Digital Trend Alert


Success Tips from Three Key Billionaires

Success Tips from Three Key Billionaires in Tech and Media: Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Steven Spielberg

Carol Ingley, President, Media Mogul Enterprises

Week of May 3, 2021 through Week of June 7, 2021

Digital Trends and Key Words:  PCs, Microsoft Software, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX, First Principles Thinking, Steven Spielberg, movies


     Bill Gates has been a key leader for the evolution of the PC via Microsoft software and now heads up a foundation which works to help all people live healthy, productive lives. Elon Musk leads in innovative automobiles, space launch and exploration, a global internet system and more. Steven Spielberg’s first big movie hit was Jaws and the hits just kept coming.  All three are billionaires, some many times over.

     What frameworks and principles did these three billionaires use to accomplish such phenomenal success? Here’s a look at some of those techniques.


Bill Gates

     Worth about $133 billion at the beginning of 2021, Bill Gates made most of his wealth from Microsoft and going on to be Chairman, CEO and Chief Software Architect at various times in his tenure at the company. 

     Microsoft was co-founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen on April 4, 1975. It is one of the big five companies in the U.S. technology industry. The other four are Alphabet/Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.

     In 2020, Gates stepped down as Microsoft Chairman, writing, “I have made the decision to step down from both of the public boards on which I serve — Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway — to dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities including global health and development.”

     This phase of his career centers on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation but he still maintains ties to Microsoft as the technology adviser to the current CEO Sadya Nadella.

     So how did Bill Gates succeed? One way is that Gates operates using certain frameworks that he has created. Here are four tips on what Bill Gates finds important in running a successful business.

     Tip 1. Know your numbers. Gates tells the story of when he would routinely receive printouts of data about what was happening at the different divisions of Microsoft. He didn’t pay much attention to the printouts for a long time. Then he started reading them and realized all of the information he was missing. Knowing and understanding these numbers made a huge difference in his leadership.

     Tip 2. Reengineer where needed. Gates says you need to take time to look at your business processes. Are they working? How can they be improved? Can they be simplified? Gates sees the right approach to processes being key to success.

     Tip 3. Give your employees more sophisticated jobs along with better tools. Gates believes that almost all employees are knowledge workers in one way or another. Treat them that way by educating them and giving them the right tools to work with.

     Tip 4. Address your unhappy customers. Gates gives three steps in how to address your unhappy customers. Step 1. Focus on your most unhappy customers. Step 2. Use technology to gather rich information on their unhappy experiences with your product and to find out what they want you to put into the product. Step 3. Use technology to drive the news to the right people in a hurry.

     About success, Bill Gates has famously said, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.” In other words, in addition to the above four tips, heed your failures and learn from them. 


Elon Musk

     Who doesn’t kind of smile when you think of Elon Musk? Musk is an engineer with a forte in industrial design. He’s energetic, full of ideas and tells it like it is. And that doesn’t include how incredibly hard he works.

     But there’s a method that got Musk to his billionaire status. Already he has created or helped create three successful companies:  PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX. His wealth in 2021 has been estimated at $173.6 billion. The formula Elon Musk uses is all about problem solving. This man knows how to solve tough problems!

     "When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor,” says Musk. Clearly he doesn’t shy away from big challenges. Here are three tips that explain his approach.

     Tip 1: Be a problem solver. Elon Musk’s entire orientation is about solving tough problems. He is a committed problem solver and that has led to his enormous success.

     Tip 2: Have a technique for analyzing the problem. It’s not just problem solving. It’s how you approach the problem. And Musk has worked out his own style. He calls it first principles thinking. A first principle, which Musk talks a lot about, is a basic, essential, foundational truth that is "known by nature." It’s the technique Elon Musk swears by. Musk explains how to get to those first principles: “… I do think there’s a good framework for thinking. It is physics. You know, the sort of first-principles reasoning.”  First principles are not based on theory. They are based on fundamental truths. Strip something down to its fundamental truths and you can build from there.

     Tip 3: Create solutions from scratch. Once the foundation is built, the pieces of first principle reasoning is the playground. It  is, then, a question of putting these pieces together in an original fashion to create solutions.


Steven Spielberg

     Steven Spielberg is an American film director/producer and is one of the most successful directors in history. His wealth is estimated to be $3.7 billion in 2021. One of Spielberg’s successful approaches can be summed up when he says, “I dream for a living.”  Here are three tips from the film master.

     Tip 1. Follow your intuition. If you want to dream for a living, like Steven Spielberg says he does, you have to be willing to be intuitive. Says Spielberg, “The hardest things to listen to, your instincts, your human personal intuition, it always whispers, it never shouts.” Listening for those whispers may not be so easy to do, but Steven Spielberg is good at it. His instincts have created beloved blockbusters movies including the Indian Jones series, Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T., Saving Private Ryan and to be released at the end of 2021, a remake of West Side Story. To incorporate this technique into your own life, you must be prepared to listen every day. That means taking time to unclutter your thinking.

     Tip 2. Fight for your idea or ideas. Spielberg sticks with ideas not just for short periods of time but often for very long periods, sometimes decades. “If I could single out one area to which I have an utter devotion, it would be with my preoccupation with the idea,” he says. He points out that you may have to fight for that idea because so many people simply won’t believe in it. He adds that it’s a “challenge of staying interested in one single idea for sometimes years and the struggle not to contaminate that idea after months and years of obsessing over it.”

     Tip 3. Storytelling is key. Storytelling is so important in today’s digital world in order to stand out. But Spielberg knew this at the beginning of his career and even as an adolescent creating home movies.

     When evaluating others, Spielberg says, “Can they tell a story that holds together that’s compelling and original? That’s the secret.” He elaborates about the importance of the story: “I’m more interested in the storyteller who doesn’t know anything about where to put the camera than someone who knows everything about the camera but nothing about the story process.”

     But there’s more than just storytelling for Spielberg. There must be an emotional component that pulls him into a project. “What calls to me is, is there a deep urge in the center of myself that only that film will release?” If the emotional component is there, then Spielberg will be attracted to the project.

     A great storyteller who chooses stories with an emotional component not only can make great movies but build companies as well. That’s Steven Spielberg.


     Carol Ingley is a marketing and finance consultant as well as a futurist and technologist. She is president of Media Mogul Enterprises.


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