make myself more self-aware without getting rid of the focus and desire to learn,” Bill Gates said while discussing his younger years.

Even smart people aren’t good at everything

It’s a common enough belief — if you’re smart, you can achieve anything. But Bill Gates now admits that not all goals can be accomplished with just a big brain. “I was so naive about different skill sets,” he said.

“I thought if somebody had a high IQ, they could be good at everything. And that idea that you had to blend different skills together, that still surprises me. This notion that there was just this simple idea of smartness, and it could solve everything—I wish I had known better than to think that,” Gates explained during an interview at Hunter College.

Try to be less awkward

Bill Gates may have been good at math and science, but he never had the finesse of good social skills, which is crucial for building a business. “I wasn’t very good socially back then but I am not sure there is advice that would fix that — maybe I had to be awkward and just grow up,” Gates said during the Reddit AMA.

Be more aware that the world’s not fair

“I also have one big regret: When I left school, I knew little about the world’s worst inequities. Took me decades to learn,” Bill Gates tweeted in 2017.

Hang out with people who make you better

“Surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self. As Melinda Gates does for me,” Gates said on Twitter.

Work/life balance is key

“Twenty years ago I would stay in the office for days at a time and not think twice about it—so I had energy and naivete on my side. Now hopefully I am a bit more mellow but with a little extra wisdom,” Gates said during the AMA.

And one thing Bill Gates does more than many other rich people is give money to charity. Along with wife Melinda, Bill Gates supports important health care and learning initiatives through The Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world with a whopping $50.7 billion in assets.

It seems like Bill Gates did learn the most important lesson of all — it’s always better to give than it is to receive.