I hope the world takes note: Charlie Rose asked “that question.” You know, the one we always complain is asked only of successful women but never of successful fathers. Last night Rose demanded to know how Bill Gates balances it all.
On his “60 Minutes” segment entitled Bill Gates 2.0, Rose interviewed the bajillionaire to unveil how he has been spending his time since leaving Microsoft five years ago with the goal of “giving all his money away.” Rose didn’t disappoint, asking specifically how he finds work life balance as a father.
How do you find the balance in all of this? Father, chairman of a major company, a foundation, and all these other ventures. How does the balance come to you?
Even though his answer was kind of lame (“I don’t mow the lawn”), the question makes sense. Gates has made it a point to incorporate his family into the next phase of his career, revolving mostly around The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Foundation is run with his wife Melinda and his father, William H.Gates, Sr., and he gives them all the credit for keeping their 1100 employees on the right track. He calls his wife “the driving force” behind the foundation and his father “his hero” who convinced him to give his money away. He describes his father as someone with integrity, humility and a calm presence.
It’s a huge influence to always want to live up to his example.
His recent work not only highlights his own family, but focuses on directly helping families around the world. He has taken the drive, intellect and passion that fueled the personal computer revolution and poured every bit of it into his newest mission: eradicating disease and making the world a better place. His most urgent goal is to get real help to the millions of children under the age of five who die from preventable diseases every year.
I’m excited about that. It’s doable.
He predicts with the Foundation’s work, the world will be rid of polio by the year 2018, gives six years for tuberculosis, and sees malaria as his toughest opponent, taking 15-20 years. But Gates isn’t just throwing money at these problems. He is on the ground troubleshooting the process just like he was at Microsoft. He demands strict accounting and practical solutions — like when he realized bringing in vaccines wasn’t enough because the medication needed refrigeration. He needed a solution in areas where electricity didn’t exist or was unreliable, so Gates charged one of his companies with inventing a super-thermos. The contraption, no bigger than a barrel, holds vaccinations for over 200 children and can be kept cool with just a bag of ice — for fifty days.
In addition to vaccinations, Gates identified sanitation as another fundamental life changing necessity that he wanted to make top priority. So he launched a global competition to reinvent the toilet without the use of plumbing. They now have a prototype that will bring relief to the 2.5 billion people worldwide without adequate toilets in the next four or five years.
Rose tries to get Gates to admit this Gates 2.0 is a softer man, not like the one the public knew for decades.
In the early years there was a demanding guy, a driven guy, an obsessed guy, some say an arrogant guy.
But Melinda suggests this focus on family and caring was something she saw in Gates from the day she committed her life to him.
I wouldn’t have married Bill if there wasn’t a huge heart. With all of the adjectives you just used about how he drove his career, which was very successful for Microsoft, there was an enormous heart always there.
How does Gates achieve the perfect state of work life balance? Like any uber-successful person, he probably doesn’t. I’m sure his kids will complain or his ambitious goals won’t all be met exactly as projected. Not to mention he is starting off in a pretty great place in his life – wealthier and wiser than most. Still, his involvement of family in his daily passion makes him more balanced than most and his goals to save other families by creating real change in the world certainly make him admirable. I’m glad someone asked the question so maybe we can all move past it.