Leadership

Warren Buffett credits his success to these 3 people

Warren Buffett
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett is known for being one of the world's most successful investors. But the Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO says that there is one word that defines how he wants to be remembered and credits his success to three individuals.

"I would be very happy to have on my tombstone the word 'teacher,'" according to a virtual Warren Buffett created by Forbes as part of the magazine's 100th-anniversary issue. "I've been very lucky with the teachers I've run into."

Forbes's "100 Greatest Business Minds" list, which features Buffett on the cover of the print magazine, lets readers "Ask Warren (almost) anything" by going to Forbes.com/100 on a mobile phone.

The program also shares who his greatest teachers were: his father Howard Buffett, his late first wife Susan Buffett and his mentor Benjamin Graham.

There, an artificial intelligence program deciphers questions, including virtual Buffett's 33 possible video answers.

The self-made billionaire made a similar statement about the importance of teaching earlier this year at the 2017 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting.

"I really like teaching. I've been doing it formally and, you could say, somewhat informally all my life, and I certainly had the greatest teachers you could imagine," Buffett said. "So if somebody thought that I did a decent job at teaching, I'd feel very good about that."

Here are the three people he credits for his success:

1. Howard H. Buffett

Buffett tells Forbes that his number one teacher was his dad, Howard Homan Buffett.

"The best advice I've ever been given is by my father, who told me it took 20 years to build a reputation and 20 minutes to lose it," Buffett says, "And if you remember that you'll do things differently."

Buffett's father also introduced him to his love for books and investing.

"My dad happened to be in the investment business, so when I would go down to have lunch with him on Saturdays, or whenever it might be, I would pick up the books around his office and start reading," Buffett says.

"If he'd been a shoe salesman, I might be a shoe salesman now," Buffett adds.

In the HBO documentary "Becoming Warren Buffett" released earlier this year, he recounts his father as being affectionate and inspirational.

"The best gift I was ever given was to have the father I had when I was born," Buffett says.

2. Susan Buffett

The second great teacher Buffett reveals is his first wife Susan Buffett, who he says taught him a lot in the field of investments.

In "Becoming Warren Buffett," he attributes his attempt to open himself up to the world emotionally to Susan.

"I was a lopsided person. She put me together," he says.

The two were married until Susan passed away in 2004. Before then, she was the 17th richest woman in the world, was a director of Berkshire Hathaway and served as the Buffett Foundation's president.

"It's really a huge advantage from a personal standpoint to have a wonderful partner," Buffett says. "That's true obviously in marriage, I mean that's the most important decision that you make."

Although you may not have a choice in determining how you were born and raised, "you have something to say about who you marry," he adds.

"Who you marry, which is the ultimate partnership, is enormously important in determining the happiness in your life and your success and I was lucky in that respect," Buffett says.

"It's much more fun achieving things in life with a partner, there's no question about it."

3. Benjamin Graham 

Third on Buffett's list of his "greatest teachers" is Benjamin Graham, the father of value investing and one of Buffett's professors at Columbia Business School.

"Ben Graham was certainly the man who set me on the course that's worked now for a good many years," Buffett says.

At 19, Buffett accidentally bought "The Intelligent Investor" by investor Benjamin Graham, who would later become Buffet's hero and mentor. Buffett re-read Graham's book about half a dozen times, he says, inspiring Buffett's investment philosophy and strategy to this very day.

"Ben was this incredible teacher," Buffett recounted in HBO's documentary "Becoming Warren Buffett." "He was a natural, and he drew us all in. It was like learning baseball from a fellow who was batting .400. It shaped my professional life."

It was Graham who taught him "the two rules of investing" that Buffett has lived by throughout his massively successful career. "Rule number one: Never lose money," Buffett said. "Rule number two: Never forget rule number one."

Benjamin Graham, the "father of value investing"
Bettmann | Getty Images
Benjamin Graham, the "father of value investing"

If Buffett were to instill one principle in young people, that wouldn't have anything to do with money or business, either, he said. It would be to focus on your "inner scorecard," rather than your outer one.

In other words, focus on doing the right things and treating people well instead of on what other people think of you.

Prioritizing his "inner scorecard" has worked for the self-made billionaire. As Peter Kunhardt, co-director of "Becoming Warren Buffett," tells CNBC, "Warren believes that honesty has paid off from a business point of view much more than being sleazy or dishonest would have. He's always taken the high road, and it's paid off well."

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This is an updated version of a story that appeared previously.