On Monday (4), Gillian Zoe Siegel author of ‘GETTING THERE: A Book of Mentors’ posted in her LinkedIn profile that she had the wonderful opportunity to snag a rare interview with the ‘Oracle of Omaha’, the investor extraordinaire Warren Buffet.
In the article, Buffet shared a few of the gems he credits for keeping him a man of honor and integrity:
“You can always tell someone to go to hell tomorrow.” This is a piece of advice Buffett received from a friend about fifty years ago — but Buffett reveals that it’s one of the most useful things he’s ever learned. The point is that when something upsets you, refrain from spouting off in a moment of anger and saying something you might regret. He explains, “Just forget about it for a day. If you feel the same way tomorrow, tell them then. You haven’t missed the opportunity.”
Whom you choose to associate with matters: “If you surround yourself with people who are better than you are (high-grade people) you will end up behaving more like them, and they, in turn, will get it back from you. It’s like a planetary system. If you hang around with people who behave worse than you, pretty soon you’ll start being pulled in that direction.”
On maintaining a good reputation: Buffett says that qualities of good character and integrity make an enormous difference in achieving success. He judges every action he takes not just by legal standards but also by what he calls the “newspaper test.” He asks the managers of his companies to do the same. He explains that people should think about how they would feel if their actions would be written about the next day on the front page of their local paper, written by a smart but kind of unfriendly reporter and read by their families, friends, and neighbors. “If it passes that test, it’s okay. If anything is close to the line, it’s out.”
On forming good habits: “Most behavior is habitual. They say the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken. There’s no question about it. I see older people entrapped by self-destructive behavior patterns all the time. Bad habits are hard to kick, but good habits are too. So why not decide to have good habits? And form them as soon as you can. When you get to be my age, it’s a lot tougher to do.”
On Communication Skills: Buffett reveals that up until the age of twenty had an acute fear of public speaking. Just the thought of it would make him physically ill. This all changed when Buffett forced himself to take a Dale Carnegie public-speaking course. He discloses, “That $100 course gave me the most important degree I have… In graduate school you learn all this complicated stuff, but what’s really essential, no matter what you do, is being able to get others to follow your ideas. Good communication skills are incredibly important and something that almost anybody can improve upon, both in writing and speaking. A relatively modest improvement can make a major difference in your future earning power, as well as in many other aspects of your life.”
Operate within your “circle of competence:” Since no one is good at everything, Buffett stresses that it is essential to know your strengths and weaknesses and pursue something you are skilled at. He says, “The most important thing in terms of your circle of competence is not how large it is but how well you define the perimeter. If you know where your edges are, you are way better off than somebody who has a circle five times as large but is very fuzzy about the border. Knowing what to leave out is as important as knowing what to focus on. Tom Watson (the founder of IBM) put it best. ‘I’m no genius, but I’m smart in spots, and I stay around those spots.'”