No one can predict the future. Not even Bill Gates. But the billionaire founder of Microsoft and philanthropist can tell you which skills he thinks will give you a competitive edge in the future.
Gates recently touched on this topic when he delivered a lecture at his high school alma mater, Lakeside School in Seattle. Fun fact: Another famous alumni is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The two met when they were students there.
The first question the school’s head Bernie Noe posed to Bill Gates was this: “What do today’s students need to know to thrive in 2030 and 2040?”
You’re never too old to keep learning.
Gates encouraged the high school students to cultivate their curiosity. The more knowledge they seek out, the better they’ll be prepared for what’s ahead.
“For the curious learner, these are the best of times because your ability to constantly refresh your knowledge with either podcasts or lectures that are online is better than ever,” Gates said.
To do that, Gates said students must build your sense of curiosity and basic framework of knowledge. History, science, and economics are the subject areas he sees as being particularly useful to be successful in the future.
What Bill Gates predicts for the decades ahead.
During the decades ahead, the digital revolution will surprise us,” Gates said.
This is where that foundational knowledge and drive to keep learning will come into play. He thinks having the self confidence and willingness to keep learning will help prepare students for that revolution.
For example, he says changes that will take place in healthcare and climate change will require an understanding of the sciences.
He also believes teeangers must be more informed than ever on current affairs and past events. “Democracy is going to more and more require participants,” he said. He says understanding history — both of the United States and the entire world — will prepare students to understand why the world is in the situation it’s in.
Bill Gates is his own case study.
When Gates graduated from Lakeside in 1973, he didn’t know what the future would hold. There was one thing he took with him though that prepared him for his future success: “I had the ability to learn.”
He never expected that he would drop out of Harvard. In fact, Gates was so hungry for knowledge that he took extra classes in college just because they sounded fun and interesting. He admits that he wasn’t very sociable because his heavy course load was all-consuming. “I managed to get two and a half years there, and I loved every minute of it,” he said.
Gates dropped out of Harvard and started Microsoft with his former Lakeside buddy Paul Allen in 1975. The rest is history.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, success depends less on the virtues of talent and drive than it does one’s ability to withstand fear and uncertainty. Many people display inclinations toward one skill or another in their early lives. Many champion the title of best in the school, team or town – but talent is only a part of the equation. What separates the outliers from the rest is not the amount of discomfort they are willing to bear – the difference is whether or not they can withstand uncertainty.
Uncertainty is the fertile ground of your life. It is the grey area in which anything is possible. The wisest person in the room is the one who never believes they are the smartest – genuinely intelligent people live in uncertainty, they know that there is always more to learn, see and discover. Uncertainty is the first step of any worthwhile endeavor. It requires a fearlessness. Because for as powerfully transformative as it is, it is also the human emotion we are least inclined to tolerate.
When nothing is certain, anything is possible. – Bianca Bass
The word comfort is laced through so much advice that we share: step out of your comfort zone, make enough to be comfortable, don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right. But this doesn’t account for the ways in which our feelings often betray us. Emotions are the way the brain pieces together sensory stimulations with its perceived environment. It’s easy to see why we can become anxious when our chest tightens and we associate the feeling with being disapproved of by friends. From this, an association is created.
In their life’s work, most people want to be successful without having to sacrifice their comfort. That’s why so many people perceive “success” to be synonymous with risk reduction (think of things such as stable housing, a guaranteed job, etc.) It befuddles them, then, to discover that after 10 years living this kind of life, they are unfulfilled, drained, and thoroughly dissatisfied.
Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow. ― Tony Schwartz
Human beings do not chase happiness, they chase comfort. They pick partners that re-create familiar relationships in their childhood. They choose jobs that they believe will earn them either a place in society, or the merit of being “safe” in some way. Most things that we do are with the intent of generating more comfort, and so it is counterintuitive at best to recognize that actually accomplishing something worthwhile requires enduring that which we have spent most of our lives trying to avoid.
You’re not supposed to know what the future holds. If you know where the path leads, it’s because you’re on somebody else’s.
