Few people don’t know Bill Gates the tech entrepreneur, business tycoon and philanthropist. He grew up in an amazingly supportive upper-middle family that fostered a passion for computers early on in life. But that wasn’t the most important thing his family nurtured at young. Bill’s the first to tell you that success takes a combination of smart habits, a relentless spirit, and a fist full of luck to make do. Albert Einstein would have him know, though, that one of the three gifts would have had to come first for the other two to matter: “Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.” Humans are creatures of habit. Our success or failure is a mere reflection of it. Bill Gates, the role model of so many today, is no exception.
A classic proverb has it, A stitch in time saves nine, inferring that problems are best fixed at the soonest opportunity before it turns into something that would take 9 times the effort should the can be kicked down the road. Similarly, a good habit in time saves nine vices from filling the void later on, instead. Carrots over sticks go even one better. Good habits determine whether you will be able to find and hone your passion long enough to master the craft, or not. The gist of the message being not merely good formations, but ones formed early enough to last, also. Thus, the formative years represent a precious window for habitual development, in light of something to later become personality traits called soft skills. Most professionals are familiar with them in the form of transferable skills, like social skills in interacting with others, communication skills; particularly productive verbal and writing skills, analytical skills which lead to study habits, focus, objectivity and creativity; as well as adaptability, time management and discipline, all of which unfurl the outset for work ethics to form. All soft capacities also have to be transferable under pressure to walk the teamwork tightrope and develop leadership later on. Thus, a healthy outlook of life is required to create something meaningful enough on a spiritual level for effort to persist over time. That, and on the other hand further downstream, are hard skills, or what most of us acknowledge as nontransferable expertise that’s applicable within measurable parameters, e.g., mathematics, science, computer programming or chemistry. Hard and soft are equally important, but to clearly distinguish the two from each another, however, one takes an entire village to pull off while the other could be left to more artificial engagements. Every person has a unique matrix of hard and soft abilities. Interestingly, Bill had obvious hard skills but he grew up short of a particular soft spot that most of us would have thought were the most important of all. He wasn’t very sociable in college, which probably explains why he’s never considered a career in politics to-date. “I wish I had gotten to know more people”, he regretted in an interview with CNBC. Yet, he thrived with 9 other soft springboards to success. Let’s take a look at what they are.
1. Critical Thinking & Learner Autonomy
Critical thinking requires the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment. It’s a vital soft skill that Bill Gates dedicates an entire week to twice a year for deep thought engagement. He does so in a secluded cabin that provides a conducive environment for peace of mind and heightened levels of focus. There, he goes through important literature and innovative ideas on his mind. One brainchild of a week in the deep sea trench is the Internet Explorer that easily saw itself on everyone’s desktop back in the early days of the 3IR. Add a period of critical thinking to your annual repertoire, and you, too, are guaranteed focus and creative thoughts that take you to places you never imagined, i.e., provided you are really left to focus.
Learning autonomy, on the flip side of the same coin, is the opposite of passive learning, i.e., studying only when and what you are told to learn. It’s a proactive approach driven by insatiable curiosity and passion inspired by deep contemplation, role models and spiritual temperaments that play into the mix.
2. Make the most of the shortest free time
Every length of time we all have, regardless of how short, Bill Gates recommends using those 5 to 15 minutes time windows for something productive like reading a book, an article, or check email. He does it all the time but, of course, he reads extremely fast!
3. Time Management
You must clearly identify that agenda and plan and schedule a time to be spent for every day, accordingly, e.g., what should best take place between 9:00-10:00am which is currently a free time slot. This is important as there is something unique to do on each day that makes the most sense to carry out with regards to different time frames. Everyone often has more than one thing to clean up. Without time boxing, unfinished tasks will accumulate and spill over to prevent other tasks from being completed. As the to-do list lengthens for the day, Bill would divide his time boxes into blocks of 5 minutes to get each of them done.
4. Prioritize and know your limits
You must have things to accomplish each day. Prioritizing your tasks can help you allocate the most productive time to the most productive task, first. If you have 15 minutes, but there are multiple emails to answer, you can choose to work on the most important development first. Then find another 15 minutes to respond to other less important ones later. You also need to know what you are good at, what you are not, and match them to the types of tasks at hand. Work that requires creativity, focus or analytical thinking, such as writing or conceptual work must also be given priority and matched to your most productive working period or the time of day where you are most fresh and happy to think. Basic jobs that require little thinking, on the other hand, can be patched into available slots that remain. The time and work combination requires a different skills and focus and must be prioritized accordingly.
