Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Major Takeaways from a Visit with Warren Buffett

Some notes from University of Western Ontario students' visit with Mr. Buffett on March 31, 2008. The source and a PDF file of these notes can be found HERE.

Life Learning Lessons

1. Using the concept of buying or shorting 10% of one of your friends to identify the things that make people successful in life. You want to add more of the characteristics that make your friends more valuable and remove those characteristics that are devaluing. It’s never too late to change.

2. Being humble gains respect. Check your ego at the door.

3. Try to live within your means.

4. Be loyal to your friends and expect loyalty in return.

5. Be reasonable with your view towards social responsibility. Berkshire would never buy a tobacco company; however, they will invest in retailers that sell tobacco.

6. Being an inherent optimist is a key trait to success.

7. When I asked how he balanced his passion for investing with his commitments to his wife and family, he said “never have contracts with your family” meaning that no silly rules or formal routines are necessary if true happiness is involved.

8. A good business partnership evolves into something intuitive over time, when it’s based on the proper balance of trust, humour, accuracy, and friendship

9. Formula for happiness: kids that love you, a job you jump out of bed for and working with people you enjoy being around.

10. Most important choice in life is one’s spouse.

11. Do what you’re best at and then give the fruits of your labour to people who are best at humanitarian work. Don’t muddy the waters with inefficient capital or resources.

12. Do what you love, not for the money, do it because it’s in your heart.

Market Specific Recommendations

1. The 19th century belonged to England, the 20th century belonged to the US and the 21st century belongs to China. Invest accordingly.

2. Have a long term view. Short term events are a good source of experience and learning points, but stick with the end goal and don’t be rattled.

3. Use volatility to your advantage.

4. Buy healthcare stocks in a basket to diversify risks since it is very difficult to decipher which company’s pipeline is most optimal.

5. Vices are a good business because they are human nature.

6. Financial institutions should, in general have more regulations.

7. Markets are not efficient.

8. Read as many annual reports as possible per year without knowing the stock price. Try to value the stock independently of knowing its valuation.

9. Buffett reads “Value Line” ( to source his information on investing.

10. Highly recommends Katherine Graham’s Autobiography


1. “Look to be turned on everyday in life. Doing something solely to build your resume is like saving up sex for your old age.”

2. “Happiness is tap dancing to work every day.”

3. "Wealth allows you to be meaner."

4. "It's hard for a man not to be happy when he comes home to happy family and home."

5. "Surround yourself by people who love you and will support you in life. This support system is integral to happiness."

6. "I do what I do because I love to do it, not because I need the money. It's fun and I surround myself with people I enjoy seeing everyday"

7. “Success begets success and it starts from the inside and flow out.”

8. “Brilliance is the ability to simplify a mass amount of information in to a simple yes/no decision.”

9. "There are many very wealthy people (other billionaires) in this world and they are very unhappy. Money does not buy happiness."

10. "If you ever want to find me on line playing bridge, look for TBONE, that's my name."

11. “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.”

12. “Giving unconditional love is the best thing you can do. When you give it out you get it back 2x, you can’t get rid of it.”