Sometimes, I just have to shake my head at Warren Buffett’s wisdom. Is it earth-shattering? Hardly.
At 87 years young, he keeps imparting on us the simplest advice that has made him a success juggernaut. And coming from the world’s third richest billionaire, some of it may look anti-climatic, even disappointing. Is that all you’ve got, Warren? Really?
But, seriously, as commonsensical as it sounds, lets face it: It has worked for him, and it can work for you.
Once we process some of his tips for success earnestly and allow them to resonate in the deepest crevices of our souls, they could literally transform us if we apply them.
Ah, and that’s the big “if.” How many of us can read this article and actually declare in our heart-of-hearts, “I’m going to follow Buffett’s advice and start doing this tomorrow!”
If you feel inspired, here are six classic Buffett quotes to get your motor running.
1. Get rid of your bad habits and behaviors.
Most of us have a sense of what’s holding us back from reaching our full potential, and Buffett doesn’t mince words when it comes to conquering your worst self. He says, “I see people with these self-destructive behavior patterns. They really are entrapped by them.” The solution is quite simple. He advised graduating students at the University of Florida to learn and practice good habits early on before it’s too late. “You can get rid of it a lot easier at your age than at my age, because most behaviors are habitual. The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken,” said Buffett.
2. Don’t risk what you have to get something you don’t need.
Buffett told the University of Florida students that he has witnessed both businesses and individuals put themselves at risk to chase after bigger things, usually out of greed when they should have held back. He says, “If you risk something that is important to you for something that is unimportant to you, it just doesn’t make sense. I don’t care if the odds you succeed are 99 to 1 or 1,000 to 1.”
3. Be around people with integrity (and develop it yourself).
He also asked the University of Florida students in the audience to think of a classmate they felt that had the makings of success long term, such that they would want to get 10 percent of that person’s earnings for the rest of their lives. “You would probably pick the one you responded the best to, the one who has the leadership qualities, the one who is able to get other people to carry out their interests,” said Buffett, alluding to that person’s integrity. “That would be the person who is generous, honest, and who gave credit to other people for their own ideas.”
4. Capitalize on what you do best.
Buffett told Georgia State students in 2001 that it’s important to stay within the boundaries of your strengths and knowledge, and not stray too far from them. He said, “Tom Watson Sr., who started IBM, said in his book, ‘I’m no genius. But I’m smart in spots, and I stay around those spots.’ And, you know, that is the key. So if I understand a few things and stick in that arena, I’ll do OK.”
5. Do what you love.
Buffett offered up a profound bit of common-sense truth in this advice related to our work: “In the world of business, the people who are most successful are those who are doing what they love.” For most of us, we take for granted our cushy paycheck and job security, even though we may despise our jobs and wish we were doing something else — something we actually loved.
6. Choose to be around people better than you.
At a 2004 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Buffett told a 14-year-old from California one of the secrets to his success: “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.” Buffett wasn’t merely telling a teenager to stay away from bullies. He taught a common-sense life lesson for all of us about absorbing the very qualities and traits of successful people further down the path than us — those who have demonstrated skills and traits that will make us better leaders, workers, investors, and human beings.