Bill Gates, charity and the dilemma of already successful people

Book Excerpt: Rajesh Talwar’s ‘Mantra and the meaning of Success’ offers guidance on how to succeed – and how to stay successful

Rajesh Talwar | January 15, 2022


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(Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Creative Commons / https://securityconference.org/impressum/)
(Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Creative Commons / https://securityconference.org/impressum/)

Mantra and the meaning of Success
By Rajesh Talwar
Bridging Borders, 288 pages

Rajesh Talwar, who works as Deputy Legal Adviser to the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, has written 31 books, and on January 15 he is releasing one more. ‘
The Mantra and Meaning of Success’ (Bridging Borders) is, as the title makes it clear, about how to succeed and how to stay successful. Talwar provides mantras that will help an aspirant on the road to success in the context of his or her environment.

Talwar is a reader-friendly writer. When his ‘
The Judiciary on Trial’ came out, Khushwant Singh wrote about it in his popular column ‘With Malice Towards One and All,’ heaping fulsome praise on it and wrote, ‘It deserves to be widely read’.

The Mantra and Meaning of Success’ will be useful not only to anyone who is striving for success, but also for those who have already achieved success and need to learn how to handle it, and live with it. They will learn how to be yet more successful. Moreover, to parents, it will show how to guide children on the path of success. In other words, there is something here for everyone – different people will have different takeaways from it.
 
Here is an excerpt from ‘Mantra and the meaning of Success’:


IS BILL GATES A SUCCESS?

Great Expectations from Already Successful People

Thus far we have spoken of the attainment of success. As we discussed previously, sometimes a body of work is needed for you to be accepted as a true success. There is one other issue that arises with people who achieve a certain level of success: call it super-success (discussed more fully in Chapter 15). Our expectations are now greater for such people. A teenage pop sensation, who is the new kid on the block, so to speak, can get away with something exciting and mediocre. We would, however, not permit someone in the league of the late Ravi Shankar or a Pavarotti to get away with a substandard musical creation or performance. A relatively new writer can come up with a mediocre novel; a writer in the league of a Salman Rushdie needs to be extra careful. When Rushdie writes something that doesn’t meet a certain standard, I believe he puts it away or bins it. Why does he do this? When you have spent so much time on a piece of work, why not get it published? You will get a decent signing advance, anyway, then more books will sell, and more royalties will come in. No, Salman will never do this. He has a reputation to consider: his own. When Microsoft launches a new product, or Quentin
Tarantino makes a film, or Salman Rushdie writes a novel, we – the ultimate consumers – automatically have higher expectations, and we hold them to a higher standard. When Apple launches a new product, queues form to get hold of it because over the years people have come to expect a certain standard of excellence from the company.

And so, when Bill Gates decides to get into charitable work, we have greater expectations from him – not only in terms of the amount of money he invests in his charity or the amount of
work that it does, but how differently it does it. We also anticipate that there will be a greater, more visible impact on human suffering – a goal of most, if not all, charitable enterprises.

When Bill decided to set up a charity with his wife Melinda, it would have crossed his mind that, instead of setting up his own enterprise, he could simply donate money to other, already existing, worthwhile charities. After all, his good friend, and fellow billionaire, Warren Buffet decided not to set up his own charity but simply to donate to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Warren decided that he didn’t want to reinvent the wheel when the Gates Foundation was already doing such excellent work. His contribution to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was more substantial than any contribution he made to other charities because, like us, he had greater expectations and faith in what Bill could achieve with the money.

Of course, this would not have been a choice unique to Bill Gates. A similar choice would have confronted Bill Clinton when he set up his foundation. Every few years new charities emerge, and clearly their founders would have been confronted with similar choices.

Broadly speaking, there would be two kinds of motivation that impel a rich person to set up his own charity.

The first is to get public recognition of your name (and that of your spouse) in connection with charitable work. If you donate to already existing charities, it doesn’t create a buzz around your name in the same way. It’s not necessary to create a foundation in your own name. In India it is more common for people to set up charities in the name of their deceased father or mother, as a mark of respect to them.

There can be a second motivation as well. In this case you are not overly concerned with the propagation of your own name (or that of your ancestors), but you want your charitable enterprise to enter a field where little has been done before. Two examples come to my mind: that of George Soros, the Jewish billionaire, and that of Ted Turner, the founder of CNN.

George Soros created the Open Society Foundations, with the avowed aim or goal of helping to create more open societies across the world. The Foundations do not attack diseases, such as malaria or tuberculosis, which is the domain of more traditional charities.

Ted Turner bought up a lot of land with the idea of saving the bison, which did not figure prominently on the agenda of any major charity. In order to make preservation of the bison more sustainable, he even invented the ‘bison burger’. We all know that if humans start to eat an animal species, our greed ensures the preservation of that species in most cases
(whales being an exception). For instance, no one will ever contemplate the extinction of the cow, the goat, the sheep or the chicken. Charles Darwin wrote about the survival of the fittest. His theory needs an addendum: ‘the survival of the tastiest’.

There are numerous other examples of small charities with distinctive agendas. For instance, the Tall Clubs International Foundation promotes causes that attempt to address the needs
of exceptionally tall people. The charity San Jose Woman’s Club has a programme called ‘Be a Dear and Donate a Brasserie’, which has an unusual name but an important agenda. It understands that it is a real challenge for homeless women to find bras. Volunteers who work for this charity collect bras of all sizes and give them to women in need.

Did Bill Gates add anything particularly new to the traditional charitable agenda? Given the nature of his outstanding achievements in his pre-charitable life, it was natural to expect that he was not going into charity only for the sake of promoting his name. Perhaps he wanted to do
charity work in an original way, so that he would really make a difference and force other, more experienced charities to eventually follow his methods. Or perhaps he would simply
innovate for the sake of the greater public good – and not to sell a product.

[Excerpt reproduced with the permission of the publishers.]
 

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