Author Malcolm Gladwell made some waves when he said that history would remember Microsoft’s Bill Gates more fondly than it would Steve Jobs. The remark was founded on Gates’ philanthropic bent of late, and was meant to praise Gates more than villify Jobs.
Yesterday, talk-show host Charlie Rose posted an interview with Bill Gates. The interview is an hour long, and touches on a lot of issues, including technology, as we would suppose. When Rose brought up the comments of Gladwell, though, Gates showed more class than most.
“I don’t think anybody does the work they do based on how they think they’ll be remembered. Steve Jobs did phenomenal work, both when I partnered with him and when Microsoft competed with him and that deserves to be remembered,” said Gates, disagreeing with Gladwell.
Those are the words of a man in the
fifth sixth decade of his life who has seen amazing success in his lifetime, at a level beyond what most of us will ever achieve. He’s doing what he loves now, with his charitable foundations, and will very likely – as Gladwell pointed out – be remembered as the man who cured diseases like Malaria. That’s huge.
Gates’ comments later in the interview further echo the kinder, gentler intent of this business and technology leader. “I think the world’s best companies are built by fanatics,” he said, including himself, “and when you’re in your 20s and 30s, being fanatical comes easy, at least it came pretty naturally to me. I didn’t feel that bad that that’s what I was doing.”
We can all learn from someone who is able to express his own change of perspective as he moves forward into the latter half of his life, regardless of what we think of his company or his company’s products. It’s clear that all of us will be remembered for the things we create and do over the course of our life (some of us longer than others, it’s true), and it seems as if Bill Gates also knows that being kind is another way to be remembered.