Last Saturday a good friend of a friend spent the day with Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger and Bill Gates together with 40,000 other people in the same room at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual meeting. As you can imagine, you can learn a great deal from spending 7 hours in a room with the most powerful, smart and wealthy people in the world.
Here are some lessons from Buffet, Gates and Munger:
1. Lose money for the firm and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation and I will be ruthless. Money and things can always be replaced and recovered. Reputation cannot. There is no price worth trading down in what others think of you. This is reiterated every year. If ever in doubt, imagine whatever you do will be reported by an informed reporter the following day in your local newspaper for your family, children and closest friends to read. Should make actions a little more obvious.2. Choose the best who will have you. In other words, marry up! But it doesn’t stop at finding a husband or wife. Take this approach with every one of your relationships-business partners, friends, employers, teachers. Time and relationships are precious. Aim high and don’t accept anyone who doesn’t make you better.
3. You can always tell a man to go to hell tomorrow if it turns out to be such a good idea. Why risk being distasteful today if you don’t have to? I bet there’s a better way to handle it. Do your best to avoid making decisions when angry.
4. Don’t worry about the fact that you’re going to fail. If you’re not failing here and there, you’re likely not giving the world all you have. It’s going to happen. Allow it to make you better.
5. You can be cheerful even if things are deteriorating. Sure there’s all kinds of things to worry about with the economy, environment and all else. It’s on you to find the things that inspire and motivate you. They’re out there regardless how dark it may look out your window.
6. Continuous learning is absolutely required to have any significant achievement in the world.The Share Knowledge. Build Wealth philosophy of the Thornhill Wealth Forum holds true for Buffet and Gates as well.
7. Don’t be in a hurry. Whether you’re starting a business or learning a new skill, you never want to be in too big of a rush. You may miss something important and you’ll surely miss some of the fun. Remember to slow down.
8. Conduct yourself in life so other people trust you. It helps even more if they’re right to trust you. It’s a simple process. Do one then the other. No other asset is more powerful than others having unconditional trust in you. Takes a lifetime to build and an instant to erase.
9. Think about how you want to be remembered. Act accordingly. For Charlie it’s “A fortune fairly won and wisely used.” For Warren it’s “A teacher”. Possibly the understatement of the year.
10. Reduced expectations is the best defense an investor has. This goes for anything in life. Most anger, disappointment and frustration comes from poorly managed expectations. Charlie jokingly said “I’m big on lowering expectations – that’s how I got married, my wife lowered hers.” Expect everything of yourself and nothing of the world and you will always be pleasantly surprised.
11. The problem with rules is people break them. The spirit of rules extends beyond them. They are not meant to be danced around. You know when you’re doing something you shouldn’t. You have to self regulate. If in doubt, refer to #1 above.
12. There are no grey areas when it comes to integrity. No explanation needed.
13. It’s so much fun when you’re trusted and worthy of trust. Earn it and keep it.
14. We’re here to go to bed a little wiser than when we woke up. Buffet reminded us how he spent 4 or 5 years of his life in the Omaha Public Library until he was about 10. Hearing things like this make it a little more obvious why he’s where he is. If you enjoy learning it, regard it as important and soak in all you can.
15. It’s more fun to create partnerships with people to do meaningful things than try to outsmart other people out of money.With most things we work on, there’s room for others. Create a community around the success you intend on producing. Share it with others. They’ll share back.
16. Someone has to be the exemplar of not grabbing all that he can. Warren’s salary is still $100k. Many bankers out of college get paid more. He’s also pledged his $40+ billion net worth to charity. He could do anything he wants with his wealth. Anything. He’s decided to share it. Don’t be greedy just because you can. Don’t give back just because it looks good. Do it because it matters. It’s all of our job to set an example.
17. Never trade something you have and need for something you don’t have and don’t need, even if you really want it. People make the wrong decision on this everyday. We get tempted to buy all kinds of crap hundreds of time a day. As a result much of the western world has ended up in debt and a lot of trouble all for an extra room or two in their house, a few more horsepower in their car or a certain label on their jeans. Most things you think you ‘need’ are actually wants in disguise. Know the difference and don’t overextend. This goes as much for debt as it does for relationships and all else. Greed is dangerous.