Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Elon Musk Do This One Rule & You Should Too

Bill Gates is known to take an annual two-week vacation that is dedicated solely to reading. Warren Buffett claims that he reads over 400 books a year. Barack Obama credits literature for getting him through difficult times during his tenure in the White House.

Why do they do this? The answer is simple: Reading = self-improvement.

While these men have been at the top of their game for decades, the reason they got there is not due to luck or chance, but rather because of their staunch work ethic. Part of this work ethic revolves around what is generally known as the 5-hour rule.

Instead of relaxing, the brightest minds take moments of down time to soak in as much knowledge as possible. In doing so, they are setting themselves up to have a competitive advantage over those who prefer to turn on the latest episode of Game Of Thrones (I know I am certainly guilty of this from time-to-time so don’t fret if you do this too).

It’s not hard to relate with someone who wants to disconnect after a long day of work. However, shutting off your brain after being in the office is the last thing you should do if you are trying to be like the brightest people in the world. Instead, you should do exactly as they do.

However, before we discuss how to do what they do with the 5-hour rule, let’s discuss exactly what this rule entails.

Gif of a cat reading a book on military strategy.

How It Works

The 5-hour rule is surprisingly simple, and it also doesn’t discriminate on what kind of workload you have. You can be the busiest person on the planet (Elon Musk) or work a normal schedule (like many of us), but regardless, you can do what the 5-hour rule asks for.

So, without further fluff, here it is — the secret to how thought leaders for centuries kept their minds sharp: every day of the week, you dedicate at least one hour to reading, reflecting, or experimenting what you’ve learned. Boom. That simple.

By saving specific time to read, reflect, or apply new knowledge, you are strengthening your intellectual capital. For leaders, C-level execs. and Product Managers, it is becoming increasingly well known that the value of intellectual capital far outweighs that of financial capital.

Anime gif of a boy reading and writing.

5-Hours of Reading For PMs

If you are a Product Manager who is looking to apply this rule to your life, there is no shortage of material that you can stack up on. Because the secret has long been out that PMs are in high demand, the abundance of books, blogs, and podcasts are increasing by the day.

While the 5-hour rule does not specify that your reading, reflecting, or experimenting need to be in your field of work, starting off with literature and experiments in an area that is applicable to your life can be a great way to get in a rhythm with this practice.

If you are looking for some initial inspiration, this list of books that is an excellent starting point:

  • Ship It: here you will find a compilation of the most up-to-date insights from top minds in the Product Industry. Taking time to read this FREE book is one of the best ways to systematically understand users.
  • The Product Book: as one of the most comprehensive pieces of literature on Product Management, there is a reason this is a #1 Amazon best-seller. Especially for those aspiring to be PMs, The Product Book provides you with a mountain of knowledge on how to build products & how to crack a PM interview.
  • Launch, the Roadmap to Product Management Success: A collection of talks from our ProductCon Los Angeles. Here you can see what speakers had to say on some of the most topical themes in product Management.

Again, beginning with books that cover a comfortable subject is a great way to begin this practice. Once you have a set rhythm, you can move on to readings that cover different topics. By doing this, you will be expanding your field of knowledge and discovering new nuggets of information that can open up new valuable ways of thinking.


You don’t necessarily have to jump into carving out an hour each day. Of course, you will need to experiment with what works best for you. Starting with 20 or 30 minute per day is a great way to build up to your target goal. The main point here is that the more you apply yourself to this methodology, the more self-worth you are likely to build.

Gif of a man saying he is learning useful skills.

Reflect On Your Readings

This is a crucial part of personal growth. Reflection allows you to strategize how you will approach situations now that you have newly developed perspectives.

Along with strategizing, self-reflection gives you the opportunity to revisit past events. You can analyze how you might have done something differently, or on the contrary, how you could improve even more on something you had success with.

Product Leaders who work in top companies are likely to benefit the most from this type of reflection. Being in the position to make impactful decisions, by applying new insights into your own work, you are reinforcing your current and future plans of action.

Gif of a sloth saying "fascinating"

Experiment More… Way More

As reading perfectly funnels into reflection, so too is experimentation the perfect segue from reflection. Now that you know how to benefit from with your new insights, putting them into practice is the logical next step.

It must be said, however, that putting into practice does not simply mean trying one new idea. Rather, it is testing many new ideas. By doing lots of experiments, you are effectively validating which hypothesis work and which ones do not.

This part of the 5-hour method is a sworn part of the success of both innovators from previous generations (Ben Franklin) to the most successful leaders today (Jack Ma of Alibaba).

For PMs, experimentation can be the key to optimization. By building up a base of knowledge, you are unlocking valuable new ideas to apply to your current and future projects.

Everything from roadmap strategies to customer solutions can benefit from experimentation, and with the new base of knowledge, you will be able to enhance your personal value through the positive results you produce.

Gif of a pilot saying "thats a good idea"

Little By Little

Although dedicating yourself to an hour a day of the 5-hour rule likely won’t magically transform you into Bill Gates, it will help you become more informed.

This building of knowledge is not only valuable on a personal level, but on a holistic level as well. People will notice the improvements you make, which will in turn, translate into you having a stronger voice on matters of importance.

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