Everyone knows Bill Gates for founding Microsoft and for being one of the wealthiest people in the world.

As of the end of 2019, his net worth was estimated at more than 106 billion dollars, second only to Jeff Bezos of Amazon. He had previously occupied the top spot for 18 of the past 25 years.

Gravitating to successful and wealthy entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and his pal Warren Buffett, everyone wants to know what the secret of their success is. 

Is there a special sauce that others can duplicate to mirror that success?

Expecting perhaps a multi-page essay outlining detailed steps for becoming successful like these and other billionaires, many are surprised to discover that their secret often comes down to just one or two simple ideas or philosophies.

Warren Buffett isn’t shy about sharing the secret of his investing success.

Unlike the vast majority of investors, Warren Buffet looks for companies with underlying value. He has no interest in speculating and timing the market. He explained it like this. “I try to buy stock in businesses that are so wonderful that an idiot can run them because sooner or later, one will.”

Like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates’ secret of success can also be boiled down to one simple philosophy.

The following story illustrates this philosophy perfectly:

Once during an interview, a journalist asked Bill Gates,

“What is the secret of your success?”  

Expecting a straight-forward answer, the interviewer was surprised when Bill Gates quietly pulled out his checkbook, tore out one of his checks, handed it to her, and told her to write it to herself in any amount she wanted. The journalist was offended by this perceived distraction and replied to Bill Gates:

“Mr. Gates, I’m not talking about that.”

Focused on the task at hand and perhaps demanding a more straightforward answer, she repeated the question.

“I ask you what is the secret of your success?”

Bill Gates did exactly the same thing again and handed her the check and told her to write the amount of her choice on it. Fed up with what she perceived as arrogance on Bill Gates’ part, the journalist took the check and tore it up.

It was then that Bill Gates let the journalist in on his secret of success.

“The secret of my success is that I do not miss any opportunities like you just did. If you had that philosophy, you could have become the richest journalist in the world today.”

Many of us will judge this journalist as being foolish for passing on the opportunity of a lifetime, but how many of us go through our days so focused on our jobs or our tasks at hand and ignore the opportunities right in front us?

Not missing out on opportunities starts with recognizing them first. But, first and foremost:


Then prepare yourself to recognize and seize opportunities to fulfill your purpose. Don’t wait for the opportunities to come to you. Reach out for them. If one opportunity doesn’t work out, handle the moment with class, and move on. Don’t lose sight of your purpose and don’t stop seeking opportunities.

When you do finally come across that one opportunity that aligns with your purpose, fully engage yourself in the pursuit of that endeavor.

Don’t give up until you’ve fulfilled your purpose.

When the opportunity presents itself, are we going to seize the opportunity or be completely oblivious to it as the journalist in the Bill Gates story – so focused on the task at hand that the chance to change your life just passes by?

Mike Ayala