Power Players

How billionaire Bill Gates says he keeps his ego in check

Billionaire Bill Gates at The New York Times DealBook event on November 6, 2019
Credit: Mike Cohen/ The New York Times

A lot could go to Bill Gates' head given that he's the second richest person alive with a fortune of more than $109 billion, as well as one of the most recognized and accomplished entrepreneurs in the world. (He, after all, co-founded Microsoft — which now has a market cap of more than $1 trillion — at the age of 19 after dropping out of Harvard.)

But Gates says he mostly keeps his ego in check. One of the big ways he does so is by avoiding the public as much as possible. 

"Part of it is that you limit the amount of time you go out into the world, because it's a little bit distortive," Gates said Wednesday at The New York Times DealBook event.

In particular, he avoids bars, because "people are even more aggressive about coming up and talking" there, he said.

Still, Gates, 64, whose net worth is just a couple billion shy of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' fortune of $111 billion, said if he does get a big head at times, that's quickly corrected by either his wife, Melinda, or his best friend, billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

"If I come back and I look like I'm all puffed up, they cut me down to size a little bit," Gates said.

Gates said he also stays humble by doing normal activities, like washing the dishes after dinner each night and driving his kids to school in the morning.

Gates said his kids also keep him cool and up-to-date.

"I have kids that think I don't see the world in a modern enough way, including even some technology things they use that they find amazing," said Gates, who has two daughters, Phoebe, 17, and Jennifer, 23, and a son, Rory, 20.

For instance, Gates prefers to communicate via email, but that bugs his daughters.

"I've got to check Instagram because my youngest daughter likes to communicate there [and] I have to check WhatsApp because another child likes to communicate through that," he said at the DealBook event.

If he doesn't comply with his kids' requests, he says, they accuse him of "not paying attention" to their lives.

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