Power Players

28-year-old Bill Gates wasn't worried about burning out young—here's why

Watch 28-year-old Bill Gates explain why he didn't see himself as a genius

Burnout is a common problem in today's workforce, even among younger employees.

But when Bill Gates was young, he was confident that it wouldn't happen to him.

Gates taught himself programming at the age of 13, and, after dropping out of Harvard, founded Microsoft when he was just 19 years old. Microsoft landed its first big contract when he was 21, and in March of 1984 — when Gates was just 28 — he told Jane Pauley on NBC's "TODAY" that he was expecting Microsoft to hit just over $100 million that year in revenue.

It seemed the young founder might be burning the candle at both ends. Was Gates, Pauley asked, worried about being burned out by 30? 

No, he assured her. "How do you know?" Pauley asked.

"Well, the work we're doing is – it's not like we're doing the same thing all day long," said 28-year-old Gates. "We go into our offices and think up new programs, we get together in meetings, we go out and see end users, we talk to customers. There's so much variety and there's always new things going on. And I don't think there'll ever come a time when that would be boring."

Indeed, Gates did not burn out. He went on to build Microsoft into a massive tech empire, and became the youngest billionaire in history in 1987 when he was 31 years old, shortly after Microsoft went public. In 1995, he became the richest man in the world, with a reported fortune of $12.9 billion, a title that he held on and off for decades.

Gates, now 63, is still the second richest person the world with a net worth of $97.6 billion, and keeps busy alongside his wife Melinda as the chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest private charitable foundation, according to Forbes.

It's safe to say that for Gates, burnout wasn't really an issue. But even back when he was 28, the thought of an immense fortune isn't what drove him to work tirelessly. When asked by Pauley in 1984 whether he was in it for the money, he said that money wasn't what excited him.

"I don't think anyone at the company is in it for the money," Gates said in the 1984 interview. "It's a much more exciting field than trying to measure exactly how much we're selling or how much it's worth. The creation of these programs is something you can sit down and see people enjoying and and solving real problems."

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