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Michael Dell Gets Honest About How He Built a Billion-Dollar Business: 'I Wasn't 50 Percent Smarter Than Everybody Else'

Dell believes his willingness to try, fail and learn has helped set him apart in a risk-averse business world.

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This story appears in the October 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In 1984, Michael Dell told his parents he was going to drop out of college to sell computers. They were concerned, to say the least. The gamble worked out, of course — his namesake company became one of the largest players in the computing space, then went public and made him a billionaire. But when, in 2013, Dell announced that he was going to take his company private, industry insiders and the press were even more skeptical than his parents back in the ’80s. That didn’t bother him. “I think most people are careful and risk-averse,” Dell says. “They don’t achieve their full potential because they don’t want to fail. And I think a big part of my success is that I wasn’t, you know, 50 percent smarter than everybody else or something — I was just willing to take more risks and experiment and learn and ask questions.”

Courtesy of Dell Technologies

In his new book, Play Nice But Win, Dell details his career origins and the long saga of taking his company private. Here, he talks about the hard lessons learned along the way, and why he still appreciates his failures from long ago.

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