The most important lesson from the #BRK50 meeting

Everyone is covering all the pontification about investing that Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger espoused from their grandstand amongst loyal fans. Their wisdom reigned supreme in the eyes of many and the few questions and answers that were the most important were overlooked by the masses who were too busy drooling over the ruminations of our father and grandfather’s peers.

The one thing that was overlooked was a series of oddly related questions and the eventual true and honest answer from Warren Buffett. The series of questions started with an ask about Buffett’s five favorite books and how one of the books by Adam Smith wasn’t talked about in terms of why it is so important. Buffett claimed that economics of course is why someone would love a book by Adam Smith so much to recommend it. A good answer for those not paying attention.

Later in the Q&A a question was asked about how a student could build such an amazing network of people to do deals with. The question was asked in a way that any inexperienced questioner might pose one. There were all sorts of implied structures to the answer such as how do you build a network without a great business school education. Warren and Charlie, famous for their opinion on how crappy the education system is in relation to actually teaching finance dove in on how crappy business school education was… Efficient Market Theory and all.

Then it came, the question that tied them all together and perhaps is only viewed as a charming note to the meeting. A young boy took the mic and asked the simplest of questions… I’m paraphrasing here… “How do I get people to like me and want to work with me like you do?” A simple question and for any experienced business professional it seems that only the most complicated of answers could come out of the sage’s mouth in response.

Warren thought carefully and answered the boy thoughtfully. He gave some advice that you should consider. Some advice that I’m thinking about more thoroughly. Some advice that should be taught by parents, schools, and startup accelerators alike… His advice was:

To get people to want to work with you and to like you, you have to try to be someone that you yourself would admire. The concept harkens back to Adam Smith’s concept of to be loved, one must be lovely. A concept that Russ Roberts so clearly explained. What’s interesting though is that Buffett didn’t leave the advice as some random quote from the apparently more interesting author Adam Smith. Buffett followed it up with practical advice….

Step 1

  1. Find the people you admire the most.
  2. Write down the one or two things you admire the most in each of those people.
  3. Figure out how to mimic the 4 or 5 most important behaviors of those people that you admire.

Step 2

  1. Find the people you despise the most.
  2. Write down the one or two things you despise the most in each of those people.
  3. Figure out how to remove the 4 or 5 most horrible behaviors of those people that you despise.

Like I said… amazing advice that truly explains the value of reading Adam Smith, how to network without attending business school, and part of the secret to Berkshire Hathaway’s success.

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