5. Work smarter, not unnecessarily harder
In the age of the IoT, one common denominator among high flyers is the embracement of smart systems and applications, particularly, when it makes life easier. Bill Gates takes his to-do list to the Outlook Calendar and uses SharePoint to prioritize tasks and ideas. There are so many cool apps out there, some free some for a small fee and some are expensive. The idea is to simplify ways of doing things for a more organized and easier productive life.
6. Get enough sleep
Healthy sleep is one of the most important things in life and is one of the most common denominators among highly successful people. Simply put, it takes a developed soft skill to let go of everything after a long day, a lot of important things to do tomorrow and go to sleep at night. People that sleep well don’t take anxiety, negativity or critical thinking to bed. Go to work on a bad sleep, on the other hand, and one hour feels like ten and an immediate collapse by COB. Bill Gates sleeps about 7 hours a day. He goes to sleep at midnight and wakes up at seven o’clock in the morning. Getting enough sleep is very important in order to let the body rest, recover and rebuild to meet the needs of the body the next day. With something as simple as a good sleep, the mind is clear, the world is fresh and everything is hunky-dory the next day. Life is beautiful! It’s that, or highway honky-tonk chasers.
7. Don’t put time and effort into trivial things
Never devote invaluable time and effort to things that will never get you anywhere especially when there are many other important things that need to get done, let alone ones to become an unhealthy addiction. Another brainchild of a week in the deep sea trench is self-exploration. You figure out which activities are letting you down, which aren’t going anywhere and which few are producing beneficial outcome. A classic example of the rule being enforced by someone else, are parents that make a deal with their child that financial aid to pursue a career in sports or acting will only last for 2 years. Another is wasting time on Social Media, not as a business rep or public figure, but as a consumer of the media chipping away with off the cuff comments in attacking everyone they disagree with. One secret to habitual development in the formative years, according to the billionaires, is smart device and connectivity restriction as it distracts from everything else productive.
8. Have a vision and mission
Another brainchild of critical thinking is having a good idea of what the future holds. Next, knowing what happiness is in that context and thus what you want to do and be in the future to be, i.e., a vision, is immensely important in determining what needs to happen now in order to get there, i.e., mission. Write a couple future perfect or future perfect progressive sentences for 5 to 10 years out from now to imagine yourself standing there and looking back in time to describe actions that have taken place up until that point, e.g., “I would have been an ecommerce business owner and working as a data scientist for 5 years by this time in 2024”. This technique will help stimulate new ideas about your present time situations and let you determine what time and effort is best devoted to, now.
Success: the 9th Soft Skill & the 3 Outlooks
Success is a relative term contingent upon one particular soft skill, despite the other 8 combined. While health, peace and acceptance in the social group is sufficiently satisfactory for some, others see things through the lens of pride and thus strive for survival with incremental wealth, fame and power. The perception of success that drives effort boils down to the formative years. For most successful people, it’s not so much how success is defined and has everything to do with formed habits that lead to it. Everyone with good habits is bound to make a difference one way or another, but only if the last soft skill has been developed. Without it, the right passion is impossible to find, let alone wasteful pursuits of dangerous illusions and dire consequences to ensue. Although critical thinking requires a degree of objectivity to see through disinformation and understand things the way they really are, conceptual judgements as a result thereof still need to be acted upon, undeterred by strife, to create something meaningfully tangible. Khunatham is the 9th soft skill that takes objectivity one step further to spring good intentions into action without the sway of self perception, feelings or interest, so help me Buddha.
In Por-Piang terms, Bill Gates is a master of Khunatham as he’s one of few that have successfully mastered actions through all 3 outlooks. First, he’s progressive as a technologist with subject matter expertise and as a business entrepreneur. Yet, next, he’s balanced as an efficient businessman that is also a sufficient family and community member that enjoys the simple things in life as much as a mentally-physically strong individual that shares the same planet with humanity along with other species, sustainably, with ecological-economical co-evolutionary undertakings. Lastly, he is loving as a philanthropist that promotes self and social immunity for all walks of life. The latter, for decades, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been helping all that live in hunger and destitute return to healthy and productive lifestyles. They are also the principal founders of the GivingPledge.org, along with Warren Buffett, where wealthy billionaires around the world commit to give away more than half of their wealth for humanitarian causes and environmental sustainability. The latter, there’s never been a greater threat to us as a species on a scale of planetary extinction in the short history of man’s industrialisation. As of May 2019, the giving pledge has 204 signatories from 22 countries and a total of over $500 billion and increasing.
How’s that for spiritual temperament!
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Photos gatesnotes.com, freepik.com