How do you bring up a successful entrepreneur?
During a Q&A earlier this week in New York City, one of the worldâ€™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 â€œShowing up for Life,â€ told a packed auditorium at the 92nd Street Y that he wasnâ€™t quite sure.
â€œI get asked a lot how do you bring up a kid like that,â€ said Gates Sr., who was interviewed by his son on a range of issues, including taxes, philanthropy, and parenthood. â€œI always say he had a great mother.â€
Kidding aside, he suggested that part of the trick involves taking oneâ€™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. â€œ[The counselor] said â€˜You have this war going on with your son, and you have to understand that heâ€™s going to win,â€™â€ Gates Sr. recalled. Allowing Bill to rebel, he said, improved their relationship and, ultimately, allowed Bill to succeed. â€œIt all worked itself out,â€ 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 worldâ€™s first software company. â€œOne 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,â€ Gates said. â€œThat helped when I was building Microsoft and had to sell to people twenty or thirty years older than I was.â€
Gates fils said that his success at Microsoft was partly the result of good timingâ€”he came of age just before the explosive growth of the personal computer businessâ€”but also the result of a tireless work ethic. â€œYou have to be lucky, but you also have to be fanatical enough,â€ he said.