When the wealthiest person in the world gives free life lessons to new college grads, everyone — regardless of age — should pay attention.
And that’s just what Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist Bill Gates offered up on his personal blog, Gates Notes. In a post titled “Dear Class of 2017,” Gates recommends three fields and shares a couple of life truths that persist across all fields. He also urges grads to read one particular book.
Gates never graduated from college himself. He and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen left Harvard University to start Microsoft and help shape what Gates calls “the digital revolution.” But, he writes, “If I were starting out today and looking for the same kind of opportunity to make a big impact in the world, I would consider three fields.”
Those fields are:
- Artificial intelligence, because “we have only begun to tap into all the ways it will make people’s lives more productive and creative.”
- Energy, “because making it clean, affordable, and reliable will be essential for fighting poverty and climate change.”
- The biosciences, because they “are ripe with opportunities to help people live longer, healthier lives.”
Gates also notes that “some things in life are true no matter what career you choose,” adding that he wishes he understood these things better when he left college. They include:
- “Intelligence is not quite as important as I thought it was, and it takes many different forms“: Gates says that learning “to recognize and appreciate people’s different talents” will enrich your life.
- “What true inequity looks like“: Gates says he did not witness inequity up close until he and his wife first traveled to Africa, when he was in his late 30s. The experience “shocked” them. Gates continues, “It blew our minds that millions of children there were dying from diseases that no one in rich countries even worried about. We thought it was the most unjust thing in the world.”
Today, Gates and his wife are co-chairs and trustees at the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which seeks to fight inequity worldwide through various grant programs.
Along with inequity, Gates devotes most of his blog post to a book recommendation — “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker. He says the book “makes a persuasive argument that the world is getting better — that we are living in the most peaceful time in human history.”
Gates acknowledges this can be a difficult case to make but agrees “it’s true.” And understanding that the world is getting better will enable you to see the world differently. Gates writes:
It doesn’t mean you ignore the serious problems we face. It just means you believe they can be solved, and you’re moved to act on that belief. This is the core of my worldview. It sustains me in tough times and is the reason I still love my philanthropic work after more than 17 years. I think it can do the same for you.
For more advice from the wealthiest people in the country, check out “Warren Buffett’s Sane and Simple Retirement Investing Plan.”
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