Leaders with Influence: Warren Buffett

10 years ago, I wrote a best-selling book on Millionaires and Billionaires, and that book revealed the secret to their success! I am currently doing a re-write of that book – here is what we published about Warren Buffett… 

By now, the modus operandi of the self-made billionaire is becoming apparent, and Warren Buffett epitomises the type. His life story is a study in goals, single-minded focus and hard work. Buffett got started even younger than most. He, along with Richard Branson, are notable for beginning their first business ventures at the tender age of 6.

Buffett has risen steadily through life, increasing his net worth almost every year since he began. What started with a few items resold from his grandfather’s grocery store in Omaha has turned into $49 billion dollars in investment holdings. ‘The billionaire next door’ lives a quiet and regular life, including what remains a 60-hour work week, punctuated by bridge games. He is also one of the most sought-after financial gurus in the world. Everyone, big and small, prince and pauper, president and average citizen, would like a piece of Buffett’s wisdom. His life and his approach, despite the complexities of economics and the stock market, demonstrate a beautiful simplicity of approach.

  • This simplicity is the first lesson that we can take from the Buffett approach. He grasps a few simple facts
    and figures, and makes his investment decisions on the same principles over and over. He has not changed his approach in any essential way since about 1950, upon first reading Graham’s book. He is a principled investor who looks for fundamental values. These values are both financial and less tangible. He looks for integrity in business leadership and advises people to “invest according to your convictions”.
  • He approaches each investment with the idea of a longterm holding. One gem of Buffett advice is to “only buy
    something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years”. Far from the shotgun
    diversification approach taken by most investors, Buffett’s method is one of selection, rather than pure acquisition. In the same vein, he says, “Our favourite holding period is forever.” And again, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
  • The extreme simplicity of Buffett’s financial advice points up the fact that most people probably ignore the true fundamentals. Those who build enormous wealth are able to focus on letting those fundamentals drive everything they do, no matter how complex the actions become. A few pearls on investing from Buffett illustrate this point: “Patience pays—buy ‘em and hold’ em.” “Invest in businesses you understand.” “Buy at a reasonable price.” “Look for honest, able management.” These are the basic tenets of Buffett’s personal strategy. They contain simple, common-sense thinking with integrity.

Buffett gave a hugely popular interview in recent years to CNBC. This interview was full of his characteristic humour and hardheaded common sense. When asked, “What is the Warren Buffett secret to success?” his reply was;

  • “If people get to my age and they have the people love them that they want to have love them, they’re successful. It doesn’t make any difference if they’ve got a thousand dollars in the bank or a billion dollars in the bank…. Success is really doing what you love and doing it well. It’s as simple as that. I’ve never met anyone doing that who doesn’t feel like a success. And I’ve met plenty of people who have not achieved that and whose lives are miserable.”
“The ‘billionaire next door’ lives a quiet and regular life, including what remains a 60-hour work week.”

To repeat: “Success is really doing what you love and doing it well. It’s as simple as that.” In other words, follow your passion and work hard at it to make it good. This basic concept is a principle that underlies the strategy of every success story that we’ve seen. There might be luck, accidents, or specific ideas that play a big part in
success, but they all derive from that simple idea.

  • Buffett doesn’t seem to have ever spent a waking moment (or perhaps a sleeping one) without having business on his mind. However, his predilection for movies, sports games, and bridge demonstrate that he does take time off to relax. Yet, one gets the impression that calculations are simply a part of his brain’s wiring, and might be running in the background even when he is thinking about something else. He acts with a calm certainty that makes him the unstoppable force of investments. He has said, “I always knew I was going to be rich. I don’t think I ever doubted it for a minute.” Buffett just might be the steadiest performer of any kind in human history. His life is a single, continuous course of simple living, simple pleasures and making money.
    There is a truly Zen feel to his progress through life. He seems to have kept a quiet, steady, progressively building course the whole time.
“Success is really doing what you love and doing it well. It’s as simple as that.”
  • Warren Buffett also points out that the company that a person keeps can affect their success. If you want to be successful, rich or virtuous, seek out like-minded people—even people who have made more progress than you have. Warren Buffett most famously did that when he went to GEICO headquarters, knocking on the doors on a Saturday until he was allowed in. Warren says, “It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behaviour is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.” This idea is not the most frequently mentioned, but it could be very important. People who succeed, at some point, have met at least one person who becomes a friend or associate who opens doors for them.
  • Buffett also has insights into behaviour. He advises that acting with an eye to your company’s reputation is important: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” We can probably all think of people who rose to fame and fortune, only to be brought down by a scandal arising from pointless and thoughtless actions.
  • There is another simple insight that Buffett offers, that certainly can be applied to investing. However, it also has much broader applications. Warren says that “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” His is a mind that can estimate costs, not in terms of what a budget might allow in the moment, but in terms of the benefits that any purchase will bring in the future.
  • Let’s revisit the notion of simplicity. It really is the cornerstone of Buffett’s approach, in life as in business. In this context, two more statements apply. “The business schools reward difficult complex behaviour more than simple behaviour, but simple behaviour is more effective.” When Buffett was a reluctant college student, he complained that he knew more than his teachers. This might have sounded boastful, but his statement was certainly borne out by history. He also says, “There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.” His own pattern of behaviour certainly follows simple rules. He doesn’t overcomplicate things.

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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