Entrepreneurs

Warren Buffett and Mark Cuban agree this one habit is key to success—and anyone can do it

BERKSHIRE AGM
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Warren Buffett and Mark Cuban have seen exceptional success.

But neither billionaire credits short cuts for his rise to the upper echelons of the business world. Instead, both men point to investing their time into a simple habit that has helped them outperform competitors: reading.

"I read more than three hours almost every day," Cuban writes on his blog.

Mark Cuban
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Mark Cuban

"Most people won't put in the time to get a knowledge advantage," he writes. "To this day, I feel like if I put in enough time consuming all the information available, particularly with the net making it so readily available, I can get an advantage in any technology business."

Buffett also devotes a large portion of his day to reading.

"I still probably spend five or six hours a day reading," Buffett says in HBO's documentary, "Becoming Warren Buffett." "I like to sit and think. I spend a lot of time doing that and sometimes it is pretty unproductive, but I find it enjoyable to think about business or investment problems."

Buffett typically reads six newspapers each day: The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The New York Times, The USA Today, The Omaha World-Herald and American Banker.

Why it's so important

Cuban recognized the value that sinking time into reading could return early in his career, while building his first technology business, MicroSolutions.

"I remember reading the PC DOS manual (I really did), and being proud that I could figure out how to set up startup menus for my customers," he says on his blog. "I read every book and magazine I could. Heck, $3 for a magazine, $20 for a book. One good idea that led to a customer or solution and it paid for itself many times over."

As for Buffett, Todd Combs, now a protege of the Oracle of Omaha at Berkshire Hathaway, recalls advice Buffett once gave students in an investing class at Columbia University on the value of reading.

"Read 500 pages like this every day," Buffett said to the students, while reaching toward a stack of manuals and papers. "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."

Anyone can do it

"Everybody can read what I read, it is a level playing field," Buffett used to tell his late wife, Susan Buffett, according to the HBO documentary.

"And he loves that because he is competitive," Susan said of Buffett. "He's sitting there all by himself in his office, reading these things that everybody else can read, but he loves the idea that he is going to win."

Cuban echoes the sentiment.

"Everything I read was public," he writes. "Anyone could buy the same books and magazines. The same information was available to anyone who wanted it. Turns out most people didn't want it."

For Cuban, that simple act was a secret to his success: "A guy with little computer background could compete with far more experienced guys, just because I put in the time to learn all I could."

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