Nine Things Bill Gates Taught Me About Life & Business

Growing up I’ve always had the passion for business and Bill Gates was someone who I had always looked up to and kept an eye on. I’m sure a lot of people felt this same way, as Bill Gates was the common person of choice when you thought of someone who was super successful and rich. This of course was before the rise of the internet.

As a kid who was always coming up with new ways to make money and run businesses, I often heard the phrase “He’s the next Bill Gates!” – it’s not that I was making a TON of money in my pre-teens/early teens, but is that I had the same mentality and passion that Bill probably had when he was starting his first companies and Microsoft.

I thought it would be fun to reflect back on the years and see how some of Bill Gates’s most notable quotes apply to myself and business in general. Feel free to grab any of these quotes and post them on your blog, social networks or whatever you like.

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

This quote is very true in the world of online marketing. One day you can make an amazing web site, mobile app or ad campaign and do $100,000 in profit in a few short weeks, then you can start thinking you are the king of the world and then the campaign dies out. You always need to stay on your toes and make sure you keep your feet on the ground.

Bill Gates Success

“Life is not fair, get used to it.”

Life definitely isn’t fair… what happened to someone and not to others is all of the difference in the world. Why did this person have to die, why did another get to win the lottery, why do nice people always finish last? – all common questions that just prove life isn’t fair, however that doesn’t mean everything has to happen by chance. Nearly all entrepreneurs are successful because of their own ambition, passion and dedication to succeed. While life may very well be unfair, you do still have a fighting chance to take charge and make the most out of it.

Bill Gates Life

“Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world… if you do so, you are insulting yourself.”

Life in general is hard enough, but in the business world it can be even tougher. Constantly seeing companies sell for millions of dollars and always having someone younger come in with fresh new ideas is very overwhelming. The best thing you can do is to always try to improve your own life and business – comparing yourself to others will only waste time and make you fall behind in both areas.

Bill Gates Don't Compare

“I failed in some subjects in exam, but my friend passed in all. Now he is an engineer in Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft.”

This is one of my favorite quotes from Bill Gates, specifically because it relates with me so closely. I wasn’t the best student in school, more so that I didn’t care as much about grades and I did what I needed to get by. I made honor roll a few times and once I realized there was no difference between making it and not, it was just something I wanted to prove to myself that I could do. This applied even more so in high school when I first started my business and was making more than most of my teachers at the time.

Another funny story about this quote and my time in high school was when I took my first computer programming class. They handed out a quick test on the first day for everyone to take. I had no idea what the questions/answers were and failed the test. I ended up dropping the class and never looked at C++/programming again. Now I run my own company and can hire the best programmers in the world.

Bill Gates Failed in Subjects

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”

Speaking of teachers and high school… this is another great quote that applies to many of us. While in school we have many teachers, but we will really only remember a few of them. The ones we remember are the BEST and the WORST ones, though the best ones may have been the ones who took the time to make sure each student got the attention they needed, made sure no one was bullying students in the classroom or even came up with and and creative ways to teach their courses. The takeaway here is that teachers (in any situation) can make or break the future and success of a student/individual.

Bill Gates Technology

“If you can’t make it good, at least make it look good.”

Not only does this principle apply to business, but it really applies to everything! A first impression is made upon everything at first glance and that first impression can never be taken away. Does someone look good when you first meet them? Do you want a car because it looks good, or what’s under the hood? No matter what the situation is, always make sure what you are working with also looks best on the outside.

Bill Gates Look Good

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

Celebrating your success is awesome, but never forget where you came from. For every successful person you hear of in life and business, there are thousands of failed dreams and projects right behind them. Appreciate and celebrate your success, but you must always learn from your failures as well. Nothing lasts forever and you always need to be ready for what’s next.

Bill Gates Failure

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Another very accurate and important point from Mr. Gates. Remember the last time you went to a restaurant and the service or food was horrible, but when someone came by to ask how everything was, you just said “thanks, everything is good!” – this is a perfect example an unhappy customer that could have told the owner of the business how to make something better, so it wouldn’t happen to other customers. No one wants to hear negatives about themselves or their business, but they must be heard and listened to in order to make things better.