Human beings crave certainty in the way they crave comfort – because life is an inherently uncomfortable and uncertain thing. But instead of trying to manufacture an abundance of those emotions, perhaps consider that life is uncertain for a reason. There are so many virtues of letting things be open-ended, in admitting that you don’t know what you don’t know. People often believe that when they’ve lost their “plan,” their knowing of what’s next that all has fallen apart. They look back often to realize that their lives were really just beginning… and in embracing what they didn’t know, they found a life that was greater than what they could have previously imagined.
What is the 80/20 Rule and could it actually make 80% of your work disappear?
If you’ve studied business or economics, you’re well familiar with the power of the Pareto Principle.
The Man Behind The Concept
Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was born in Italy in 1848. He would go on to become an important philosopher and economist. Legend has it that one day he noticed that 20% of the pea plants in his garden generated 80% of the healthy pea pods. This observation caused him to think about uneven distribution. He thought about wealth and discovered that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of the population. He investigated different industries and found that 80% of production typically came from just 20% of the companies. The generalization became:
This “universal truth” about the imbalance of inputs and outputs is what became known as the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule. While it doesn’t always come to be an exact 80/20 ratio, this imbalance is often seen in various business cases:
• 20% of the sales reps generate 80% of total sales.
• 20% of customers account for 80% of total profits.
• 20% of the most reported software bugs cause 80% of software crashes.
• 20% of patients account for 80% of healthcare spending (and 5% of patients account for a full 50% of all expenditures!)
On a more personal note, you might be able to relate to my unintentional 80/20 habits.
I own at least five amazing suits, but 80% of the time or more I grab my black, well-tailored, single-breasted Armani with a powder blue shirt. (Ladies, how many shoes do you own, and how often do you grab the same 20%?)
I have 15 rooms in my house, but I spend about 80% of my time in just my bedroom, family room, and office (exactly 20%).
I’m not sure how many miles of roads are in the small town where I live, but I bet I only drive on 20% or less of them, as I make daily trips to my kids’ schools, the grocery store, the bank and gas station.
On my smartphone, I have 48 different mobile apps pinned to the tiles, but 80% of the time I’m only using the eight on my home screen.
When I go grocery shopping, I definitely spend the most time in the aisles that are around the edges of the store: produce, the fish market, dairy, breads—and generally skip the aisles in the middle of the store (except for health and beauty).
As a massive introvert, I don’t actually socialize too much, but when I do, 80% of my time is spent with the same 20% of my friends and family members.
In my research into the productivity habits of high achievers, I interviewed hundreds of self-made millionaires, straight-A students and even Olympic athletes. For them, handling every task that gets thrown their way—or even every task that they would like to handle—is impossible. They use Pareto to help them determine what is of vital importance. Then, they delegate the rest, or simply let it go.
How You Can Use It
So how can you apply Pareto’s principle to gain more time in your life?
Are you an executive? You’re surely faced with the constant challenge of limited resources. It’s not just your time you need to maximize, but your entire team’s. Instead of trying to do the impossible, a Pareto approach is to truly understand which projects are most important. What are the most important goals of your organization, or boss, and which specific tasks do you need to focus on to align with those goals. Delegate or drop the rest.
Are you a freelancer? It’s important to identify your best (and highest-paying) clients. Of course, you don’t want all your eggs in one basket. But too much diversification will quickly lead to burnout. Focus on the money makers and strengthening those long-term relationships.
No matter what your situation, it’s important to remember that there are only so many minutes in an hour, hours in a day, and days in a week. Pareto can help you to see this is a good thing; otherwise, you’d be a slave to a never-ending list of things to do.
So, what 20% of your work drives 80% of your outcomes?
Have you considered listing all the positive things happening in your life?” my therapist asked me.
I winced a bit at my therapist’s words. Not because I thought gratitude for the good in my life was a bad thing, but because it glossed over the complexities of all that I was feeling.I was talking to her about my chronic illnesses and the way it impacts my depression — and her response felt invalidating, to say the least.
