Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual foundation letter on Tuesday in which they revealed the superpowers they wished they had: more time, more energy.
Yes, even the richest people in the world desire things they can’t have. Bill and Melinda were thinking about superpowers after being asked a bunch of stuff by some high school students in Kentucky, they explained in the letter.
To talk about the letter, and the upcoming goals they have for their foundation, the couple did a live Q&A on YouTube with author and YouTube star, John Green.
Green had an even bigger question for the Gates: who were their favourite superheroes?
Melinda’s superhero is Wonder Woman. “I loved that she had those big, huge, bracelets. And she had this lasso of truth. Any man that she lassoed with her lasso of truth who was a bad guy, he had to tell the truth. I thought that was pretty great.”
As for Bill, he’s all in for Superman because “he had a lot of powers. He wasn’t one that could do just one little thing and tried to fit that in. He could fly, he could see through walls, he was very strong guy.”
But there’s a bigger moral to the story.
Later, an audience member asked the Gates how they don’t get overwhelmed by all the people in need and the difficult problems their foundation takes on — for example, how do the Gates cope with not having enough time or energy.
Gates had a great answer: think about what you can and are doing, not about what you can’t do.
“If you only think of it in the negative sense of ‘oh, you should feel bad about this, and why do you have so much when people don’t have these other things,’ that kind of puts people off. And yet if you say, ‘hey this is improving and you can accelerate that change,’ then they get a sense of, ‘I want to be part of that.'”
Gates says the foundation also has focus, mostly on health, and it does a lot of measurement of its programs.
Equally importantly, Gates makes many trips to visit the people they are helping, and the ones he couldn’t help.
For instance, he “met the last kid in India that was paralysed from polio. It’s a very sad story, because that kid growing up will have a lot of limits. But this was the last kid in India who got polio. Now, we’re down to the last countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and hopefully, either this year or next, the last cases in the world,” he said.
So having “bold goals” with a sense of “progress and optimism. That helps you not despair at knowing there’s so much to get done.”
Gates is using this combo (optimism, measurement, a focus on progress and reality checks with the people impacted) to cure the world of polio. But the same advice can be applied to any area in our lives where the goal is big and hard and it’s easy to get discouraged.
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