The Not-Bill Gates Interview – Vision to Vision Mastery

Today’s Not interview is with Not-Bill Gates. Talk about a guy who broke all the molds that typically lead to success! Here’s a guy that drops out of college and goes on to found the world’s largest software company and goes on to be the richest person in the world (for all but four years) between 1998 and 2017.

He wrote his first computer program when he was a teenager, a game like tic-tac-toe. Someone at the school noted his innate ability for computer coding, a new field, and tasked him with writing a program to schedule student’s classes. He sneakily wrote, what was one of the first algorithms, that placed him in classes with a “disproportionate number of interesting girls.” Gates has always been a step ahead (maybe several) of the pack.

Gates and his wife Melinda plan on leaving the bulk of their fortune to the Gates Foundation, leaving each of their three children 10 million dollars. Bill is a believer in his children following their own entrepreneurial spirit. The Foundation’s motto is “All lives have equal value. We are impatient optimists working to reduce inequality. In May 2020, the Gates Foundation said it would spend $300 million to fight the coronavirus pandemic, funding treatment, detection, and vaccines.

If we have your attention, let’s talk to Not-Bill Gates. We hear he’s an interesting character.


Robert Kramarz:            This is Robert Steven Kramarz, Executive Director of Intelliversity. And this is your Vision Master Podcast, where today we are interviewing… Well, if it isn’t obvious… Not-Bill Gates.

Not-Bill Gates:               All right, Rob, let’s go!

Robert Kramarz:            How are you today, Bill, Not-Bill?

Not-Bill Gates:               I’m doing great. And I’m smiling, as you can see.

Robert Kramarz:            So, it kind of looks like you just took a new vaccine and it’s created this blue aura around your face. Is that kind of the outcome of these new vaccines? I

Not-Bill Gates:               I’ve been told it’s temporary. It goes away. It’s like a little force field shield, and it does go away after a bit.

Robert Kramarz:            So this is what we can expect. Here, I made a deal with my wife that I would take the new vaccine if you will personally come to my home and inject me. Would you be willing to do that?

Not-Bill Gates:               Probably not, Rob. That’s funny. As much as I’d love to.

Robert Kramarz:            All right. So, here we are. Enough said. In a few minutes, we’re going to cover a very interesting topic, which was the disaster or almost disaster of having Steve Ballmer take over as CEO of Microsoft in 2000. There’s a huge lesson for Vision Masters in that period and doing that, and having him take over for you as CEO. And I want the Vision Masters who are listening to really get that. But I want to cover that in just a couple of minutes because there’s something else that’s really interesting. So, hold your horses people while I ask you the question that they initially came for which is, what is your opinion of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, and are they the same person in disguise? Are they both assholes? What’s your opinion from your elevated position now?

Not-Bill Gates:               From my elevated position, ha ha. You know what? What I think I said in a previous interview that you’d never confuse the two guys in a cocktail party. I mean, obviously, Elon is a classic engineer. He’d rather stand in a corner reading his watch or playing with a book, or doing anything but interact. I mean, he’s a shy kind of introverted guy.

Robert Kramarz:            Kind of like you were.

Not-Bill Gates:               Kind of like… Yeah, I’m probably, in that respect, probably a lot more like Elon. I’d rather be… You know, if I’m at a cocktail party, I’m just waiting so I can get the hell out of there, you know? But Jobs would be over there holding court. He’d have his acolytes around him. He’d be expounding some sort of, obviously a genius marketing strategy, helping think up products we hadn’t thought of yet. But… So they’re very, very different. They may have a lot of things in common, but you’d never mistake them at a cocktail party for the same guy.

Robert Kramarz:            Well, that’s interesting. Do you remember? There was a cocktail party at CES. You and I were both at it in about 1981. And I remember that exactly. You were standing in the corner, probably not reading your watch, but just-

Not-Bill Gates:               Not then, yeah.

Robert Kramarz:            … reading something or just standing there. And it was-

Not-Bill Gates:               Trying to get the hell out of there.

Robert Kramarz:            You’re right about that. But that’s the public Elon Musk and the public Steve Jobs?

Not-Bill Gates:               Sure.

Robert Kramarz:            By the way, Elon was on stage yesterday with the battery special. And he did look very awkward on stage. And Steve Jobs never looked awkward on stage. He was charismatic. So I think you’re right about-

Not-Bill Gates:               There’s the-

Robert Kramarz:            Yeah. But in private, in running their companies as vision masters, what do you think they’re like? How are they similar as vision master?

Not-Bill Gates:               Well, I mean, they’re both extremely demanding and classic visionaries. So, they have to have a way of projecting that vision onto a very large team in order to succeed. You know, this isn’t where you sit in your basement and figure something out and come out while out to the world. I mean, you’ve got to… You need a big team, and so you have to have a way to motivate and inspire a big team. And they were both able to do that.

Robert Kramarz:            Which makes them vision masters, not just visionaries, right?

Not-Bill Gates:               Right. And I did read your book.

