Bill Gates Speaks
December 16, 2023
Awhile ago, I finished reading the book Bill Gates Speaks. Purchase it here.
One day while talking to some people about reading books and such, I became fascinated with how much Bill Gates reads. I watched a video on YouTube about his “Think Week” where he would take off to a cabin to read and think. One day I want to do the same.
Following my own curiosity about Bill Gates, I went to the library to check out books on Bill Gates called Bill Gates Speaks. I found some quotes that I thought were insightful.
“Maintaining focus is a key to success. You should understand your circle of competence, the thing that you’re good at and spend your time and energy there.”
There was this time where someone had said that the key to growing in your career was to “be competent” and the above quote really reminded me of that. Instead of trying to be a jack/jill of all things, sometimes it’s better to specialize yourself in just one thing and become truly familiar with it. I was often told in my career to become a “go to person” on something. It helps build credibility and in an odd way, it builds a habit in people to ask you about things and see you as an expert.
Right now, at the time of writing this, it feels like the tech industry has a huge focus on execution and leaves very little in ways of careful craftsmanship. I understand the motivation. It’s a fast paced industry and if you don’t move fast and get ahead of the market, you’re going to be left in the dust. However, this next quote really struck a chord with me.
“Software is a great combination between artistry and engineering. When you finally get done and get to appreciate what you have, it is like a part of yourself that you’ve put together.”
For me, I get a lot of satisfaction when I’m working on a huge feature and things start coming together and the feature actually works. However, I get greater satisfaction when I have the opportunity to go back and improve on the work I’ve done. I appreciate good craftsmanship and it’s a very satisfying feeling when you get to improve old work and raise it to a higher standard. Unfortunately, these improvement opportunities have become a little more rare in my day to day because of the strong focus on execution and delivery. However, I think it forces me to consider “how can I do it right the first time?”
It puts more thought at the start of a project rather than relying on the idea that we’ll have time later to go back and improve it.
“If you take quality as a given, you are always going to have some uncertainty.”
The opportunity to do something fast and of quality is almost never a good game plan. Quality takes time. Could you build something that is viable? Sure. But quality comes with time, iteration and learning.
The next quote reminds me of something someone a long time ago had said to me. It was something along the lines of “do fewer things better.” Here is what Bill Gates said,
“Because there are not enough hours in a day, it’s tempting to try to do two things at once.”
Aside from multitasking being more error prone, I think it’s rarely a good idea to have constant context switching. In my experience, multi-tasking only really works if you have one active task and one passive task. It’s like driving and listening to an audiobook. It works because most of the time, if I’m driving, I’m going somewhere where I don’t need to pay too much attention to what road to take or the speed limit. It’s muscle memory. It affords me to be able to give my ears to an audiobook and focus on what is being said.
Here’s a few more takeaway quotes I noted down.
“Spending money intelligently is as difficult as earning it. Giving away money in meaningful ways will be my main preoccupation later in my life — assuming I still have a lot to give away.”
“The world of business is moving faster and faster and it’s increasingly global. Using these digital systems to keep everybody in touch and analyea information in a rich way will be critical to the success of business in the future.
“But we can afford to make a few mistakes now. And we can’t afford to not try.”