Careers

Bill Gates: Here's how to figure out what you'll be world-class at

Bill Gates
Adam Galica | CNBC

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard after two years to launch Microsoft, which he helped turn into a multibillion-dollar tech company.

He became a millionaire at the ripe age of 26, thanks to Microsoft's IPO, and today he's one of the world's richest people, with an estimated net worth of $90 billion.

During a Q&A with Harvard students last week, the entrepreneur shared a key to success: "The thing that you're likely to be world-class at is whatever you obsessed over from age 12 to 18. In my case, it was writing software."

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Gates has been fixated on tech since age 13, when he was a student at Lakeside School in Seattle, Washington. As Gates recalled in a 2005 speech, the school's "mothers club came up with the money to buy a teletype that connected over the phone lines with a GE time-sharing computer," and that machine effectively changed his life. He spent as much time as he could learning about computers, hacking and coding.

There's something to be said for chasing a dream. Some of the most successful people are fueled by their enthusiasm for what they're doing, including Gates' longtime friend Warren Buffett. "Being successful at almost anything means having a passion for it," says the Oracle of Omaha. "If you see somebody with even reasonable intelligence and a terrific passion for what they do, ... things are gonna happen."

Buffett's right-hand man Charlie Munger has a similar perspective. "I have never succeeded very much in anything in which I was not very interested," he says. "If you can't somehow find yourself very interested in something, I don't think you'll succeed very much, even if you're fairly smart."

Not every successful person says to find a career path that piques your natural interest. Self-made billionaire and "Shark Tank" star Mark Cuban, for example, says that following your passion is "one of the great lies of life. "

But for Gates, Buffett and others, that career advice has worked wonders.

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Bill Gates
Adam Galica | CNBC
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