Tweak Your Biz » Growth » What Motivates Bill Gates? What Influences Provided The Motivation?

What Motivates Bill Gates? What Influences Provided The Motivation?



“What made Bill Gates the success he is?” That was the question posed by Tweak Your Biz’s Managing Editor Sian Phillips, “can you write about that John?” The simple answer, he formed the world’s first Software Company, Microsoft with Paul Allen. For the real answer, you have to reach way further back in Bill Gates’ life. As Matthew Syed calls it in his book “Bounce”, Gates “Autobiographical History” is key to explaining the motivation that drives Gates and many other “child prodigies”.

Motivation

Made rather then Makes!

Why did I deliberately use the word Made as opposed to Makes, in the opening line of this postAfter studying this area of human behaviour for some time I have come to the conclusion, what happens in our formative years, defines you. Nothing earth shattering there, but when you see the research laid out in written form by people like Matthew Syed and Malcolm Gladwell you see a pattern appear which gives you an insight as to the power of Autobiographical History.

In the books that Syed and Gladwell have written, Autobiographical History is key to the development of Bill Gates and many other so called “child prodigies’. In the debate about Nature or Nurture, on the research evidence produced by these two writers, Nurture wins every time. So in Bill Gates’ case his early family life, the competitive streak instilled by his parents, plus his schools decision to embrace early computer technology and add in his meeting Paul Allen in that Seattle school, all added up. This autobiographical history created the “Perfect Storm” which made Bill Gates the person and business man he is.

Early Family Life

Gates’ mother Mary Maxwell was from a wealthy and well connected background and was a keen sports woman, his father a lawyer. From an early age the Gates children were encouraged to engage in sports activity. On their summer holidays they would organise their own Olympic Games, according to participants these were very competitive. 

Bill’s thirst for knowledge was fed and encouraged by his parents. When Bill hit 11-12 years of age he had already developed a strong personality and would not take much instruction from his parents, he was also socially inept with his peers. While his parents were strong supporters of the public school system, it was decided that Bill should move to the Private Lakeside school to challenge his eager mind. This proved important for two reasons:-

# 1. Lakeside decided to embrace the new technology, computers. They hooked the school, via a Teletype Model 33, to General Electric’s computer. This was all facilitated by the local Mothers Club, of which Bill’s mother Mary was a member. Bill fell in love with the Teletype. So much so he would leave the family house late at night to go to the school to use the Teletype.

# 2. The other major thing that happened at Lakeside was the meeting of Bill and Paul Allen. They both became addicted to the Teletype and later became the Co-Founders of Microsoft.

Long Hours of Dedication

In their books both Syed, Bounce, Gladwell, Outliers, believe that 10,000 hours of practice is needed to become brilliant at any discipline. Syed researched Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi, Mozart, and many more so called child prodigies. They discovered a pattern on which they based their theory of Autobiographical History. In each case they discovered parents influence or coaches influence, (as was Syed’s own case, he competed at the Sydney Olympics for the UK in table tennis), as the main reasons for the child’s successful mastery of any discipline.

Bill got his 10,000 hours in Lakeside and at the Computer Center Corporation, which allowed Gates and his friends to use their facilities in return for the guys helping to find bugs in the CCC system. This allowed Gates and Allen to develop their knowledge of code. But what is missing from this perfect picture? What made these and the other child prodigies that Syed and Gladwell write about so dedicated? Motivation, Intrinsic Motivation.

Intrinsic Motivation

Gates, Woods and Agassi were coached by their person of influence to love every aspect of the discipline they were undertaking. In Woods case his father Earl had Tiger sitting in his high chair watching him chipping and putting in his garage before he could walk or talk. Tiger appeared on local television at two and a half years of age putting with a cut down club. Woods has spoken of how he loves the long hours of grind that it takes to improve his game.

Agassi’s father, though they later fell out, ingrained a love of practice, hitting the tennis ball time after time, hour after hour in Agassi, something he later mentioned in one of his speeches after winning a Grand Slam tournament. Gates parents instilled a love of learning, this intrinsic motivation drove Bill on as it did Agassi and Woods to great things.

Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose

Daniel Pink’s Ted Talk on the subject of Intrinsic Motivation covers, Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose, which are the three pillars of Intrinsic Motivation.

  • Mastery; Bill mastered code, this allowed him to go on to develop Windows
  • Autonomy; being in charge of yourself, taking control of your own situation
  • Purpose; being part of a larger story, in the service for the greater good. In Bill’s case devising software which simplified the use of the computer.

Conclusion

Bill Gates is a hugely successful business man doing great philanthropic work with the fortune he made at Microsoft. It is my opinion, as laid out above, that this success was due to his Autobiographical History. This history instilled an Intrinsic Motivation which drove him on, taking on Steve Jobs and IBM along the way and winning. His purpose was unshakable even when challenged by a giant like IBM. I hope this answers the question for you Sian but will the readers agree?

Did you like this article? Sign up for our RSS, join us on Facebookon Twitter and on Google+ to get the latest Tweak Your Biz articles and updates.

Images:  ”Microsoft’s Bill Gates / Shutterstock.com



Sponsored Content

The Author:

Co-Founder at the Ahain Group. The first blogger to name the MDEC Model. A social business enthusiast and looking to learn something new every day. Which is not difficult to find online. Keen golfer and Munster Rugby supporter. http://www.ahaingroup.com

Add Your Comment

  • Elish Bul

    Thanks for that – Another important element I discovered via Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”
    was that his education and exposure to the technology gave him the 10,000 hours required to develop real excellence in the field

  • John Twohig

    Thank you for your comment, guest.

  • disqus_SfanuQG0gQ

    That’st great motivational post. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  • John Twohig

    Your welcome

  • http://www.smartsolutions.ie/blog/ Elaine Rogers

    It’s wonderful to be at the cutting edge when the place and time is right for motivation, invention and innovation. I often wonder John, what the likes of Jobs or Gates would have done, if born 50 or 100 years before :)

  • John Twohig

    They are the Henry Ford or Edison of their time. With the exception of the dark ages human kind have always innovated and invented. Fire, the wheel, the steam engine. All of these people led the innovation in their time, by seeing things from a slightly different angle. Mostly like Jobs they were seen as nutters, head bangers. Ford refused to except the V8 engine was impossible, in the end his was proved right, his engineers must have thought he was nuts, invention and innovation is all around you every day Elaine.