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8 Pieces of Advice Bill Gates Would Give His Younger Self

Let's just say, he would have done a few things differently.

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Bill Gates, 2004Paolo Bona/Shutterstock

What he’s learned along the way

As one of the most successful people alive, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has a lot of wisdom to share. But what advice would he give his younger self? Here is what he wished he knew earlier in his life and career.

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bill gates, 1992Jim Davidson/AP/Shutterstock

Be more self-aware

“I would try and make myself more self-aware without getting rid of the focus and desire to learn,” Gates said while reflecting on his younger days during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit in February 2019. Want to learn how to be more self-aware? These are five things you need for emotional intelligence.

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Bill Gates, 2016Seth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock

Understand the idea of different skill sets

“I was so naive about different skill sets. 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 said in a February 2018 interview at Hunter College in New York City with Mark Zuckerberg and Lin Manuel Miranda. If you’re looking to become more effective at work, here are 17 soft skills employers are looking for right now.

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Bill Gates, 2002Norm Betts/Shutterstock

Intelligence takes different forms

“Looking back on when I left college, there are some things I wish I had known. E.g., intelligence takes many different forms. It is not one dimensional. And not as important as I used to think,” he said in a 2017 tweet. Find out the 10 signs that you’re smarter than you realize.

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Bill Gates, 2004Jeff Christensen/EPA/Shutterstock

Understand that people develop socially at different paces

“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,” he said in a February 2017 “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit. If you’re someone who struggles socially, you may want to read about the science of surviving socially awkward moments.

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Bill Gates, 2018KAMIL ZIHNIOGLU/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Learn about the world’s inequities

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

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Bill Gates, 2018Markus Schreiber/AP/Shutterstock

Understand the importance of people who challenge you

“Surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self. As @MelindaGates does for me,” he said in a 2017 tweet. If this is something you need help with, check out these strategies for handling criticism from anyone.

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Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, 2018Ted S Warren/AP/Shutterstock

Hire people with different areas of expertise

“When I was young, I always hired thinking our organization would grow a lot. But the notion that these intelligences were as specialized as they are—I was so wrong—I thought, partly because of myself, or misperceptions of myself, that, ‘Hey, I can learn sales, what is that?’ You know, profit/loss—you take the sales, you subtract the costs. Do you need to go to business school? I don’t think so. I didn’t have enough respect for different, deep knowledge, I didn’t have enough respect for good management—what really good management is,” Gates said in a 2017 podcast interview with Reid Hoffman. Gates has, obviously, had a lot of successes.

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Bill Gates with Roger Federer, 2017AP/Shutterstock

Adopt a healthy work-life balance

“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,” he said in a 2014 “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit. Next, read on to find out the 20 books Bill Gates thinks you should read.

Elizabeth Yuko
Elizabeth is a bioethicist and journalist covering politics, public health, pop culture, travel, and the lesser-known histories of holidays and traditions for She's always mentally planning her next trip, which she'll base around visits to medical museums or former hospitals, flea markets, local cuisine, and stays in unusual Airbnbs or historic hotels.