How do you bring up a successful entrepreneur?
During a Q&A earlier this week in New York City, one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs had a chance to ask his father that question.
Bill Gates Sr., father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the author of the book “Showing up for Life,” told a packed auditorium at the 92nd Street Y that he wasn’t quite sure.
“I get asked a lot how do you bring up a kid like that,” said Gates Sr., who was interviewed by his son on a range of issues, including taxes, philanthropy, and parenthood. “I always say he had a great mother.”
Kidding aside, he suggested that part of the trick involves taking one’s kids seriously.
Gates Sr. described his son as rebellious and headstrong, so much so that his parents hired a counselor to tell them what to do. “[The counselor] said ‘You have this war going on with your son, and you have to understand that he’s going to win,’” Gates Sr. recalled. Allowing Bill to rebel, he said, improved their relationship and, ultimately, allowed Bill to succeed. “It all worked itself out,” said the World War II veteran and long-time lawyer.
For his part, the younger Gates said that having parents who treated their children like adults filled him with a sense of confidence that was invaluable when he, as a 21-year-old Harvard dropout, founded the world’s first software company. “One thing my mom and dad did well was take the things they cared about and bring them up at the dinner table, as if [the children] were capable of understanding,” Gates said. “That helped when I was building Microsoft and had to sell to people twenty or thirty years older than I was.”
Gates fils said that his success at Microsoft was partly the result of good timing—he came of age just before the explosive growth of the personal computer business—but also the result of a tireless work ethic. “You have to be lucky, but you also have to be fanatical enough,” he said.