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4 stories about Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger that can help you succeed

4 stories about Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger that can help you succeed

Friday afternoon, at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting, I ran into my seatmate on the flight from Washington, DC to Omaha, a lovely woman who was working the Geico booth.

“Bill Murray is here,” she told me. I told him I would keep my eyes open.

Of course, among the tens of thousands of shareholders who flock to Nebraska each year, Murray, or any other celebrity, is playing second fiddle to the show’s real star, Warren Buffett, and, in the past, his right-hand man Charlie Munger, died in 2023.

In these parts, the greats of Berkshire have one thing in common with Murray: everyone who met them seems to have a story.

Earlier Friday, I attended VALUEx BRK, one of several investor gatherings happening around Omaha as sort of Berkshire satellite meetings. Hosted by Zurich-based Aquamarine Fund manager Guy Spier, the event featured talks from a wide range of value investing enthusiasts, from investment managers and academics to authors and Munger’s longtime assistant Doerthe Obert.

Almost everyone who has met one of Berkshire’s luminaries has shared some of the wisdom they imparted to him. Here’s what you can learn from their stories.

Choose the right partner

Monsoon Pabrai, managing partner and portfolio manager of Drew Investment Research, remembers a lunch where she and her sister — both young girls at the time — sat on either side of Buffett. She took note of the three-and-a-half-hour conversation, but tends to come back to one piece of advice.

“What always stood out to me was that he looked me and my sister in the eye, because we are women or girls, and he said: ‘The most important decision that you take is the one you marry,’” she said. “I think this goes for both partners in a marriage. It’s very important who you choose as your life partner.”

This is indeed advice that Buffett echoed at Saturday’s shareholder meeting.

In response to a question about advice everyone needs to hear, Buffett urged shareholders to think about how they would like to read their obituaries and go about their lives accordingly. “Certainly in my day it would have been to marry the person who could help you do that,” he said.

Give yourself inspiration…and accountability

William Greene, author of “The Great Minds of Investing” spoke alongside photographer Michael O’Brien about Munger’s profiling and photography experience.

A meeting with his friend, Berkshire board member Chris Davis, reminded him of a key piece of advice from Munger: surround yourself with images of your idols.

“Charlie told him early on to put pictures of people you admire in your office, because those are people you don’t want to disappoint.”

Munger owned a bust of his hero, Benjamin Franklin, Greene noted. Greene, in turn, owns a bust of Munger.

“I think this idea of ​​structuring your physical environment to have photos of people you admire is a really good tip. It increases your chances of behaving decently,” Greene said.

Take time for yourself

Gillian Segal, author of “Getting There: A Book of Mentors” spoke about her perseverance in nailing an interview with Buffett. Unable to contact him remotely, she cornered him at a charity event, where he agreed to lend her a few minutes of his time.

When it came time to plan their meeting, Segal was surprised.

“Once I walked past (Buffett’s assistant), she told me all the available times, and it was like, ‘OK, this week he’s available on Monday,’ and it was a huge Tuesday, a huge block of time, Wednesday, he has this Thursday, a huge block of time,” she said. “And I just realized that he is who he is because he keeps his time. And he has time to do the important things. He doesn’t have a busy schedule.”

Chances are you don’t have as many people as Buffett asking for your time – or an assistant who’s an expert at monitoring your time. But this is an example that is useful to everyone: to succeed in your career, you will need time to give it your full attention.

Stay in your lane

Doerthe Obert, Munger’s longtime assistant, told a litany of charming and personal stories about Munger, from his focus on his work to his attempts at dieting.

His memories of his working relationship with Munger are instructive for anyone with employees. “We had a very good working relationship and he trusted me completely,” she said. “You’ll take care of it – whatever it takes. You’ll get there.”

Trusting her assistant to do her job, let Munger do his.

And when it came to the working relationship, Munger was also happy to stay in his lane.

When I asked him what his boss taught him about investing, Obert hesitated.

“He never once talked to anyone about investing,” she told me.

Never? Not even in passing?

“No. Because if he gave advice, it might not work,” she said. “If he loses money, it’s not that bad. But what if I lost a lot? He didn’t want that responsibility.”

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