Warren Buffett's Remarkably Simple Mantra for Success
Warren Buffett is wealthy, to the tune of $72.2 billion. To put this in perspective, only 67 of the 200 wealthiest countries listed by the United Nations generate a GDP greater than the value of his holdings.
He is also by many accounts one of the hardest-working people in business. According to his biographer, his "vaguely autistic aura" provides him with a keen ability to see and analyze numbers. And when most of us might question the validity of an undervalued company, he sees it for what it really is -- an opportunity.
Buffett is also an incredibly humble, honest and pretty funny fellow.
In 2002, I had the opportunity to hear The Oracle of Omaha speak at Georgetown University. Our small group of aspiring business leaders sat patiently hoping to hear sage investment advice or catch a hint of an upcoming acquisition. The jovial Buffett, however, lamented about his surprisingly humble rise to wealth and provided us with a few simple rules to live by.
Buffett quipping that the only difference between us young business students and him was that while we probably arrived to the venue by foot or in crappy old cars (given the costly tuition at Georgetown), he came on his cushy private jet.
That is hardly a small difference, Mr. Buffett.
He was quick to point out that we had all in fact started off poor, scared and naked. He dismissed the attributes of luck, though he acknowledged the fact that he was fortunate to have been born to supporting parents with means, or as he called it, "winning the fallopian tube lottery."
His career success and wealth, however, was not achieved through chance circumstance. Hard work, conviction and an enormous helping of common sense is what he attributes to success.
But that was not the secret.
Instead, Buffett emphasized that the true secret to success was to live a righteous life, because dishonesty, cruelty and immorality follow you throughout your career, and it is far more difficult to shed than any failure we will ever have.
He suggested that by adopting one simple mantra, all other parts of your personal and professional lives would fall into place:
Never do anything in life if you would be ashamed of seeing it printed on the front page of your hometown newspaper for your family and friends to see.
It is that simple.
There was no top-secret formula for valuing businesses or stock tips. Just be good, do right and treat others fairly.
Of course, Buffett has acquired ownership in a few small newspapers over the past years, so perhaps his goal is to control the front page content of his hometown newspaper.
Alas, I am certain his investment reasoning is far more sophisticated than that.