Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, addressed the graduating class of Northern Arizona University on May 13, 2023, offering valuable life lessons about the importance of work-life balance. His speech, titled “5 Things I Wish I Heard at the Graduation I Never Had,” was based on his personal experiences and the insights he gained over his career.

Gates, who enrolled at Harvard University in 1973 but left in 1975 to start Microsoft, reflected on his early years when he neglected breaks and leisure. “In my youth, I did not believe in taking vacations or weekends. I pushed myself and everyone around me to work long hours,” he recounted. However, Gates emphasised that as he grew older, particularly after becoming a father, he recognised the importance of taking time off and nurturing personal relationships.

He advised the graduates to learn from his mistakes and to prioritise their well-being alongside their careers. “Do not wait as long as I did to understand that there is more to life than work. Make time for your relationships, celebrate your achievements, and take time to recover from setbacks,” Gates urged.

Gates also touched upon his recent personal challenges, including his divorce from Melinda French Gates after 27 years of marriage and the experience of adjusting to an empty nest. These experiences, he noted, have underscored the importance of balance and personal fulfilment.

In addition to encouraging the graduates to enjoy life and take care of those around them, Gates highlighted the significance of creating a supportive and stimulating environment, a lesson he learned during his brief time at Harvard. He recalled the energy and intelligence that surrounded him there, which greatly influenced his later success.

Gates’ message to the graduates was clear: strive for a balanced life where work does not overshadow personal happiness and relationships. For those interested, the full transcript of Gates’ speech can be accessed here

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