Billionaire Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, has long been regarded as a source of wisdom. In 1986, a then 62-year-old Munger was selected to speak at Harvard-Westlake, a private Los-Angeles based secondary school where he has been a longtime trustee.
To determine what he would say in his speech, Munger asked himself which of the previous commencement speeches he wished were longer. The Omaha-native settled on a prior speech given by late night television host Johnny Carson, which specified his "prescriptions" for guaranteed misery in life.
"I therefore decided to repeat Carson's speech but in expanded form with some added prescriptions of my own," Munger told the graduating class of 1986.
Here are five things to avoid that Munger said "guarantee" a miserable life:
Carson admitted in his original speech that he had tried drugs on occasion and become miserable every time. Munger added his own personal experience: "The four closest friends of my youth were highly intelligent, ethical, humorous types, favoured in person and background," he said. "Two are long dead, with alcohol a contributing factor, and a third is a living alcoholic, if you call that living."
Although your level of susceptibility varies, said Munger, anyone can become prone to addiction. "And I have yet to meet anyone, in over six decades of life, whose life was worsened by over fear and over avoidance of such a deceptive pathway to destruction."
Munger told Harvard-Westlake graduates that resentment worked for him about as well as it did for Carson. "I cannot recommend it highly enough to you if you desire misery," said Munger.
Again, he refers back to Johnson who spoke at length about resentment in his writing. "Johnson spoke well when he said that life is hard enough to swallow without squeezing in the bitter rind of resentment," said Munger.
If you find it impossible to quit feeling resentful "cold turkey," the billionaire suggested abiding by the practice of the "Disraeli compromise."
Munger gave commencement attendees the backstory: As Benjamin Disraeli rose to become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, he learned to give up vengeance. However, he retained an outlet for resentment by writing the names of all the people who wronged him on a piece of paper and placing it in a drawer.
"Then, from time to time, he reviewed these names and took pleasure in noting the way the world had taken his enemies down without his assistance," explained Munger.
To avoid a life of misery, you must "faithfully" follow through with plans and do exactly what you said you're going to do, said Munger. He added that unreliable people are not trusted and eventually become excluded from friendship and social activities.
Munger used the fable of the tortoise and the hare to demonstrate how unreliable people fare. "Instead of being outrun by one fine turtle, you will be outrun by hordes and hordes of mediocre turtles and even by some mediocre turtles on crutches," he said.
If you refuse to get back up after facing an adverse situation, you will have a miserable life, said Munger. "Because there is so much adversity out there, even for the lucky and wise, this will guarantee that, in due course, you will be permanently mired in misery," he explained.
To avoid a life of misery, you must bounce back regardless of the situation that you're faced with, said Munger.
You can easily see the results of not learning from past mistakes by looking at the "common disasters of mankind," explained Munger, such as drunk and reckless driving.
To avoid being unhappy, Munger said that you must also become as educated as you reasonably can. He gave Sir Isaac Newton, one of the most influential physicists, as an example. Newton received widespread attention for his work because he mastered the work of those who came before him, explained Munger.
In fact, Newton said this of his work, "If I have seen a little further than other men, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants."
— Video produced by Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo
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