Warren Buffets' Advice to Students
Warren Buffet addressing a group of students: (Via Rajesh Jain)
Success and Elective Qualities :
"If there's one thing that you leave here with today, it should be this: And I'll start with a question to get to my point. If you could pick 10% of one person in this room to own or 'go long' for the next 30 years, who would it be? It wouldn't be the person with the highest IQ; it wouldn't be the star athlete; you would look for certain other qualities… And if you had to pick one person to 'short' for the next 30 years, who would it be? Now ask yourself why you have made those selections. If you've considered these questions properly, the person you've gone long is probably someone who is honest, courageous, and dependable; the person you've shorted is probably someone who is egotistical and likes to take the credit. The point is that success is mostly dependent upon elective qualities, not anything with which you are born. You ! can choose to be dependable or not. And it's not easy to change, so choose correctly now. Bertrand Russell once said, 'The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they're too heavy to be broken.' So ask yourself, 'Who do I want to be?' At the
end of this process you should determine that the person you want to buy is yourself. You all are holding winning tickets."
The System :
Consider this: in 1790, the first global census was conducted; there were 290m people in China, 100m in Europe, and 4m in what is now the U.S. Now the U.S. holds 4.5% of the world's population but is responsible for 30% of global GDP. I believe the great American book is yet to be written and will be the one that manages to capture how spectacular this growth has been; again 214 years is just an instant. When we think about such growth, I don't believe the causal factors are the people; it must be the system. The smartest people in Guam are as smart as the smartest people in Iceland are as smart as the smartest people in the U.S. Being born in the U.S. is more important to my success than anything that has happened since.
"Getting on the Right Train"
The most important thing about where you work is that you admire/love it. So it sounds like you liked your experience, and that's great. But we come to my second recommendation, which is to get on the right train; that is, moving in the right direction. There's no course in business school called "Getting on the Right Train", but it's really important. You can be an average passenger but if you get on the right train it will carry you a long way. You want to learn from experience, but you want to learn from other people's experience when you can. Managing your career is like investing - the degree of difficulty does not count. So you can save yourself money and pain by getting on the right train.
Leaving a Legacy
I think an example is the best thing you can leave behind. If what I've done with Berkshire Hathaway - running a unique and independent company in true pursuit of shareholder value - persists and people learn from it to improve the way they invest and run their companies, that would be a fine legacy to leave.
Considering an Acquisition
Well, what do you look for in a girl? Seriously, you look for the logical things - passion, an interest in running the business, honesty.
Change and Technology
I don't know how to spot durable competitive advantage in technology. To get rich, you find businesses with durable competitive advantage and you don't overpay for them. Technology is based on change; and change is really the enemy of the investor. Change is more rapid and unpredictable in technology relative to the broader economy. To me, all technology sectors look like 7-foot hurdles.