Here's a small writing assignment I wrote for my MBA class on a video I found somewhat eye-opening.
Buffett And Gates On Success
Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft, and Warren Buffett, an investment expert, are the two wealthiest men in the world, and were invited by the University of Washington to have a candid conversation with its Business students on what success is. The session was later released on video with the title, ?Buffett And Gates on Success.? This paper summarizes the characteristics, beliefs, and values on what Gates and Buffett shared as having contributed to their success.
Common beliefs that both Gates and Buffett attributed to their achievements are:
- Having a vision
- Enjoy doing what you will be doing daily
- Taking risks
- Not quitting
- Picking the right people to work with or for you
A vision ? or a direction ? on where one would like to go helps define what one would like to accomplish in one?s lifetime. It can help guide individuals, or even groups, towards a common, all-encompassing goal, and provide the inspiration to find the strength to take risks and never give up in achieving whatever parameters one defines for ?success.? At the same time, if one doesn?t take risks into uncertainty, then how can the first step be taken towards reaching the goal? Warren Buffett described taking risks as ?jumping into the pool? and dealing with possible consequences afterwards. The importance was to get started. That?s also how many learn how to swim ? taking that first chance.
Just like taking a plunge into the pool for the first time to learn how to swim, however, risks sometimes pay off and sometimes they do not. One of the qualities both Gates and Buffett shared is that an important step towards reaching success is to not give up even when the tough gets tough. As Henry Ford once said, ?When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.?
What would work be if it is not fun? Gates absolutely seems to enjoy being part of some of the most powerful men in the world who can shape society towards the better through technology. Buffett loves playing the investment game and quipped that he will retire five years after he is dead. Both thus agree that an important ingredient to success to enjoy doing what you would be doing every day.
Gates and Buffett also agreed that picking the right people to work with or for you is an important part as well. This will be covered in more detail later.
Bill Gates elaborated on the aforementioned beliefs with fascination and strong interests in the kind of work he is doing. He very much enjoys technology, a field that most perhaps would have considered ?nonsense? over two decades ago, and had a vision ? a limitless one ? to use his passion to improve society. He began by focusing on this vision and finding ways on making it happen by exploring opportunities for breakthroughs. His greatest role models were his parents who constantly encouraged his family to read and learn about the inner workings of business.
Gates faced many obstacles in his career. In fact, his early years were filled with huge, defeating challenges that could have forced him to declare bankruptcy. But Gates endured. He wanted to make his vision happen and continued to take risks against all odds. Gates went on to become the wealthiest man in the world, and attributes part of his success to having partnered with the right people. They allowed him to operate with trust, and provided various sets of skills and checks-and-balances with a common vision, and find the inspiration to take on the looming bankruptcies of his early career. In fact, he stated that picking the right people was his best business decision he ever made.
Warren Buffett said that what made him successful is rationality, not necessarily intelligence. The rationality to allow oneself to succeed and not be self-defeating through hindering thoughts such as, ?I can?t do this.? He added that one must simply find the qualities that one admires in others, and take those qualities as one?s own to practice on. With sufficient practice, those qualities would eventually become habit-forming and permanently be part of one?s self.
Buffett likens success to happiness. His triumph is simply to have become a happy person. And happy he certainly appeared through his funny, humorous, optimistic personality. He seemed to be quite a people-person, an attribute he credits his wife with, and further stated that both she and his father have been his role models. When asked about innovation, Buffett said that if you can successfully get your top managers to want to do what they are doing every day, even if they have already met or exceeded their financial needs, they would do the innovation for you simply because they are enjoying their work. This suggests that Buffett does not get involved with running a company he acquires, but rather leave all decisions to the top executives of that organization. The hands-off approach would allow his managers to grow and be empowered to take their business to the next levels, adding to the bottom-line of Buffett?s investment firm.
With all the success both men are enjoying, what would they like to change if they had the chance? Gates openly shared that if he had the opportunity, he would have liked to change the way he spent his free time. He cited that many opportunities would not have been lost if he had spent his time more wisely. Buffett, on the other hand, would like to change nothing. He is happy and thankful for everything he has at this moment.
Bill Gates appeared to me as a serious business person who answered his questions with mostly serious, concise, well-crafted responses that were in line with his vision of using technology to better the world. He is not known for being as charismatic and motivating a presenter as Apple?s Steve Jobs, but his heart and passion towards his vision came through clearly. His business sense and aspiration to improve the world have certainly driven him to lead Microsoft to become the global leader in personal software development.
Warren Buffett emerged as a humorous, optimistic, and happy individual. There was not much to dislike about his personality. This quality has undoubtedly helped him inspire individuals and groups towards helping him achieve the success he is currently enjoying. However, most of his responses did not directly answer the questions posed to him or both him and Bill Gates. He replied with wittiness that made almost everyone laugh, but in the end did not necessarily answer the subject matter.
Warren Buffett is a very likeable person and Bill Gates has a passion to shape society towards a better world. Both have achieved success through having a limitless, passionate vision, taking risks and not quitting, picking the right people for the job, and by doing what they enjoy doing the most. Their insight will certainly have an impact on individuals who would like to strive towards their own success.
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