How Bill Gates’ Mom Forever Changed My Idea of Success
The power of focusing on one thing at a time.
It was the 4th of July weekend, 1991, on the Gates’ family Hood Canal compound, off the coast of Seattle, that solidified a bond of friendship between Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and delivered to the world a prize piece of business advice.
Bill’s mother insisted on hosting a dinner party to finally introduce Bill and Warren, legendary tycoons who were, at the time, #28 and #19 , respectively, on the Forbes list.
Story has it neither guests of honor were quite interested in attending.
Bill worried that he would have nothing to talk about with a “stock-picker” and Warren worried Bill would babble on about personal computers — of which he did not own, nor was he inclined to.
Deciding to ignore the small talk they immediately jumped into a subject they both loved — business, and what drives it. Later that night around the dinner table Bill’s father, Bill Sr., asked everyone a very poignant question
“What factor is the most important thing in getting to where they’d gotten in life?”
Bill and Warren’s answers were the same — Focus.
Focusing on one thing at a time.
After doing some research on this I learned many of the greats adopted the same philosophy of being singularly focused rather than attempt to conquer all at once: Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali, Richard Branson, et al.
I stumbled upon this lesson about month ago and it has completely changed the way I will approach things. At once, I realized I had been spreading myself way too thin, without getting much accomplished.
Jack of all trades, master of none.
There are a few different ways of looking at the idea of focusing on one thing at a time. Do you:
1. Literally only do one thing at a time like Bill?
Bill would sit in a chair for hours to write code, and nothing else, when it meant improving the personal computer.
2. Keep a singular goal in mind, like Warren?
Warren focused on anything and everything he could get his hands on — so long as it related to investing. He let go of all sorts of other pursuits that interested him: art, literature, travel, science, to focus on his one passion.
I definitely lean more towards Warren’s. Keeping a central pursuit in mind, doing the many things needed to pursue that goal, and closing out anything that doesn’t serve it.
I heard someone refer to this as batch-tasking.
The first month of a new year and many of us are thinking of how we can make this year better than the last?
I encourage you to consider the idea of keeping focus on just one goal.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says —
A man who chases two rabbits catches neither.
Happy rabbit hunting my friends!