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3 Things You Need to Know About Bill and Melinda Gates’ Annual Letter

They provide important lessons for our health and well-being.

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 21: Bill and Melinda Gates pose in front of the Elysee Palace before receiving the award of Commander of the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Hollande on April 21, 2017 in Paris, France. French President Fran?ois Hollande awarded the Honorary Commander of the Legion of Honor to Bill and Melinda Gates as the highest national award under the partnership between France and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which have been unavoidable actors for several years Of development assistance and health in the world. (Photo by Frederic Stevens/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 21: Bill and Melinda Gates pose in front of the Elysee Palace before receiving the award of Commander of the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Hollande on April 21, 2017 in Paris, France. French President Fran?ois Hollande awarded the Honorary Commander of the Legion of Honor to Bill and Melinda Gates as the highest national award under the partnership between France and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which have been unavoidable actors for several years Of development assistance and health in the world. (Photo by Frederic Stevens/Getty Images)

Every year, Melinda and Bill Gates release an annual letter, full of insights on meaningful entrepreneurship, thriving relationships, and sustainable success. This year’s, published today, is no exception. Here are three key takeaways from the Gates’ note, “We didn’t see this coming,” that have implications for our collective health and well-being. We hope that after reading them, you’ll be as inspired and motivated for the future as we are.

There isn’t enough scientific data on women

Bill Gates says he spends a majority of his day studying data on health and development, and he’s “amazed at how little data we have on women and girls.” This is problematic, he says, because we cannot improve the things we do not know. Melinda adds that much of the data we do have is flawed, and since erroneous data is often used to undermine the people it reflects, we cannot accept this as the norm. Perhaps most poignantly, Melinda reflects on a lesson she learned while visiting a data collector in Kenya: “What we choose to measure is a reflection of what society values. That’s why when it comes to understanding the lives of women and girls, the world can’t accept ‘I don’t know’ as an answer.”

We need to rethink our approach to anger

Melinda advises us to avoid outrage for outrage’s sake. She was reminded of this lesson while working with Becoming a Man (BAM), a youth-development program that helps young men in neighborhoods with high crime explore their emotions. Gates writes that while working with these students, she was reminded that “learning to deal with your anger was something we all related to. It’s an important life skill, part of becoming a mature adult.”

As she points out, we can all benefit from learning to better harness our anger as those students did, to share why it was we got angry and how we dealt with it, and turn those thoughts into meaningful and effective action. Melinda shares that she was deeply inspired by the students, and especially by their commitment to developing effective communication skills. “They were deeply engaged in the conversation, asking each other thoughtful follow-up questions. They were facing big challenges with incredible resilience,” she says.

Optimism is a powerful tool

Amidst the flow of negative headlines, Bill and Melinda Gates remind us that the most compelling response isn’t necessarily anger, nor is it complacency. Instead, they believe optimism can be a powerful antidote. The letter concludes on this note, as Melinda declares positivity a compelling call to action: “[Optimism] has a multiplier effect: The more optimists there are working for a better future, the more reasons there are to be optimistic.”  

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