She wasn’t the first person to suggest this to me — not even the first medical professional. But every time someone suggests positivity as a solution to my pain, it feels like a direct hit to my spirit.
Sitting in her office I began to question myself: Maybe I do need to be more positive about this? Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining about these things? Maybe it isn’t as bad as I think?
Maybe my attitude is making all this worse?
Positivity culture: Because it could be worse, right?
We live in a culture steeped in positivity.
Between memes spouting messages meant to uplift (“Your life only gets better when you get better!” “Negativity: Uninstalling”), online talks extolling the virtues of optimism, and countless self-help books to choose from, we are surrounded by the push to be positive.
We are emotional creatures, capable of experiencing a wide range of feelings. However, the emotions that are deemed preferable (or even acceptable) are far more limited.
Putting on a happy face and presenting a cheery disposition to the world — even when going through really tough stuff — is applauded. People who push through hard times with a smile are praised for their bravery and courage.
Conversely, people who express their feelings of frustration, sadness, depression, anger, or grief — all very normal parts of the human experience — are often met with comments of “it could be worse” or “maybe it would help to change your attitude about it.”
This positivity culture transfers over to assumptions about our health, too.
We’re told that if we have a good attitude, we will heal faster. Or, if we’re sick, it’s because of some negativity we put out into the world and we need to be more conscious of our energy.
It becomes our job, as sick people, to make ourselves well through our positivity, or at the very least to have a perpetually good attitude about the things we’re going through — even if that means hiding what we’re truly feeling.
I admit that I have bought into many of these ideas. I’ve read the books and learned about the secret to manifesting good into my life, to not to sweat the small stuff, and how to be a badass. I’ve attended lectures about visualizing all I want into existence and listened to podcasts about choosing happiness.
For the most part I see the good in things and people, look for the silver lining in unpleasant situations, and see the glass as half full. But, despite all that, I’m still sick.
I still have days where I feel most every emotion in the book except for the positive ones. And I need that to be okay.
Chronic illness can’t always be met with a smile
While positivity culture is intended to be uplifting and helpful, for those of us dealing with disabilities and chronic illness, it can be detrimental.
When I’m on day three of a flare-up — when I can’t do anything but cry and rock because the meds can’t touch the pain, when the noise of the clock in the next room feels excruciating, and the cat’s fur against my skin hurts — I find myself at a loss.
I’m grappling with both the symptoms of my chronic illnesses, as well as guilt and feelings of failure associated with the ways I’ve internalized the messages of positivity culture.
And in that way, people with chronic illnesses like mine just can’t win. In a culture that demands we face chronic illness inauthentically, we’re asked to deny our own humanity by concealing our pain with a “can-do” attitude and a smile.
Positivity culture can often be weaponized as a way of blaming people with chronic illnesses for their struggles, which many of us go on to internalize.
More times than I can count, I’ve questioned myself. Did I bring this on myself? Am I just having a bad outlook? If I’d meditated more, said more kind things to myself, or thought more positive thoughts, would I still be here in this bed right now?
When I then check my Facebook and a friend has posted a meme about the power of a positive attitude, or when I see my therapist and she tells me to list the good things in my life, these feelings of self-doubt and self-blame are just reinforced.
‘Not fit for human consumption’
Chronic illness is already a very isolating thing, with most people not understanding what you’re going through, and all the time spent in bed or homebound. And the truth is, positivity culture adds to the isolation of chronic illness, magnifying it.
I often worry that if I express the reality of what I’m going through — if I talk about being in pain, or if I say how frustrated I am at having to stay in bed — that I’ll be judged.
I’ve had others say to me before that “It’s no fun to talk to you when you’re always complaining about your health,” while still others have remarked that me and my illnesses were “too much to handle.”
On my worst days, I started to pull back from people. I’d keep quiet and not let anyone know what I was going through, except for those closest to me, like my partner and child.
Even to them, though, I’d jokingly say that I wasn’t “fit for human consumption,” trying to maintain some humor while also letting them know it may be best to just leave me alone.
