The Bill Gates documentary series was released on Netflix on Friday. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at Bill’s life - focusing on his work at the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, but also covers his childhood, his work at Microsoft, reading habits and much more. It’s pretty fascinating, and I will probably watch it a few times. This is a post of a few things I took away from the documentary.

Bill Gates is a first principles thinker.

When designing the next generation toilet, he approaches the problem with a few unchangable restrictions. In this case, it’s the current conditions of the places where these toilets are needed the most - especially the lack of electricity and running water. The foundation ran a contest to encourage innovation around a toilet that doesn’t require running water, access to electricity, and where the byproduct can be re-used instead of being dumped into rivers and lakes. These next generation toilets are being produced and deployed around the world.

Bill Gates uses mental models for everything.

Melinda Gates says it best - “[Bill] makes a framework in his mind, and then starts slotting in the information. If something doesn’t line up, he gets very frustrated.” He uses frameworks to understand complex topics and then devours as much information as he can to complete that model. Mental models create simple structures to understand the real world, which are essential to linking the facts together. I’m guessing that’s why he’s most often the smartest guy in the room.

There are so many other learnings - on the habits he’s formed to devour and retain information, his sense of competition, and also the incredible privelege that allowed for him to explore his interests throughout his life.