Warren Buffett's tribute to a legendary investor reveals 3 secrets to living an extraordinary life
Benjamin Graham, widely regarded as the father of value investing, was considered a legend for many reasons.
His acclaimed book, "The Intelligent Investor," changed the lives of many — particularly Warren Buffett's, who was one of Graham's students at Columbia Business School.
Graham played a significant role in shaping Buffett's career and investment philosophy. (The Berkshire Hathaway CEO even named his first son, Howard Graham Buffett, after Graham.)
But Graham's influence extended well beyond lessons on analyzing financial statements.
In a short remembrance published in the Financial Analyst Journal to Graham after his death in 1976, Buffett emphasized what he learned from the three things Graham said he hoped — even at the age of 80 — to do every day.
Each of those hopes undoubtedly shaped Buffett to become one of the richest and most influential people in the world. Here's what they can teach us about how to live an extraordinary life:
1. Do something foolish
The word "foolish" often carries a negative connotation, but the implied meaning here has more to do with humility and a willingness to forgo self-importance than anything else.
In his 2018 shareholder letter, Buffett explained that the markets are always going to be volatile, and that in order to seize the opportunities, investors don't need to have "great intelligence, a degree in economics or a familiarity with Wall Street jargon such as alpha and beta."
He continued: "What investors then need instead is an ability to both disregard mob fears or enthusiasms and to focus on a few simple fundamentals. A willingness to look unimaginative for a sustained period — or even to look foolish — is also essential."
2. Do something creative
Creativity can mean many things. It can be inventing something entirely original, or even reformulating what's already in front of you.
Anyone can be creative as long as they're willing to push beyond the borders and think outside the box. Buffett is the creative genius he is today because he was able to absorb Graham's lessons and advance them forward into his own ideas.
"A remarkable aspect of Ben's dominance of his professional field was that he achieved it without the narrowness of mental activity that concentrates all efforts on a single end," Buffett says in Graham's remembrance letter. "It was, rather, the incidental byproduct of an intellect whose breadth almost exceeded definition."
That's what creativity is all about, and it's a muscle that we should practice every day.
3. Do something generous
According to Buffett, generosity was where Graham succeeded beyond all others.
"I knew Ben as my teacher, my employer and my friend. In each relationship — just as with all his other students, employees and friends — there was an absolutely open-ended, no-scores-kept generosity of ideas, time and spirit," he says. "If clarity of thinking was required, there was no better place to go. And if encouragement was needed, Ben was there."
Daily generosity is one of the easiest traits to recognize in the Oracle of Omaha. Buffett, along with his pal Bill Gates, are considered as two of the most charitable billionaires in the world. In 2006, Buffett announced he would donate the bulk of his billions to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Buffett closed his tribute like this: "Walter Lippmann spoke of men who plant trees that other men will sit under. Ben Graham was such a man."
By all accounts, Graham was an extraordinary man who left the world with invaluable lessons.
Dustin McKissen is the founder of McKissen + Company, a strategic communications firm in St. Charles, Missouri. He was also named one of LinkedIn's "Top Voices in Management and Corporate Culture." Follow him on LinkedIn here.
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