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Bill Gates' 11 Rules of Life

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Netlore Archive: Circulating via email, the text of a speech allegedly given to high school graduates by Bill Gates in which he sets out "11 rules for life."

Description: Viral text / Forwarded email
Circulating since: Feb. 2000
Status: Falsely attributed to Bill Gates (see details below)


2012 example:
As posted in an online forum, Aug. 4, 2012:

Bill Gates speech rules of life


2003 example:
Email contributed by Sarah C., July 12, 2003:

BILL GATES' SPEECH TO MT. WHITNEY HIGH SCHOOL in Visalia, California.

Love him or hate him, he sure hits the nail on the head with this!

To anyone with kids of any age, here's some advice. Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Rule 1: Life is not fair -- get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping -- they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.


2000 example:
Email contributed by Roman S., Feb. 8, 2000:

Bill Gates' Message on Life

For recent high school and college graduates, here is a list of 11 things they did not learn in school.

In his book, Bill Gates talks about how feel-good, politically-correct teachings created a full generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

RULE 1......Life is not fair; get used to it.

RULE 2......The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

RULE 3......You will NOT make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with a car phone, until you earn both.

RULE 4......If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.

RULE 5......Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they called it opportunity.

RULE 6......If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

RULE 7......Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try "delousing" the closet in your own room.

RULE 8......Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades; they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

RULE 9......Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summer off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

RULE 10.....Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

RULE 11.....Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.


Analysis: Whether you regard the above as a much-needed dose of realism or an unnecessarily vituperative browbeating, the main thing you need to know is that former Microsoft chairman Bill Gates neither wrote those words nor delivered them in a speech to high school students, or anyone else.

I repeat: Bill Gates did not write it or say it.

As frequently happens when texts are repeatedly copied and shared over time, something written by one person has come to be attributed to another. In this case, the displaced text is a pared-down version of an op-ed piece by education reformer Charles J. Sykes, best known as the author of Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good about Themselves, but Can't Read, Write, or Add. The op-ed was originally published in the San Diego Union-Tribune in September 1996. It began making the email rounds under Bill Gates' name in February 2000, and has continued to do so ever since.

HOAX QUIZ: Can YOU Spot the Fakes?

Sources and further reading:

Some Rules Kids Won't Learn in School
San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 September 1996

Last updated: 02/05/13

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