Written By Matt Shifrin
For financial writers, Buffettisms or the sayings of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, are as popular as the lovable mutterings of the late great Yogi Berra. For anyone looking for a good collection of the Oracle of Omaha’s quotes there is a new book out entitled “My Warren Buffett Bible” by Robert L. Bloch, son of the founder of H&R Block HRB +0.00%, a company that Berkshire Hathaway BRK.B +% was invested in about a decade ago.
Bloch has compiled a collection of 284 quotes, the vast majority pertaining to Buffett’s core competency, investing. For value investors most of the book’s content will be familiar territory with Warren’s views on things like diversification ( it’s for the ignorant) and moats (they’re essential).
I decided instead to comb through Bloch’s book to find nuggets of general wisdom that Buffett might have for success in life. I was looking for advice that might be appropriate for my teenagers or for the 20-somethings that I know. After all, Buffett is 85 years old and even if one were to somehow ignore the $61 billion in net worth he has amassed over his lifetime, it’s arguable that in many ways he has lived an exemplary life. Forbes chronicles the lives of many successful billionaires but few are as admired and respected as Buffett (by contrast think of the travails of Donald Trump and Stewart Rahr). Buffett has a Jimmy Stewart quality – he is both ethical and humble.
Below you will find 10 of Warren Buffett’s “life” quotes that I think could benefit just about anyone—even those who have no interest in investing. In some ways Warren’s wisdom represents the wisdom of people born during the Great Depression. I will admit that many of his quotes remind of things I would hear my father say. Unfortunately, I can’t say I have always listened.
1. “It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you will drift in that direction .”
This is Warren coming down in favor of nurture in the old “nature versus nurture” argument. It makes me think of the practice of “keeping the bar high” especially during the formative years. One practical application would be to send your children to the most competitive, rigorous school they can get into and you can afford. You will save no money in the long run sending your offspring to a college where she will not be challenged and is generally at a higher level intellectually than all of her peers. It’s one reason that I have advocated seeking out top colleges ranked by SAT scores [see top 100 SAT/ACT ranking]. Regardless of how politically incorrect it may be, standardized tests like the Scholastic Aptitude Test are highly correlated to IQ and often, are reliable predictors of success.
2. “Money to some extent sometimes lets you be in more interesting environments. But it can’t change how many people love you or how healthy you are.”
This Buffettism is all about work-life balance. We all know people who neglect their families and health in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Just think of 19th century miser, Hetty Green, once the richest woman on Wall Street. By most accounts she lived miserably, her children resented her and despite her goal of keeping her $100 million fortune in tact it was eventually dispersed and she has long since been forgotten.
3. “What the wise do in the beginning, fools do in the end.”
Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” comes to mind for this one. When you set out to accomplish a goal, do your research first and lay the proper groundwork to succeed. Many investors for example, make impulsive stock buys, say for hot IPOs, and then sit down to do the hard work of assessing the actual value of the company after the stock is in their portfolio. During the dotcom bubble of 1999 and 2000, this risky practice was rampant
4. “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.”
Buffett’s highly selective 60-plus year investing history is an excellent example. He and Charles Munger have turned down or “passed” on many more stocks than have actually pulled the trigger on. The same thing holds true for super successful actors like Meryl Streep, who is finicky about the roles she accepts.
5. “Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.”
No matter who you are dealing with, remember to consider motives of any person sitting across the table from you. Virtually everyone has their own agenda.
6. “ I insist on a lot of time being spent almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business.”
We live in an “always on” world of acute information overload. There’s a constant pressure to take action, hit reply, search, respond. Put down the smartphone, turn off the TV and just take some time out to think.
7. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
This is especially important advice for young people who are tempted by short cuts and will sometimes cross ethical or legal boundaries either because they either don’t agree with them, or because everyone else seems to be doing it. I am reminded of a famous insider trading case in the 1980s when a young rising Wall Street Journal reporter named Foster Winans became ensnared in a sordid insider trading scheme that in the end afforded him a mere $31,000 in financial gain. His career and any chance of ever working in the profession he loved was ruined, he spent nine months in a federal prison and has been forced to live and work in relative obscurity ever since.
8. “You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.”
This quote reminds me of advice former professional tennis player, coach and best-selling author Brad Gilbert gives in Winning Ugly. In the book he asserts that the most successful recreational tennis players are the ones who make the least mistakes on the court. This works in life too. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel or be the smartest guy in the room. Just avoid dumb mistakes.
9. “If you buy things you do not need, soon you will have to sell things you need.”
Most of us, save the thrifty billionaires like Buffett, are guilty of accumulating unnecessary stuff. For some its designer shoes or handbags, for me it’s probably a few too many guitars.
10. “There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.”
This clearly refers to Buffett’s KISS or “keep it simple stupid” approach to investing in businesses with straightforward, easy to understand, business models, i.e. insurance, banking or big branded product sellers like Coca-Cola, Kraft Heinz. As an editor, this one really strikes a chord for me. Often novice writers will muck up their stories with unnecessary or excessively flowery prose or jargon. I refer them to George Orwell’s six rules for clear writing, which were given to the entire Forbes editorial staff in 1994 by late editor Jim Michaels (see below).
To View Original Article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/schifrin/2015/10/04/not-for-investors-only-top-10-nuggets-of-buffett-wisdom-for-life-success/