Buffett taught Gates something that, at 63, Gates would never have considered at 25. Back then, Gates’ only modus operandi as the co-founder of Microsoft was to put a computer on every desk and in every home on the planet.
Things have changed, both men have aged well, and priorities have shifted, as they do in every person’s life.
Gates said, “[Buffett’s] measure of success is, ‘Do the people you care about love you back?'” Gates adds, “I think that is about as good a metric as you will find.”
Not all of us can say we measure our success by the strength of our personal relationships in an economy of love. We race through life to accumulate wealth and expensive toys; we yearn to be recognized for our professional or financial accomplishments.
But to Gates, a billionaire many times over, Buffett’s definition of success should trump the Benjamins in your wallet or Beemers in the garage.
“Today, of course, I still assess the quality of my work,” Gates said. “But I also ask myself a whole other set of questions about my life. Did I devote enough time to my family? Did I learn enough new things? Did I develop new friendships and deepen old ones?”
This new measure of success set by the third wealthiest man on the planet (Buffett) and now applied by the second wealthiest man on the planet (Gates) is attainable by all, but has a high bar indeed: “Do the people you care about love you back?”
How many of us may actually sit down and reflect on this metric to assess the quality of our personal lives? Bill Gates did and shifted. Perhaps you can too.
Let’s get one thing straight: You can’t make others love you back. It’s what you do to help impact other people’s lives that matters most under Buffett and Gates’ new metric of success. Because when you invest in others and help change the life of another, the return on it is the most powerful force of all–love.
For Buffett and Gates, pledging billions to charitable causes to fight disease and reduce extreme poverty is a profound way to express care and love for humanity. For the rest of us non-billionaire types, we have to start with our own families, friends, co-workers, employees, customers, and the communities we serve.
To get love back as the ultimate measure of success requires an honest self-reflection question to assess our capacity to give love first, in order to receive love back: What are we doing to make people’s lives better within our sphere of influence?
Here are three things I recommend in the workplace, which fulfills Buffett’s and Gates’ new measure of success for you.
For company leaders, you want to advocate for the development and success of those you lead, and model that in future leaders. For example, make sure employees have the right tools and resources to make their jobs easier and help them be better at what they do.
Wharton professor and bestselling author, Adam Grant, tells CNBC Make It: “The most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed.” The people he admires the most think bigger than themselves and tend to produce the best results. Grant says they’re “givers, not takers — who say ‘look, it’s not all about m.'”
Leading social psychology scholar, Barbara Fredrickson, author of Love 2.0, found that a person’s engagement at work is fueled by positive human emotions, specifically, feelings of love. Fredrickson said, “When people are made to feel cared for, nurtured, and growing, that will serve the organization well. Because those feelings drive commitment and loyalty just like it would in any relationship. If you feel uniquely seen, understood, valued and appreciated, then that will hook you into being committed to that team, leader and organization. This is how positive emotions work.”
And this is how you answer Warren Buffett’s million-dollar question: Do the people you care about love you back? It always starts with you, in whatever role you’re in–at home or at work–being brave and intentional about initiating caring interactions, putting others first, and making human beings feel valued, honored, and respected. This is what will ultimately cause people to declare, “This is a person I can love back.”
Originally published on Inc.
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