Truthfully, I felt shame about the negative emotional state I was in. I’d internalized the messages of positivity culture. On days where my symptoms are especially severe, I don’t have the ability to put on a “happy face” or gloss over the things going on with me.
I learned to hide my anger, grief, and hopelessness. And I held onto the idea that my “negativity” made me a burden, instead of a human being.
We are allowed to be authentically ourselves
Last week, I was lying in bed in the early afternoon — lights off, curled up in a ball with tears quietly running down my face. I was hurting, and I was depressed about hurting, especially when I thought about being bed-bound on a day I’d had so much planned.
But there was a shift that happened for me, ever so subtle, when my partner walked in to check on me and asked me what I needed. They listened as I told them all the things I was feeling and held me as I cried.
When they left, I didn’t feel so alone, and even though I was still hurting and feeling low, it somehow felt more manageable.
That moment acted as an important reminder. The times when I tend to isolate are also the times that I actually need my loved ones around me the most — when what I want, more than anything, is to be able to be honest about how I’m really feeling.
Sometimes all I really want to do is have a good cry and complain to someone about how hard this is — someone to just sit with me and witness what I’m going through.
I don’t want to have to be positive, nor do I want someone to encourage me to change my attitude.
I just want to be able to express my full range of emotions, to be open and raw, and have that be totally okay.
I’m still working on slowly unravelling the messages that positivity culture has ingrained in me. I still have to consciously remind myself that it’s normal and perfectly okay to not be optimistic all the time.
What I’ve come to realize, though, is that I am my most healthy self — both physically and emotionally — when I give myself permission to feel the full spectrum of emotions, and surround myself with people who support me in that.
This culture of relentless positivity won’t change overnight. But it’s my hope that, the next time a therapist or a well-meaning friend asks me to look at the positive, I’ll find the courage to name what I need.
Because every one of us, especially when we’re struggling, deserves to have the full spectrum of our emotions and experiences witnessed — and that doesn’t make us a burden. That makes us human.
Angie Ebba is a queer disabled artist who teaches writing workshops and performs nationwide. Angie believes in the power of art, writing, and performance to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves, build community, and make change. You can find Angie on her website, her blog, or Facebook.
One day, when my brother was 18, he waltzed into the living room and proudly announced to my mother and me that one day he was going to be a senator. My mom probably gave him the “That’s nice, dear,” treatment while I’m sure I was distracted by a bowl of Cheerios or something. But for fifteen years, this purpose informed all of my brother’s life decisions: what he studied in school, where he chose to live, who he connected with, and even what he did with many of his vacations and weekends……..
Although people think they perform better on caffeine, the truth is, they really don’t. Actually, we’ve become so dependent on caffeine that we use it to simply get back to our status-quo. When we’re off it, we under perform and become incapable.
As the sky smiles, the street tears the chunks Fear units more than courage, a rock has sunk Wants the knowledge, he is back to that youth The barefoot cries, are unknown to love & truth He’ll never forget, lessons learned through hurt A tasted victory, a forced witness, a false rebirth A wish for […]
In this post, I am piggybacking off of my last entry where someone left a comment that has left me thinking. I was writing from a place of pain, sharing my deepest heartache of having to let go and walk away from my family. I went back into the fire recently and was burned badly […]
I am scared way more often than I am brave. I am uncomfortable much more frequently than I am comfortable. I am unsure about so much more than I am certain of. I have dropped many more balls than I have ever caught, and I have failed at more initiatives than I have succeeded. And it is because of this, not in spite of it, that I thrive. We know that successful people, like everyone else, make mistakes, feel pain, quit, cry, lose and have all the same insecurities and self doubts that all human beings experience. We know success is not synonymous with perfection………………
A secret about success is that it is just as much about what you give up as what you gain.Are you willing to give up late nights out for late nights in working? Are you willing to turn a deaf ear to blind criticisms? Are you willing to listen to helpful ones? Are you going to be able to give up the doubt, the resistance, the uncertainty, the avoidance mechanisms? As Mastin Kipp says: Are you willing to live as other people won’t, so maybe you can live as other people can’t…………….