How reading became Bill Gates’ gateway to success

Bill Gates is an avid reader, powering through almost one a week.

He explains that he refuses to stop reading if he is in the middle of a book – even if he dislikes it – and scribbles notes on the margins of pages.

He also actively seeks out answers when he goes into content that he does not yet understand, which helps in his personal development and reflection.

The business magnate

William Henry Gates III was born on October 28, 1955, and has grown into a powerful business magnate, author, philanthropist, and humanitarian.

He is the principal founder of Microsoft Corporation, where he was Chairman, CEO, Chief Software Architect and pioneer of the personal computer revolution.

Since 1987, he was included in Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest people.

His estimated net worth is US$102 billion, but has recently slided down amongst the world’s wealthiest to stand second to Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, his private charity organization, is the world’s largest philanthropist body.

All about his reading habit

Bill Gates reads continuously and is disciplined about it.

He completes everything that he begins, even if he does not agree with it. The habit of reading is his passion, not his pastime. He believes that meticulous perusal of content is totally fundamental to self-reflection and development in life.

Gates has also started a Book Blog and continuously writes reviews to encourage others to read and experience them with him.

Believing that books can fuel growth, Gates once revealed to Time:

Early bird

Right from fifth grade, he was deep into novels on science fiction as well as encyclopaedias.

His parents decided to enforce a “no reading policy” during dinner. Due to his childhood habits, Bill Gates never deviated from his love for reading.

Gates’ habits of reading and reflection

Bill Gates is quite clear about his approach towards self-reflection. He once said that it is important to be really concentrating on what you read, especially nonfiction books. Through these, you know that you would be absorbing information, drinking knowledge and hooking on to what is in it already. He also advises note-taking: “For me, taking notes helps make sure that I’m really thinking hard about what’s in there.”

Secondly, it is important to block an hour a day for the pastime, he clarifies. In order to learn new things and test his understanding, reading deeply shows the way.

Another route to self-reflection is remembering what he reads through context, he says. By reading widely, you find a lot of similarity between things that make everything easier.

Selecting a broader framework is important for you to find a slot for everything you read and file away. “So, incremental knowledge is so much easier to maintain in a rich way,” Gates acknowledges.

His recommended books

Bill Gates carries a legacy of his past.

He says a bout his most beloved book: “I didn’t actually read ‘Catcher in the Rye’ until I was 13, and ever since then I’ve said that’s my favorite book.” Another impactful book is ‘Upheaval’, by Jared Diamond. “I finished the book even more optimistic about our ability to solve problems than I started,” he enthuses.

Challenges – big and small

Bill Gates was a college dropout, but took a year to convince his parents to let him leave college and pursue his desire.

When he decided to launch Microsoft, he felt it was risky and became rather low on confidence. But in six years, he was stunned to see his company grow from strength to strength.

The Gates of tomorrow

Bill Gates spells out what the future holds for humankind – a list of stunning innovations not only in technology, but also in thinking, planning and working towards connections, self-reflection and communication.

Listing out some of the aspirations that could pave the way towards a better future, he mentions breakthroughs such as climate change, germ-free toilets or AI-driven personal agents to improve the quantity as well as quality of human lives .

He writes: “I would hope to see technologies that center almost entirely on well-being… How do we make people happier? How do we create meaningful connections? How do we help everyone live a fulfilling life?”

How you can get started with Self Reflection?

Looking for an easy way to get started with your self-development practice?

Daylitude can help shift your mindset, increase positivity, and discover a greater connection with yourself.


Interested in other self reflection and gratitude practices?