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3 Life Lessons from Lunch with Warren Buffett

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I have written a lot about my trip with 20 Peking University students to meet Warren Buffett in Omaha. A couple of ideas from that meeting have really stuck with me. They have been rattling around in my head and have made me question how I am living. As they are more personal than business, I am putting them under the heading of “Buffett Life Lessons”. And they are are all basically about the people you have in your life.

Buffett Life Lesson 1: Invest in the right friends. They will shape you.

During the Q&A, one of the students asked Warren what his best investment was over the past +60 years. He gave a surprising answer. He didn’t cite a company or stock he had purchased. Instead, he said his friends were his most important investment. That you need to invest in your friends and they will in turn shape you. If you have great friends, you will naturally become a better person.

I don’t think this was a glib or warm-and-fuzzy answer. (Note: I don’t like warm-and-fuzzy thinking, but I am awesome at glib). I think he was giving an investor’s answer. You ultimately have only two resources to spend in life: money and time. People are usually very thoughtful about how they allocate their money. But they don’t give much thought to how they invest their time. I think this was about allocating who you spend your time with more thoughtfully.

Buffett Life Lesson 2: Have a great business partner. And to get one, you will need to be worthy of him/her.

Buffett frequently talks about his partner of +50 years Charlie Munger, whom everyone says is crazy smart. Bill Gates has said Charlie has the widest breadth of knowledge of anyone he has ever encountered.

The lesson here is you need a great partner (or partners) to get far in business. It will make you personally better and a team almost always beats an individual. Buffett has made previous comments about how you just won’t get that far sitting on top of a mountain by yourself thinking. Nobody is that smart.

So you want a great partner – and Buffett says the only way to get one is to be worthy of him or her. That means you need to become a great partner yourself. So the burden is on you.

Buffett Life Lesson 3: Have a great spouse.

Throughout the lunch, when asked business questions, Buffett frequently answered by talking about his wife. The quote that caught my attention was when he said he would have been successful in business now matter what, but he “would have been a failure as a person without his wife”. That is pretty much an exact quote. He also said he “would have been a different Buffett”.

This is similar to the previous points. You need great partners for both business and family. And he has made similar comments about how the key to finding a great spouse is to be worthy of one. Be a great spouse yourself and you will attract a great one. Again, the burden is on you.

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What I thought was interesting about these three lessons is that they are all about the people around you. Your friends, family and partners have a tremendous impact on you in both business and life. But I don’t think most people actively shape who they surround themselves with. It sort of just evolves haphazardly in most cases. I think Buffett actively shapes how he spends his time and with whom.

Anyways, I have five more life lessons from Buffett in a follow-up article. And my other articles from this trip are below.

Thanks for reading. Cheers, Jeff

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I write (and speak) about how rising Chinese consumers are disrupting global markets. (#ConsumerChina). This also includes work on:

  • China 2025″ – what a region transformed by Chinese consumers, companies and capital is going to look like. (#China2025)
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