No, not because they’re both hugely rich but because they both remind me of my Uncle Johnny. And by that, I mean they live by clear, positive beliefs and they each know exactly what their values are. So, what are their beliefs and values that I like so much?
I’ve just watched an CNBC program that first aired in November of 2009. The program took the format of a town hall meeting, but the participants were MBA graduate students at Columbia University in New York City. Columbia is Warrant Buffett’s old alma mater. Turns out that Harvard turned him down when he applied because they thought he was too young. I bet they’ve been sorry ever since.
It was a really interesting hour and five minutes, covering (1) the recession occurring at that time, (2) their views of America’s future and (3) the qualities they each think a person needs to be happy and succeed in life.
Let’s start backwards and talk about their views of what makes up a successful person, businessman and leader. They were each asked to tell what individual qualities they thought counted in their lives and careers.
Bill Gates answers:
- Have good parents who share their own enthusiasm for life and what they are doing with it.
- Pick good role models in your interest area.
- Study and learn as much as you can about your chosen interest.
- Develop confidence in yourself; learn to trust yourself.
- Think long-term about everything: readying yourself for a career, planning a family; entertaining change as your life moves on. Don’t let anyone else tell you what to do; you decide.
- Marry someone who not only understands but also shares your values.
- Develop an attitude of “giving back.’
Warren Buffett’s answers:
- Have parents who not only allow you to follow your interests but also help you along.
- Seek out the best teachers you can find in your area of interest. Work for them for nothing if you have to, just for the education they can give you.
- Don’t be influenced by what others think you should be doing. Do what you have a passion for instead of working simply for money; do what you love.
- Be honest; show integrity in your living.
- Develop patience and self-control.
- Respect yourself and others.
- Do what’s best for the most people, no matter about color, religion, and so on. “Give back to others less fortunate.”
What do these ideas and values have to do with my Uncle Johnny? Unlike Warren Buffett’s and Bill Gate’s parents who were college-educated professionals, my grandparents immigrated to America from Italy. They had little education and no money. My uncle was the fifth child of seven born to parents who could only speak Italian when they arrived in St. Louis. Yet, he along with my four aunts, another brother, and my mom grew up with nearly identical beliefs and values as Gates and Buffett. And, they were passed down to me, my brother and my cousins.
My uncle is gone now but it is wonderful to hear other, especially successful people “talk up” the atmosphere I grew up in. It’s reassuring. Can we pass these on to our children and grandchildren? Yes, certainly yes!
Now, back to the TV program. Here are some of their answers to other random, but equally important questions:
Warren Buffett was asked what keeps him up at night. He laughed and said that he tries to arrange his life so that he isn’t awake at night. He went on to say (this was just one of many times) that America’s 200 year-old approach to building businesses and new industries time after time, is the best in the world and he has supreme confidence in it for the future. So, he sleeps well.
When Buffett was asked why he had bought the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, his quick answer was that he had asked his dad for a train set one Christmas but hadn’t gotten it. Of course, everyone laughed again. But, then he got serious and went into a short but really thorough analysis of the future of trains, how many tons are moved at what expense compared with the trucking industry with its high fuel costs and concluded that “trains are in tune with America’s future.”
Buffett mentioned that he owns Coca-Cola and admits to being addicted to the drink. Apparently, he chain-drinks Coke all day long. And, he added that he also owns “Fruit of the Loom,” the “underwear company,” but didn’t think it would be appropriate to show the audience his personal sample of it right then. Laughter from everyone. Buffett has a great sense of humor; Gates said it was one of Buffett’s most endearing qualities. And, I agree; he’s charming, at least on camera.
But, Buffett is also extremely serious about hard work, thinking through issues and never just reacting to an issue. When someone asked him how he made such important decisions so quickly, he replied that when you have studied something for 50 years, it’s fairly easy to make what looks like a “five minute decision.”
Bill Gates was asked, “What’s the next up and coming industry (because I want to get a job there)?” He replied that he thought Energy, Medicine and the Tech industry would grow the fastest in the future. And, he agreed with what Buffett had said; it’s clear that they have almost identical views. America has the greatest business model in the world and although we’ve gone through an unexpected down time, the model has been and will continue to be successful.
But, for job seekers, his position is: “Do what turns you on. If you do that, you’ll get out of bed every morning eager to go to work. And, that’s the way you live a happy life.” Don’t work solely for the paycheck.
Gates was asked if the US should be worried that large, developing nations like China, India and Brazil will overtake us. I thought his answer spoke about a deep value both he and Buffett share: let’s be happy to share, let’s be open and pleased that other countries are developing so that they, too, can share the burden of feeding and educating the very impoverished third world countries. (I admit; this was new thinking for me.)
I think what they were saying is that the kind of competition that keeps others down is not a good thing. Competition with ourselves as individuals is what brings out the most unique, valuable ideas, talents and skills. We each have something to offer, whether we’re American, Chinese, Brazilian, Indian or something else. Let’s all contribute. (I say Yes!)
When asked if he thought America had any troubling problems, Gates replied that he’s concerned about our education system. He believes it needs an overhaul; we’re not developing our kid’s potential in most areas. We need to provide more incentives that will attract our kid’s interests and help them develop their individual talents.
And so we had reached the end of the hour. The last question to both men was: “How do you spend your typical day?” “Reading, thinking and learning,” both answered. Then Buffett said, “With the work time I have left, I do what I love most: investing.” Gates said, “With the work time I have left, I what I love most: managing my foundation, which includes most of Warren Buffett’s money (99%, I believe).
So, thanks to CNBC and Becky Quick and Columbia University for this peek into the minds, emotions, values and principles of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. I found the program fascinating. I hope you enjoyed this recap.
All the best to you until next time,
Please make sure and check back here next Tuesday for new content, and check the movie blog next Friday for a new review! Thanks so much for reading. And, if you think anyone you know would like this post, please share it.