Bill Gates’ advice to young people looking to change the world for the better is very simple: Pick up a book.
Participating in his 10th Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session on Thursday, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder was asked what advice he’d offer to a young person looking to “make a positive impact” on the world. “The ideal thing is to read a lot and hopefully find a skill you enjoy that can have [an] impact,” the world’s fourth-wealthiest person replied.
Gates, who regularly releases lists of his favorite books, added that reading is essential to discovering a variety of new interests and potential skills, which you can then use to put your stamp on the world.
“For some that means being great at science or engineering,” Gates wrote. “For some it means being a great communicator or politician. For some it means being a nurse or a doctor. The opportunity to learn is better today than ever before.”
It’s no surprise that when asked about how young people can best have a positive impact on the world, the billionaire turned to reading, one of his favorite pastimes. Gates reads 50 books each year, and often takes a tote bag of books with him on vacation.
“On vacation I get to read about 3 hours a day so I get through a lot of books,” Gates wrote during a 2021 Reddit AMA.
That year, Gates discussed how he takes notes while reading, sometimes writing in the margins of his books, to help him better remember and engage with what he’s reading. “For a lot of books that is key to my learning,” he wrote.
Gates also claims that once he starts a book, he always finishes it. “I refuse to stop reading a book in the middle, even if I don’t like it,” Gates told Time in 2017, explaining that his voracious reading habits have “absolutely” been essential to his success.
“You don’t really start getting old until you stop learning,” Gates said. “Every book teaches me something new or helps me see things differently. I was lucky to have parents who encouraged me to read. Reading fuels a sense of curiosity about the world, which I think helped drive me forward in my career and in the work that I do now with my foundation.”
These days, the nonprofit Gates Foundation focuses on tackling global issues like poverty, climate change and pandemic preparedness. Gates has also recently spent time writing his own books on some of those topics, and like in previous Reddit AMA’s, he fielded multiple questions on Thursday related to global health and fighting climate change.
His advice on how the average person can fight climate change, for example, included intentionally buying climate-friendly products that are more expensive than their conventional counterparts — because as demand for those products rises, production can scale up and drive prices down for everyone else.
“As green products come out like electric cars or synthetic meat or heat pumps for home heating/cooling they will cost a bit extra. By buying these products you drive scaling up which will lead to lower prices so ‘green premiums’ are reduced,” Gates wrote.