3 life lessons you can learn from Warren Buffett, who turns 87 today

How Warren Buffett overcame his crippling fear of public speaking
How Warren Buffett overcame his crippling fear of public speaking

Legendary investor Warren Buffett, who's worth more than $77 billion according to Forbes, celebrates his 87th birthday today.

The Berkshire Hathaway CEO, famous for his long-term investing strategy and assessments on market risk, has a lot to teach about money — after all, he began investing at the age of 11, when he used money he had saved to buy farmland.

But he also has a lot to teach about building a successful career. He held a number of gigs in his early years, including being a newspaper delivery boy. He was rejected by Harvard Business School and eventually started his own company.

Here are three habits Buffett has said helped him become successful:

1. Cultivate your communication skills

Buffett used to be so terrified of public speaking, he would become physically ill before taking the podium.

"You can't believe what I was like if I had to give a talk," Buffett recalls in the biography, "The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life." "I would throw up."

At 19, he enrolled in a public speaking course taught at Dale Carnegie, the institute named for the influential speaker and author of "How to Win Friends and Influence People."

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

According to Joe Hart, president and CEO of Dale Carnegie, Buffett likely learned several crucial lessons from the course. One, he says, is the importance of sharing personal anecdotes in conversation or speeches.

To have stories you can think of in a moment's notice, do some work in advance. Jot down a list of relevant anecdotes you could share if prompted, like trips you've taken, books or movies that changed the way you think or mistakes and lessons you've learned in life.

Another valuable lesson Buffett likely learned, according to Hart, is to never read a speech or presentation verbatim. Instead, create a general outline with points you want to make. This way, Hart says, you'll remember what you wanted to say and sound natural at the same time.

2. Read more

Buffett credits many of his great money decisions to his incredible reading habit. He says he starts every morning by poring over several newspapers and estimates he spends as much as 80 percent of his day reading.

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
CNBC | Getty Images

When asked once about the key to his success, Buffett pointed to a stack of books and said, "Read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it."

Of course reading 500 pages a day might be feasible for you. However, if you can find ways to read (or listen to an audiobook) during your day, at night or on the weekends, you're likely to see multiple benefits.

Research published in the Journal of American Academy of Neurology finds that people who engage in mentally stimulating activities like reading experience slower memory decline than those who do not. Reading is also linked with higher emotional intelligence, a wider vocabulary and higher reading comprehension. It also has been shown to reduce stress.

3. Choose your friends wisely

Buffett, who is long-time friends with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, says the right group of friends can push you to achieve bigger professional goals.

"You will move in the direction of the people that you associate with," says Buffett, who recently addressed a group of students at Columbia University along with Gates.

Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman and chief executive officer, right, talks with Bill Gates, billionaire and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as they tour the exhibition floor during the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A good friend inspires you to tackle something in your career that scares you, introduces you to valuable contacts or recommends good books or resources.

"It's important to associate with people that are better than yourself," Buffett says.

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Learn Warren Buffett’s simple psychological trick to being persuasive
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