Bill Gates Customers

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

The internet is drastically changing everything around us. One of the amazing things it has done for all of us is given us the ability to be leaders and authority figures for other people around the world. I’ve been able to expand my reach to millions of people around the world thanks to the blog, and everyday thousands of people will start a new web site, blog or social networking account of their own for the first time. The internet is amazing and it’s giving everyone the ability to have their voice heard and become a leader to anyone anywhere.

Bill Gates Leaders

I hope you’ve enjoy my 1,200+ word post on my real life experiences and how they relate to come of the most well known quotes from Bill Gates. Be sure to leave your own favorite quotes and thoughts in the comment section below.

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  1. “If you can’t make it good, at least make it look good.”

    I really like that one! Sometimes when you’re doing your damnest to make something good, it sometimes doesn’t turn out the way you intend it to. But in those situations, the best thing to do is just to be done with the project and make it look good that it is done.

    Get shit done, right?

    ** Dust off hands and go **

    1. Yes, Get Shit Done! … so much time is wasted on perfecting products, then you end up losing your edge. Build something awesome and release it, then make it even better in the next round.

  2. Oh my! The last lesson “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” sums up eveything i’ve learned from this post

    Thanks for this Zac

  3. The Bill Gates quote about teachers above is the one that grabbed me and reminded me of this crucial lesson I picked up from Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Chef book . . .


    “His first question when we sat down to lunch was, ‘When you go to pee in restaurant urinal, do you wash your hands before or after you pee?”

    I was stunned. ‘Afterwards, sir.’

    He looked at me sourly. ‘That’s the wrong answer. You’re a conventional thinker and not rational. I always wash before rather than after.”


    My first visit to the American Kickboxing Academy to train with Dave Camarillo was memorable.

    Not because his technical abilities are amazing (which they are), and not because elite judoka fear him on the ground and top jujitsu players fear him on his feet (both true), but because his students were uniformly difficult to deal with.

    Sure, you have the UFC champions like Cain Velasquez and soon-to-be champions, who travel to San Jose, California, from around the world to be engineered by the Camarillo machine and the magic touch of Javier Mendez.

    But I found the lesser mortals even more impressive.

    Blue belts, with far less experience than me, were throwing arm bars from angles I’d never seen and exhausting me from postures I couldn’t break. At first, I assumed it was one or two standouts. No such luck. I began to spot patterns—first principles—that his disciples had wired into their DNA, like marines reassembling guns blindfolded. The positions were the same, pressure was applied in the same places, and each input was paired with its desired output. The 230-lb guys weren’t brute forcing things like I expected—they were attempting to fine-tune in the same way that the 130-lb players had to. Something was different.

    His students were infuriatingly reliable.

    In contrast, most world famous black belts, often world-class athletes, teach a hodgepodge of random techniques. Daily classes are submissions du jour that leave students to assemble the puzzle themselves. Some succeed, but the vast majority fail. At the very least, students plateau for months or years at a time.

    There is no system, no clear progression.

    Dave had what other coaches didn’t: a logical sequence.


    This is what I feel is so crucial for anyone seeking to be a teacher of another person(s) to have FIRST – a logical sequence that when followed the student can’t help but to gradually become more and more successful.

    In my opinion, THIS is where the money is to be had in information marketing – cultivating the logical progression where the only person to blame for failure is the person that does NOT use what they bought or even show up for their training in the first place.

    A logical progression that creates infuriatingly reliable students is the utopia and I honor the teachers out there who create learning experiences that meet this criteria for those wishing to learn from them. 🙂

  4. hey Zac

    I like the fact your site
    loads very fast, and the new design rocks, sincerely!

    As in regard to your
    article, that’s the quote I love the most — “Your most unhappy customers are
    your greatest source of learning.”

    I wanted to ask you: how did
    you create these nice-looking graphics, and do you share them on Pinterest?

    John Gibb

  5. Bill Gates is a great guy & has some great words of wisdom for all of us. I recently saw him on a Jimmy Fallon episode amazing the donations he gives away and having some of the richest in the world pledge 50% of all there money to donate it is amazing!

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