The 3 best pieces of advice Bill Gates would give his 19-year-old self

Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates
Photo by Doug Wilson

If the 61-year-old Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Bill Gates could whisper in the ear of his 19-year-old-self, he would have a few things to say about what he's learned.

In an expansive and far-reaching reddit Ask Me Anything session on Monday, Gates reveals the three best pieces of advice he would give his younger self.

Intelligence is multifaceted

"I would explain that smartness is not single-dimensional and not quite as important as I thought it was back then," Gates says.

While he now realizes that IQ may be overrated, Gates has often emphasized the importance of being curious. An interest in the world can and should be fostered, he says.

"I think having parents and teachers reinforce your curiosity and explain what they are fascinated with makes a big difference," Gates says.

Smartness is not single-dimensional and not quite as important as I thought it was back then.
Bill Gates
co-founder of Microsoft

He encourages people to remain committed to learning throughout their lives. "A lot of people lose their curiosity as they get older, which is a shame," he says. "One thing that helps nowadays is that if you get confused about something it is easier than ever to find an article or video to make things clear."


"I would say you might explore the developing world before you get into your forties," says Gates.

Bill and his wife Melinda's first trip to Africa in 1993 changed the course of their lives. "We went to Africa for a vacation to see the animals, but it was during this trip that we had our first encounter with deep poverty and it had a profound impact on us," writes Gates in a blog post from 2012.

Bill Gates
Katie Kramer | CNBC

"It was a phenomenal trip," says Gates. "Not long after we returned from this trip, Melinda and I read that millions of poor children in Africa were dying every year from diseases that nobody dies from in the U.S: measles, hepatitis B, yellow fever. Rotavirus, a disease I had never even heard of, was killing half a million kids each year.

"We thought if millions of children were dying, there would be a massive worldwide effort to save them. But we were wrong."

One of the primary missions of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is to alleviate hunger and extreme poverty around the world.

Be a better manager

Gates is famously an introvert — one of his favorite TED talks is "The Power of Introverts" — but he also was pretty hard to deal with in the office.

Joel Spolsky, the CEO of the network of question-and-answer sites Stack Overflow and co-founder of the software company and incubator Fog Creek Software, recalls his first performance review with Gates when Spolsky worked for him at Microsoft in 1992. The team would count how many times Gates used the F word, he writes.

Gates used the profanity only four times during Spolsky's performance review, and that was the lowest tally anyone could remember.

Reflecting on his brush exterior, Gates says he was, at the time, immature.

"I wasn't very good socially back then but I am not sure there is advice that would fix that — maybe I had to be awkward and just grow up," says Gates.

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