What The Richest Investor Thinks About Choosing Your Career And Your Personality

There are very few people whose lives match their talk. Most people are more talk than results. I have read everything (authentic) I could grab about Warren Buffett. Bill Gates is richer than him and more popular among geeks like me but I have never considered buying a biography of Bill Gates or reading books about him. The reason is that what impresses me about people isn't the wealth they have but the story of their lives. Their values, principles and their walking the talk. Bill Gates is a great man by all standards I know but somehow I don't really find his life extremely impressive. I have read more about Steve Jobs, more about Pablo Picasso, more about Leonardo da Vinci and way more about Warren Buffett than I have about him.

There is a level of wealth you get and your living standard peaks. Whether you get 10 times more of that it will only have meaningful effect on rating charts and not much on your quality of life. But the one thing that will always be inspiring is your story. That's what Steve Jobs had and everyone felt they knew him personally or got impacted by him.

Warren Buffett has same. His life is an example of simple value-driven life.

So today I will share with you one of my favourite advice of his, which he delivered during a speech to some students at University of Georgia in 2001. I hope you enjoy it.

Warren Buffett:

I really want to talk about what's on your mind, so we're going to do a Q and A in a minute. There are a couple questions I always get asked. You know, people always say, "Well who should I go to work for when I get out then?" I've got a very simple answer, we may elaborate more on this as we go along, but, you know the real thing to do is to get going for some institution or individual that you admire. I mean it's crazy to take in-between jobs just because they look good on your resume, or because you get a little higher starting pay.

I was up at Harvard a while back, and a very nice young guy, he picked me up at the airport, a Harvard Business School attendee. And he said, "Look. I went to undergrad here, and then I worked for X and Y and Z, and now I've come here." And he said, "I thought it would really round out my resume perfectly if I went to work now for a big management consulting firm." And I said, "Well, is that what you want to do?" And he said, "No," but he said, "That's the perfect resume." And I said, "Well when are you going to start doing what you like?" And he said, "Well I'll get to that someday." And I said, "It just doesn't make a lot of sense."

I told that same group, I said, "Go to work for whomever you admire the most." I said, "You can't get a bad result. You'll jump out of bed in the morning and you'll be having fun." The Dean called me up a couple weeks later. He said, "What did you tell those kids? They're all becoming self-employed." So, you've got to temper that advice a little bit. Play one game a little bit with me for just a minute and then we'll get to your questions.

I'd like for the moment to have you pretend I've made you a great offer, and I've told you that you could pick any one of your classmates- and you now know each other probably pretty well after being here for a while. You have 24 hours to think it over and you can pick any one of your classmates, and you get 10 percent of their earnings for the rest of their lives. And I ask you, what goes through your mind in determining which one of those you would pick? You can't pick the one with the richest father, that doesn't count. I mean, you've got to do this on merit. But, you probably wouldn't pick the person that gets the highest grades in the class.

I mean, there's nothing wrong with getting the highest grades in the class, but that isn't going to be the quality that sets apart a big winner from the rest of the pack. Think about who you would pick and why. And I think you'll find when you get through, you'll pick some individual- you've all got the ability, you wouldn't be here otherwise. And you've all got the energy. I mean, the initiative is here, the intelligence is here throughout the class. But some of you are going to be bigger winners than others.

And it gets down to a bunch of qualities that, interestingly enough, are self-made. I mean it's not how tall you are. It's not whether you can kick a football 60 yards. It's not whether you can run the 100 yard dash in 10 seconds. It's not whether you're the best looking person in the room. It's a whole bunch of qualities that really come out of Ben Franklin, or the Boy Scout coders, or whatever it may be. I mean, it's integrity, it's honesty, it's generosity, it's being willing to do more than your share, it's just all those qualities that are self-selected.

And then if you look on the other side of the ledger, because there's always a catch to these free gifts and genie jokes, so. You also have to -and this is the fun part- you also have to sell short one of your classmates and pay 10 percent of what they do. So, who do you think is going to do the worst in the class? This is a way more. And think about it again. And again, it isn't the person with the lowest grades or anything of the sort. It's the person who just doesn't shape up in the character department.

We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don't have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you're going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb. I mean, you don't want a spark of energy out of them. So it's that third quality. But everything about that quality is your choice.

You know, you can't change the way you were wired much, but you can change a lot of what you do with that wiring. And it's the habits that you generate now on those qualities, or those negatives qualities. I mean the person who always claims credit for things they didn't do, that always cuts corners, that you can't count on. In the end those are habit patterns, and the time to form the right habits is when you're your age. I mean it doesn't do me much good to get golf lessons now. If I'd gotten golf lessons when I was your age I might be a decent golfer.

But, someone once said "the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they're too heavy to be broken." And I see that all the time. I see people with habit patterns that are self-destructive when they're 50 or 60 and they really can't change then, they're imprisoned by them. But you're not imprisoned by anything, so. When you write down the qualities of that person that you'd like to buy 10 percent of, look at that list and ask yourself, is there anything on that list I couldn't do?

And the answer is there won't be. And when you look at the person you sell short, and you look at those qualities that you don't like, if you see any of those in yourself -egotism, whatever it may be, selfishness- you can get rid of that. That is not ordained. And if you follow that, and Ben Franklin did this and my old boss Ben Graham did this at early ages in their young teens, Ben Graham looked around and he said, "Who do I admire?" And he wanted to be admired himself and he said, "Why do I admire these other people?" And he said, "If I admire them for these reasons, maybe other people would admire me if I behave in a similar manner." And he decided what kind of a person he wanted to be.

And if you follow that, at the end you'll be the person you want to buy 10 percent of. I mean that's the goal in the end, and it's something that's achievable by everybody in this room. So that's the end of the sermon...

Read more: http://www.nasdaq.com/article/warren-buffett-speech-to-university-of-georgia-students-part-1-cm238914#ixzz3vawEsBfV


  1. After reading through this post, I think I am on the right track with lots of things to improve on. Thanks

    Please, can you recommend some great books to learn about such personalities as Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs et al. Awaiting your response.

  2. Hi Isreal,

    Happy new year!

    I will check for ones I have that I can recommend.

  3. Hi, i don't usually comment on blogs but i felt i should drop a line or two; you are doing a great job and your post's not only inspire me to be better but also teach me new things. please don't stop , just continue and the sky would be your starting point.

    1. Hi Mirabel,

      Thanks a lot for the very encouraging words! I'll be sure to remember them and never give up.

      Happy new year!


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