In the past Charlie Munger has called himself a "cheerful pessimist." And at the 2011 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting, he mentioned that "you can be cheerful even if things are slightly deteriorating, and that’s a very good quality to have." Toward the end of his CNBC interview (28:19 mark) last week, he again brought up the importance of cheerfulness as one of his keys to living a happy life:
BECKY QUICK: Charlie, so many of the people who come here come because they're looking for advice not on business or investments as much as they're looking for just advice on life. There were a lot of questions today, people trying to figure out what the secret to life is, to a long and happy life. And--and I just wonder, if you were--
CHARLIE MUNGER: Now that is easy, because it's so simple.
BECKY QUICK: What is it?
CHARLIE MUNGER: You don't have a lot of envy. You don't have a lot of resentment, You don't overspend your income. You stay cheerful in spite of your troubles. You deal with reliable people and you do what you're supposed to do. And all these simple rules work so well to make your life better. And they're so trite.
BECKY QUICK: How old were you when you figured this out?
CHARLIE MUNGER: About seven. I could tell that some of my older people were a little bonkers. I've always been able to recognize that other people were a little bonkers. And it helped me because there's so much irrationality in the world. And I've been thinking about it for a long time, its causes and its preventions, and so forth. Sure it's helped me.
And--staying cheerful...because it's a wise thing to do. Is that so hard? And can you be cheerful when you're absolutely mired in deep hatred and resentment? Of course you can't. So why would you take it on?
BECKY QUICK: Is there any advice you would go back and give your 20-year-old self?
CHARLIE MUNGER: Many of my children have worked out well. And I've had very little to do with it. I think they come into the world, to a certain extent, pre-made. And you just sit there and watch.... It's been simply amazing to me as a parent to note know much is sort of preordained. The shy baby is the shy adult. The booming, obnoxious, domineering baby is the booming, domineering, obnoxious adult. I've never found a way to fix that. I can be cheerful about it, but I can't fix it. I can change my reaction, but I can't change the outcome.
That last line, "I can change my reaction, but I can't change the outcome," is very Stoic, and reminded me of one of summaries I have in my Stoicism overview:
Only focus on what you can control. You cannot control what others say or how they act. You can only control how you react.