A year or two ago, I convinced myself that Bill Gates was going to run for president. 

Clearly, I was wrong, at least for 2020. However, Michael Bloomberg is playing that role instead.

On the surface, it seems Gates and Bloomberg have more than a bit in common. They are multibillionaire entrepreneurs who made money (at least in part) bringing computer technology to new consumers, before turning largely to philanthropy, which included signing the Giving Pledge.

Obviously, there are big differences between the two men. But I'd like to focus on one that surfaced recently, when a 2011 interview that Bloomberg gave was rediscovered. 

It has to do with Bloomberg's answer when asked what was his key to success:

"I am not smarter than anyone else, but I can outwork you. My key to success for you or for anybody else is, make sure you're the first one in there every day, and the last one to leave. Don't ever take a lunch break or go to the bathroom. 

You keep working, you never know when that opportunity is going to come along. You can't control your luck, but the harder you work, the luckier you get."

A lot of commentators seized on that "don't go to the bathroom" line, which I hope is hyperbole. 

Let's focus instead on the crux of the advice, which is basically that you have to be willing to work harder, and longer, than anybody else.

Bloomberg would have been about 68 at the time of that interview, and still the mayor of New York City. 

There's nothing in his answer that suggests he's talking only about the past, and of course, when asked about success, he goes straight to the idea of business and professional success.

But compare him to Gates.

Yes, Gates had the same kind of insane work ethic when he was younger. But he's now the same age, roughly, as Bloomberg was when he gave that interview. And there's a stark difference. 

The modern Gates preaches about things like the importance of love and relationships, and says that "flexibility" is the most important thing any company can offer its employees.

This is the older, wiser, gentler version. Not retired--he's emerged as one of the world's most successful philanthropists, and might wind up being known for that more than for Microsoft. 

But I don't see that kind of shift in the public record for Bloomberg.

One doesn't serve three terms as the mayor of New York City and then throw your fortune and all of your life into running for president if you hope to find more flexibility.

Who's to say which is better? 

But successful or not, one way or another, here's to the one thing they do both have in common: a penchant for second acts.

Not everyone actually gets them, no matter how hard they work.

Published on: Feb 15, 2020
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