You’re alone with Bill Gates, what would you ask him?
Imagine the scenario: a series of extremely fortunate events get you the opportunity to interview Bill Gates. Maybe you are at a turning point in your journalism career, or your philanthropic business caught his eye and he asks to meet you. Or you just stood out from the crowd. Whatever. You are going to meet the man himself.
But what would you ask Bill Gates? He is one of the most intelligent and richest men in human history. A once in a lifetime opportunity like this shouldn’t be stuffed up by asking questions like ‘What’s your favorite meal?’
Would you ask Bill Gates about his views on the world and his philanthropy? Or ask for advice on how to be successful in your career, because after all he is the founder of Microsoft. These are some of the questions we would ask if we had a chance to meet Bill Gates…
First off: what influences Bill Gates
Asking Gates about his favorite food probably isn’t the best use of your time together. But there are some lifestyle things worth knowing about. Namely, books. He is known to be a prolific reader and often attributes some of his success to the knowledge and insight he gets from reading.
Bill Gates claims to read a book a week and regularly comments on his blog about what he’s reading. For example, last year one of his favorite books was: Business Adventures, Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by John Brooks.
Therefore a great way to begin your conversation with this man would be to ask him about his love of books, whether non-fiction or fiction. You could well find out something valuable.
You could also ask the man about his role models. An interesting conversation starter would be to see who inspires Bill Gates.
In previous interviews that have touched on the topic of role models, Bill Gates has always provided abstract answers, such as: ‘People who devote their lives to working in poor countries with very little visibility.’
It would be interesting to ask Bill Gates to name a specific person and why he is inspired by them.
A ring of confidence
Everyone has some career drive and a desire for success. But there are very few people in history who can claim to be more successful than Bill Gates.
Bill Gates is famous for dropping out of Harvard – just like the similarly successful Zuckerberg – something which in itself is a momentous decision. But Bill Gates was also known as an introvert and a geek who was lacking a bit on the social front. Finding out how Bill Gates found the confidence to take such a leap might help you boost your own self-confidence if that’s what you need.
Another key area of interest is his fierce management style. First-hand accounts of meetings with Bill Gates describe him as verbally combative. He berates managers for perceived holes in their business strategies or proposals that put the company’s long-term interests at risk.
The common element in these two topics is his confidence, so asking where Bill Gates gets it from would be very insightful.
Finally, if I was given the opportunity, I would ask Bill Gates what he feels his greatest achievement is. I have a feeling the answer may surprise me.
Since leaving Microsoft he has become a world renowned humanitarian, so would his answer be about his success with Microsoft or would it be philanthropy? If he said philanthropy, I’d be very interested to know why he values this more than the world of business.
What Bill Gates has done for the world
Obviously, you can’t have a conversation with Bill Gates without mentioning his work for humanity. Gates is famous for asking other billionaires to commit to giving away their fortunes. This was apparently inspired by his wife, Melinda’s reading The Power of Half by Kevin Salwen. Since then he has committed 95 percent of their fortune to charity over time. That is astoundingly generous.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is, according to Wikipedia, the largest ‘transparently operated private foundation in the world’.
Asking Bill Gates where his motivation for such generosity comes from would be one of the most interesting questions you could ask. With global discourse dominated by debates over greedy bankers and growing inequality, why is this man at the top determined to give it all away?
I’d also be interested in knowing the role family has for Bill Gates. I’d like to know how his parents influenced his early life and how his wife and children have influenced him ever since. His mother apparently was a big influence. Plus, it was reportedly his 14-year-old daughter Jennifer who caused them to make a life change in 2010. They were selling their home, and gave half the proceeds to charity and then bought a place half the size for their family at her suggestion.
Some other questions you might ask
Do you admit to having any annoying habits?
What do you think about global warming?
Do you think that giving each of your kids $10 million is spoiling them?
The world is run by greed. Do you feel you have profited from this culture of greed?
Will robots be a common part of our lives?
Do you think young people should stop using smart devices so much?
What do you think about privacy issues and technology?
Okay, so we didn’t think his eating habits were interesting to ask about first up. But this man can eat whatever he likes and if the rumors are right he likes junk food!