Robert Kramarz:            Oh, good!

Not-Bill Gates:               And I appreciate the difference because… And I think, when we kind of get closer to the end, we could even talk a little bit more about that. But yeah, the world is full of visionaries who never get anything done. I mean, vision masters have a vision and then execute it, or make sure it’s executed.

Robert Kramarz:            Right. That’s the difference. Yeah. So, we’ll get to the difference between executing it and making sure it’s executed in a moment but… So, what’s the similar common theme of how these guys and you manage your ventures?

Not-Bill Gates:               Oh, but yeah. Before I started this interview, I did watch your other two clips up on your blog when you interviewed Not Musk and Not Jobs. And the two, they both basically had a similar style which is, I think you call it the mission impossible management style. And I think it’s absolutely essential to executing a vision because you are doing something that nobody else has done before. You can’t be surrounded by people who think it’s impossible. Your job is, in fact, to do the impossible. And so, by holding people to very, very high standards of accountability and demanding the impossible from them, you’re able to not only get your immediate staff to fulfill that impossible vision, but they have to push it downhill to their team, which is how you motivate tens of thousands of people.

Robert Kramarz:            So, what about all this yelling and screaming and arguing that’s so prevalent in Microsoft even today and was all… And these Not Jobs and Not Elon also engage in a lot of berating of employees and criticizing. And you did the same. You did the same. What about that?

Not-Bill Gates:               Yeah.

Robert Kramarz:            Is that necessary?

Not-Bill Gates:               I think… Yes. Yes. I think so. And then, I think the fact that it really-

Robert Kramarz:            Oh, boy.

Not-Bill Gates:               … is how you let diverse opinions out of the bag, right? If you didn’t have conflict, everybody would be agreeing, and everybody would have the same opinion, and you would tolerate people that weren’t delivering. So, by being a bit of a jerk… And I think that you’ve alluded to this too… By being somewhere between a jerk and an asshole, you’re basically able to create this culture of friction, where you produce awesome results.

Robert Kramarz:            You know, I’m going to leave that issue. Wow! For future determination, because I am absolutely convinced it isn’t necessary, but I am not worth 100 billion dollars, and you are, approximately. So, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt right now. But what we’ve just done is given permission to tens of thousands of vision masters to break their lower… the people on their team, and-

Not-Bill Gates:               Well, how about this?

Robert Kramarz:            … Isn’t there-

Not-Bill Gates:               But let me [crosstalk 00:08:14].

Robert Kramarz:            … Isn’t there a way around this, so that’s sustainable?

Not-Bill Gates:               Well, yeah. You need to understand that’s me being Bill Gates, or Not Bill Gates in this case, right? I mean, that’s part of my personality, so… And I think it was part of Jobs’s personality, and I think it’s part of Elon’s personality.

So, you still have to be true to your own personality. I mean, we’ve all softened. I’m a lot cuddlier than I was 40 years ago, right? I mean… So-

Robert Kramarz:            Yeah.

Not-Bill Gates:               … I was an impetuous young jerk, and we do get older and smarter. So, I’m not saying you have to be a jerk. I’m saying, if you are a jerk, it’s just going to be part of who you are and how you manage. I spend all my life trying not to be Bill Gates. I don’t think-

Robert Kramarz:            You’d be Not Bill Gates.

Not-Bill Gates:               I’d be Not Bill Gates.

Robert Kramarz:            Which is exactly what you are.

Not-Bill Gates:               Right.

Robert Kramarz:            You’re Not bill Gates. But you-

Not-Bill Gates:               I don’t think anybody should confuse me with the actual Bill Gates.

Robert Kramarz:            Hey, by the way, your shield is falling.

Not-Bill Gates:               Yeah, well it’ll happen, you know?

Robert Kramarz:            It’s slipping.

Not-Bill Gates:               Perfect.

Robert Kramarz:            Awesome. All right, here… So, [crosstalk] let’s take up the topic that everybody’s been waiting for. So-

Not-Bill Gates:               Sure.

Robert Kramarz:            … Yes, your longest closest relationship at Microsoft was with Steve Ballmer.

Not-Bill Gates:               Right.

Robert Kramarz:            Which, by the way, you hired in 1980. That was right around the time… And I don’t remember if it was before or after, but it was right around the time that you offered me the job of running Microsoft’s North American sales operation. If you remember, the dinner we [crosstalk 00:00:09:51].

Not-Bill Gates:               I don’t remember, but you must have screwed that one up.

Robert Kramarz:            I sure did. I don’t remember, but I think Steve was already on board at that point, but he was not at that dinner that you and I and Paul Allen had. And yet… And I, of course, declined. And then, Steve took over as in charge of sales and support at that point. And then, you elevated him in the year 2000 to CEO at that point.

Not-Bill Gates:               Right. I was glad to do it.

Robert Kramarz:            Go ahead. Talk about your relationship… working relationship… up to that point, and then what changed. And what was the mistake? What was the big mistake?

Not-Bill Gates:               Well, you know-

Robert Kramarz:            What was the big mistake you think you made, at that point?

