We talk about passion in entrepreneurship, often as the glue that holds things together. That – passion — is not a quality we normally associate with 50-something-year-old people running companies with thousands of employees and billions of dollars in sales. Watch Steve Jobs and Bill Gates together, though, and you have to sense the extraordinary passion that manages to stay at the core, stay warm and alive, even over this very large span.
It’s particularly telling that this interview starts with clips of both men as driving and already-successful entrepreneurs in 1983, when Jobs looked like a lost Beatle and Gates like that kid in high school who got straight As and didn’t date. They light up again and again, particularly as they look ahead at new things coming, and again when they look back on what made them.
Gates, when asked about his second career as philanthropist changing the world, said "the most important work I got a chance to be involved in, no matter what I do,
is the personal computer. You know, that’s what I grew up, in my teens, my 20s,
my 30s, you know, I even knew not to get married until later because I was so
obsessed with it. That’s my life’s work."
He recognizes the importance of changing the world, but pauses, and finishes with "But the thing that I’ll, you know, if you look
inside my brain, it’s filled with software and, you know, the magic of software
and the belief in software and, you know, that’s not going to change." That, I think, is the kind of passion that builds great things. That’s also the focus that builds great things.
Steve Jobs, in the same context, says "we found what we loved to do and we were at the right place at
the right time and we’ve gotten to go to work every day with super bright people
for 30 years and do what we love doing.
"So I don’t think about legacy much. I
just think about being able to get up every day and go in and hang around these
great people and hopefully create something that other people will love as much
as we do. And if we can do that, that’s great."
Gates added that it was "the idea of being at the forefront and seeing new things and things we wanted to
do and being able to bring in different people who were fun to work with
eventually with a pretty broad set of skills and figuring out how to get those
people those broad skills to work well together has been one of the greatest
challenges." Jobs then said "People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing and it’s
totally true. And the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t, any
rational person would give up. It’s really hard. And you have to do it over a
sustained period of time. So if you don’t love it, if you’re not having fun
doing it, you don’t really love it, you’re going to give up."
This particular exchange about passion in just one of many fascinating exchanges in a one-hour event yesterday (May 31) at the Wall Street Journal D5 conference. They talked about more than 30 years of building an industry, their
rivalry, alliances, and a great deal of what’s new, what’s next, and
what’s different. I started it with about 20 minutes available, and ended up watching the whole thing.
Happily, the video and transcript are available on the Wall Street Journal website. It’s moderated by Wall Street Journal columnists Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher.
The video is broken into several parts, a practical improvement because of bandwidth considerations. If you don’t see the video immediately, scroll downwards.