Why Bill Gates Is My Hero Again  

There are a lot of choices for tech/entrepreneurial hero these days, and broadly it seems the trending fashion is to throw out a name like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. “Stay hungry, stay foolish” seems like the battle cry of our generation.

But I remember when things were different. I remember my childhood days where no one had ever heard of Steve Jobs and Zuckerberg hadn’t even started Facebook. There was only one real tech idol back then that was a household name. A person everyone knew – Bill Gates.

The richest man in the world. Everyone talked about Bill Gates. Everyone was going to be like Bill Gates. He was the hero and the villain of tech. He vindicated software, took down IBM, and stole Jobs’ GUI. He was the winner, and the only one.

But Bill Gates is a tired phrase in this new decade. Everyone still knows him, but no one really mentions about him. What happened to him? Why does he no longer seem relevant?

I have a simple answer to that. Bill Gates and his bosom buddy Warren Buffett are the reasonable billionaires. They eschew extremities, they’re self-deprecating and don’t hold pretenses, and they tackle the world’s problems in a moderate way that no one can really hold an issue against.

On the other hand, iconoclasts like Steve Jobs reek of contrarianism. Jobs was a real dropout. He slept on his friends’ floors and ate free meals at the local temple. He distorted reality. He was unreasonable. He was demanding. He had enemies. You did things his way. And yet, he propelled Apple to become to largest company in the world.

Same for Zuckerberg and others. They took paths that were shockingly in conflict with the norm, and succeeded. It’s slightly titillating to associate yourself with them. A bit rebellious. A bit unorthodox. It’s exciting.

Not so with Bill. He’s just the genial guy who made his billions, stepped out, and decided to dedicate his life to saving small African children from polio.

I’d been swept away with the general Zeitgeist of our time as well and forgotten about Bill Gates. But I chanced across this article Saturday, and it suddenly brought me all back again.

Yeah, Bill Gates isn’t very iconoclastic. And that’s exactly why he’s possibly one of the most right among us. Some of us are shooting for the stars, and that’s perfectly alright. Most of us will fall short, and some will succeed. We’ll idolize those few that succeed and attempt to emulate their path.

But with his life, Gates is something of a paragon role model in quite a few ways. He had his early days of vicious pioneering and money making. He made it to the top.

And then he bowed out. And that’s the principle point of admiration. He didn’t get swept away, Microsoft didn’t become his life’s sole ambition. He wanted to contribute something more meaningful to the world in the form of solving our most striking humanitarian concerns.

Most of all, he’s an incredibly reasonable person. He acknowledges his own fortune, and then uses it for good. He’s never turned his back on the things that have helped him get to where he is. He loves Harvard, he’s continued learning his entire life, and has been a huge proponent behind sparks in the system like the Khan Academy and MIT OpenCourseWare.

Really, he just does things right. There are few other people I’d rather have have his money, and I think he’s doing the right things with it. He’s not crazy. He’s not reckless. He seems like a good person at heart. He’s immensely capable. And his solutions make sense. What more could one want from a hero?

Keep up the good work, Bill Gates.

 
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