We recently asked Lisa Rogak, the editor of the new Agate B2 release Impatient Optimist: Bill Gates In His Own Words, a few questions about Gates and what went into creating this new book, which is made up of quotations drawn from Gates’s public statements and interviews over the past 30-odd years.
What were some of the themes of Bill Gates’s life that came through when you were researching and compiling this book?
The first thing I noticed as I researched Gates’s early years was his ability to focus and never waver once he set his mind—and will—to accomplishing something. Another theme I realized was that despite appearances to the contrary, this is a guy who does indeed work well with others. Plus, he has been able to forge alliances with some pretty uncommon bedfellows through the years, from Warren Buffett and Bono to Bill Clinton.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about Gates during your research?
I was surprised to see how much he has mellowed over the years. And also that he has a keen, dry sense of humor. But probably most of all, that his philanthropic efforts are incredibly diverse—they run the gamut from technology to social causes—and that he’s been able to make a significant difference for many individuals and charities since launching his foundation, particularly since leaving Microsoft and concentrating his efforts on his philanthropy full-time.
Do you have any insights as to why people are so fascinated with tech CEOs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs?
Because they see that in a world filled with extremely successful businesspeople and CEOs, tech entrepreneurs like Gates and Jobs have ventured so far beyond everyone else. Their efforts have exerted a powerful and very close influence on the daily lives of millions of people throughout the world. And they have a spillover effect, as we have clearly seen how the products introduced by newer tech entrepreneurs like Zuckerberg and the founders of Twitter have actually helped to topple dictatorships and effect real change in some heretofore sketchy political regimes around the world.
What do you think will be Gates’s most lasting contribution?
I think Gates’s most lasting contribution is twofold. For one, his technological brilliance and foresight, and his ability to blast out to the front of the pack when he declared that it was his goal to have a computer in every home and on every desktop. Second, his charity, which even his fans would never have picked up on in the early days when he was growing Microsoft. His philanthropy will likely affect the world for centuries to come.
What should readers take away from Impatient Optimist?
Several things. First, from a business standpoint, perusing the quotes in Impatient Optimist will reveal instances where Gates faced a number of seemingly insurmountable dilemmas and was able to overcome them with the tools at hand. This should inspire readers to deal with the problems and challenges in their own business lives. Second, they’ll be able to learn more about Bill Gates as a person and what makes him tick in his private life—something that is rarely explored.