Not-Bill Gates:               Let me get to the mistake in a second. I mean, Steve and I were two peas in a pod, or we were, I think some people said, a mind meld, that we were almost of one mind. And having read Born to Star… I mean, I didn’t know it at the time, but I think if I had, I might’ve not made what I consider a pretty large mistake. But because we were of one mind, I always assumed that Steve could just take over, and that he got the whole vision part of the equation. You know, as it turns out, Steve is a good execution master and that’s why we were so strong together in the very beginning. I was the vision master. He was the execution master. So, unwittingly, the mistake that I made was to put my execution master in charge of the vision for Microsoft.

And that’s why, if you look at the numbers on paper, Microsoft grew very well. I mean, our sales went up by a huge factor. Our profits increased. Everything was up! But there was no excitement in the marketplace on… Certainly, in the share market, there was no excitement for the company because the vision wasn’t there. I mean, and there were some huge mistakes made. We went after the wrong products and passed on the right products. It was a mess. But that’s the issue. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever put your execution master in charge of your vision.

Robert Kramarz:            Well, and let’s be clear… in charge of your company. Is that what you mean?

Not-Bill Gates:               Well, in charge of the company, but see, when he’s the CEO, he’s in charge of the vision.

Robert Kramarz:            That’s the point.

Not-Bill Gates:               Yeah. I mean, so it’s the company, for sure. But it is… You can never really delegate your vision to someone who is not a vision master.

Robert Kramarz:            Yeah. All right! And that’s so in… So, he did really well for Microsoft for 20 years, from 1980 to… or 1981, I think it was? [crosstalk] he was hired in 1980, took over as CEO in 2000. That’s when the stock began to stagnate. And he left the CEO ship in, let’s see, 2014. So, 14 years.

Not-Bill Gates:               Right.

Robert Kramarz:            And during that time, he developed hardware products. As we understand it, that was the big difference of opinion between the two of you. Am I correct?

Not-Bill Gates:               That’s probably… It’s probably what caused us to kind of drift apart.

Robert Kramarz:            And you’re not [crosstalk 00:13:37]. You’re not really socially connected with Steve anymore, are you?

Not-Bill Gates:               No, not at all.

Robert Kramarz:            Right. So, he went, and the thing that pushed him out was the Nokia acquisition, which was a total bomb.

Not-Bill Gates:               It was.

Robert Kramarz:            Kind of a last-ditch attempt to dominate cell phones?

Not-Bill Gates:               Right.

Robert Kramarz:            Right?

Not-Bill Gates:               Yeah, we argued long and loud, and that was that.

Robert Kramarz:            So, sum it up for us, because we’re running out of time here. What is the lesson for vision masters?

Not Bill Gates:               I think [crosstalk 00:14:15].

Robert Kramarz:            In [crosstalk 00:14:15].

Not-Bill Gates:               Yeah. Go ahead.

Robert Kramarz:            … In how to handle a relationship with an execution master.

Not-Bill Gates:               The vision master has to be in charge. I mean, the execution master executes the vision that the vision master has. It’s not like one is inferior to the other, but there is a hierarchical relationship because of that execution of a particular vision. If you reverse it, things don’t go so well.

Robert Kramarz:            All right [crosstalk 00:14:53].

Not-Bill Gates::               … it can’t.

Robert Kramarz:            Got you.

Not-Bill Gates:               Yeah.

Robert Kramarz:            It’s a mistake that so many investors make, is they ask the founding CEO to give up the job to someone who can run a company. And it’s exactly the mistake, even though you made it 20 years later, that others have not made like Mark Zuckerberg, whether you like him or not. Sheryl Sandberg reports to the CEO. Gwynne Shotwell reports to Elon Musk. Tim Cook reported to Steve Jobs, right?

Not-Bill Gates:             Right.

Robert Kramarz:            Now, Tim Cook is in charge of Apple. No great new vision. Stocks doing well, but no [crosstalk] great new vision, right?

Not-Bill Gates::               And that [crosstalk] won’t be able to… That can’t go on forever.

Robert Kramarz:            Right.

Not-Bill Gates:              Like that has to get correct. That will correct itself one way or another.

Robert Kramarz:            I agree.

Not-Bill Gates:               Yeah.

Robert Kramarz:            Well, Not Bill Gates, good seeing you again here. Good seeing you again-

Not-Bill Gates:               All right..

Robert Kramarz:            … generally. And I hope to see you when you inject that vaccine in me, personally.

Not-Bill Gates:               Personally. I’ve been just trying to find the right size needle. All right.

Robert Kramarz:            And where you’re going to put it, right?

Not-Bill Gates:              Right. Exactly.

Robert Kramarz:            Right.

Not-Bill Gates:               Okay.

Robert Kramarz:            And this is… Yeah, just signing off. This is Robert Steven Kramarz of the Vision Master Podcast from Intelliversity. And that’s the way it will be.

Not-Bill Gates:               Take care.

                                    All right.

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