Careers

How to follow Warren Buffett’s No. 1 rule for success

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett admits a surprising secret to his success: the word "no."

The Berkshire Hathaway chairman used to be eager to chase every opportunity that presented itself. But he says that being more purposeful with his time and energy has quite literally made him richer.

In an interview with Investment News, Buffett was asked, "What's your secret to your consistently amazing growth every year?"

His answer? "I've said 'No' more than any other time in my career."

"In the past, I was the guy chasing shiny objects," he tells Investment News' Brad Johnson, "so I'd be the guinea pig and test a handful of them each year in my practice. I would try three, four, five or more new ideas every year. Maybe one of them would pan out and lead to modest results, but the others were usually flops."

Now, his way of approaching things is totally different. Over the years he learned that following every lead was only going to wear him out and weigh on his margins.

Warren Buffett
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Warren Buffett

"I no longer try any ideas that are merely good," he tells Johnson.

According to author and journalist James Clear, Buffett's personal pilot asked him how to best pursue his career goals. Buffett told the man to jot down 25 goals he had for himself over the next year. After he'd finished the list, Buffett instructed him to circle the five most important goals.

And the others? Cross them out and forget about them, Buffett reportedly said.

Other high-achievers agree that setting reasonable expectations for yourself is key. TV producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, for example, does not answer work-related calls or emails after 7 p.m. or on the weekends.

Marcus Lemonis, self-made millionaire and CEO of Camping World, starts his mornings by writing down just five things he wants to get accomplished that day. He calls it his "knock-out" list, and he swears by the time-management skill.

Arianna Huffington carves out time every day to take a break from work. She says taking time to get coffee with a coworker or get outside actually makes her more productive and better able to concentrate on important tasks.

Focus in on your goals for 2017 with a cool visual trick a career expert recommends.