- At a talk hosted by Harvard University , Bill Gates said his biggest regret as a student was not socializing more.
- Gates revealed that Steve Ballmer , former Microsoft CEO, would force him to go to fraternity-like parties. “I was so antisocial I wouldn’t have even known they existed, but Steve Ballmer decided I needed some exposure to, I guess, drinking.”
- He’s not the only billionaire who has this type of regret about college.
Bill Gatesdropped outof Harvard University in 1975 – but that wasn’t his biggest regret at the renowned research institute.
He revealed in a question and answer session on Thursday that he wishes he had partied a bit more, and studied a little less.
“I missed a lot – I never went to a football game or a basketball game or whatever sports Harvard might happen to have,” Gates said.
The 62-year-old billionaire sat down with Harvard students on Thursday. One Gates Millennium Scholar had a particularly revealing question for him.
- Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Danica Gutierrez, a Harvard sophomore and a Gates Millennium Scholar, was one of the first to ask a question during the student Q&A at Harvard, which was hosted by Harvard Provost Alan Garber and Dean Frank Doyle.
“What is something that you regret doing, or maybe not doing, at Harvard?” Gutierrez asked after thanking the Microsoft founder for supporting her education through the Gates Millennium Scholarship.
“Well, I wish I had been more sociable,” Gates said to the audience’s laughter.
He told a story of how Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO, would force Gates to come out to the Fox Club, a Harvard social group that was similar to a fraternity.
“I was so antisocial I wouldn’t have even known they existed, but Steve Ballmer decided I needed some exposure to, I guess, drinking,” Gates said. “So, I would go to those events and that was highly educational.”
Ballmer attended Harvard at the same time as Gates, but he was a social butterfly in comparison: Fox Club member, football team manager, and a writer on two campus publications.
“I wish I had gotten to know more people,” Gates said. “I was just so into being good at the classes and taking lots of classes.”
“You know, it worked out in the end,” he continued.
Plenty of household names regret studying too much, and socializing too little, in their youth.
Gates isn’t the only ultra-successful person to reflect in their later lives about how new experiences and people could have been more beneficial than hitting the books.
“In college, I wish I’d known that it’s less important to focus on what you want to be, and more important to focus on what you want to learn through experience,” Amy Bohutinsky, chief operating officer at Zillow, told Business Insiderin January. “The most interesting and fulfilling careers take lots of left and right turns, and it takes curiosity, openness and occasional failure to create the best opportunities.”
Classmates aren’t the only interesting folks to meet in college. Author and speaker Laura Vanderkam, who attended Princeton, said she wished she had networked with professors, speakers and alumni.
“Simply being a student is a great networking opportunity,” Vanderkam told Business Insiderin January. “People are almost always willing to answer notes from students and meet with students in a way they won’t with ‘normal’ adults. I wish I’d been more proactive about reaching out to people I wanted to meet who were visiting my university, or had gone there, or had some other connection.”
College is a crucial time to meet people — both lifelong friends and casual conversation partners.
College also provides an opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints.
“Simply interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort,” wrote Katherine W. Phillips, senior vice dean at Columbia Business School, in Scientific Americanin 2014.
“I wish I mixed around a bit more,” Gates said. “It was a fun time, though, because there was people around you could talk to 24 hours a day and the classes were so interesting and they fed you.”
Watch the hour-long Q&A here.