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The Buffett Way: 10 Great Lessons We Can Learn From Warren Buffett

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Warren Buffett is a titan. There is really no other word that describes this man. Maybe force of nature, but let’s stick with titan. Born in 1930, Buffett has been investing since he was 11 years old (think about what you were doing when you were 11), and it has been uphill since then. His investment company, Berkshire Hathaway, has billions in cash, and owns companies including See’s Candies, Dairy Queen, and Jordan’s Furniture.

Buffett graduated from the University of Nebraska with $10,000 from his childhood businesses. He went on to get his MBA at Columbia University and then launched the Buffett Partnership in his hometown of Omaha. It wasn’t long before he earned the nickname “the Oracle of Omaha” for his ability to pick out undervalued companies that would go on to explode in value. Besides his stock market prowess, Buffett also helped Salomon Brothers (now Smith Barney) from corporate raiders in 1987 and took charge of the New York City house in 1992 in the wake of an insider trading scandal.

So, what does the man with all the money in the world do? Always a trailblazer, in 2006 Buffett made an announcement that he would be giving his entire fortune away to charity, with 85 percent of it going straight to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It should be noted that this donation became the largest act of charitable giving in American history.

Though he is in his 80s and battling prostate cancer, nothing is slowing Buffett down. Just this past February he purchased Heinz and was named No. 15 on Forbes magazine’s “World’s Most Powerful People” list. Nothing is slowing this man down. We decided to compile a list of his ten top attributes we should admire and just be in awe of:

1. He is a big fan of women: Last year he told Fortune that for most of American history, our economy has chugged along using only half of its available ingenuity and labor. “One of the things that encourages me about our country,” he said, “is that for over half [our history] we wasted half our talent. If we got where we did by 1920 using only half our talent, imagine what we can do by using all of it.”

He went on to mention a “terrific” young woman who was a recent hire, who came on board about a year and a half ago. “She has a chance to do now what my sisters did not in the 1930s,” Buffett said. “My sisters are smarter than I am, and our parents loved them with the same intensity they loved me,” he added, but the expectations of both parents and teachers was simply lower for women back then.

2. “Never invest in a business you can’t understand.” Such a simple yet profound statement. Understanding what you are going to invest in is absolutely essential in business. If you don’t understand something, how can you be confident it will succeed? They don’t call him the Oracle for nothing!

For example, when everyone was latching on to the dot com boom, Buffett refused to budge because he doesn’t understand the technology industry. He understands financial services businesses, and he has stuck to this industry.

3. Keep up your relationships: Buffett has had a lifelong relationship with The Washington Post and the relationship has benefited them both. He started as a paperboy for the publication growing up in DC, and then in 1974 he joined The Washington Post’s board of directors, where he would remain for 37 years. He has talked of his “love for the product, the company, and the management.”

4. Surround yourself with smart people: Buffett has said, “It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.” This shows he is always wanting to improve.

5. Have an extracurricular: Buffett plays bridge at least four times a week. Everybody needs a release. Frequent partners include Bill Gates.

6. Always think about your reputation: Buffett has said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

7. Learn to multitask: While still a student, Buffett ran multiple businesses: He sold refurbished golf balls, peddled stamps to collectors, ran a network of pinball machines when he was 17, owned a tenanted farm, and managed a 50-strong paperboy route. What were you doing when you were 17?

8. It’s not all about the money: Despite having a lot of it, money is not that interesting to Buffett. He still lives in the house he purchased more than four decades ago. We know he has given away 99 percent of his immense fortune to charities, and together with Melinda and Bill Gates, Warren Buffett initiated the Giving Pledge, which is asking hundreds of wealthy Americans to give away at least 50 percent of their wealth to charity.

9. Failure is not the end: Berkshire Hathaway was a floundering textile company when Buffett came along. According to, “Warren Buffett stepped in with a resolve to turn around its finances. Did he succeed? The answer is no. Berkshire Hathaway was already a dead business and a failure but Warren Buffett was able to see what others couldn’t see: its subsidiaries. Armed with these uncovered assets, Warren Buffett repositioned Berkshire Hathaway to become one of the most valuable companies in the world.”

10. “Without passion, you don’t have energy. Without energy, you have nothing.” Nothing will work if you don’t have the passion behind it. And Warren Buffett has never lacked passion.

Is there any wisdom you’ve learned from Warren Buffett? Tell us in the comments!

Submit your question for Warren Buffett to answer at tomorrow’s Office Hours!

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