Bill Gates and Warren Buffett on Success

In 2006, the two stood before business students at the University of Washington to share their personal philosophies about success.
(The following conversation is an excerpt of SkyQuestCom’s Master Channel January Highlight)

How do you define success personally?

WARREN: Well, I can certainly define happiness. Because that’s what I am. (Audience laugh) I get to do what I like to do every single day of the year and I get to do it with the people I like. I don’t have to associate with someone who causes my stomach to churn. (Audience laugh) And the only thing in my job I don’t like, and it only happens in about 3 or 4 years, is that occasionally I have to fire somebody. I don’t like that. It is the only thing, other than that, I tap dance to work.

And I get down there, I think I am supposed to lie on my back and paint the ceiling, that’s the way I feel! It’s tremendous fun. They say success is getting what you want and happiness wanting what you get. Well, I don’t know which one applies in this case but I do know I wouldn’t be doing anything else. I do advise you to go work for an organisation you admire, with people you admire, because it will turn you on and you ought to be happy at where you are working.

I always worry about people who say, “I’m going to do this for 10 years, even though I don’t like it very well but I will do 10 more years of this.” I mean that’s little like saving up sex for your old age. (Audience laugh hard) It’s not a very good idea, so get right into what you enjoy and you will be successful at it! (Audience laugh hard) You really will, you wouldn’t be able to miss.

I don’t regard what I do is the most important thing in the world but it’s right for me. I happen to be wired in a certain way in that what I do works in this. It lasts about 10 minutes and that’s true for a lot of things. But luckily I kind of stumbled on the thing I do best and it’s worked out.

BILL: I find that the key point is that you’ve got to enjoy what you do everyday. For me, that’s working with very smart people. It’s working on new problems. You know every time we think, “Hey we have a little bit of success”, we are pretty careful not to dwell on it too much because the bar gets raised, as do people’s expectations of the products. We always get customer feedback telling us that machines are too complicated, they are not natural enough.

And the competition, the breakthroughs, the research, make the field I’m in, which I think is the most exciting field there is. There’s another good field- biotechnology is a good field because it is changing the world of medicine and health. But the computer industry, in particular software, I think is the most exciting. I think I have the best job in that business.

WARREN: (Quips jokingly) Don’t you think Dairy Queen is more important? (Audience laugh)

BILL: You can manage Dairy Queen. I’ll go and buy the Dilly bars.

WARREN: I’m counting on it. We’ll raise the price when you come. (Audience laugh and clap)

BILL: (Replies jokingly) Ok.

WARREN: I have turned down business deals that were otherwise decent deals because I don’t want to deal with people I don’t like to work with. I didn’t see any sense pretending it and to take it on, to get involved with people who cause your stomach to churn. I say it’s a lot like marrying for money. It’s probably a bad idea under any circumstances but it’s absolutely crazy if you’re already rich, right?

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