81 Reasons We Love Warren Buffett

Today is Warren Buffett's 81st birthday. To celebrate the Babe Ruth of Investing's birthday, here are 81 reasons we love our hero.

  1. Intricate, occasionally contradictory complexity hides beneath the aw-shucks folksy charm. As a Forbes writer once put it, "Buffett is not a simple person, but he has simple tastes."
  2. Many people talk about avoiding the madding crowd, but Buffett actually does it by living 1,250 miles away from Wall Street.
  3. He has a fortress-like internal scorecard on all things investing, but a vulnerable, endearing external scorecard on many aspects of his personal life. See his penchant for seeking mother figures.
  4. Perspective: "In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497."
  5. He is that guy in school who tells you he may have failed the test ... only to bust the top of the curve.
  6. His time frame for the long run consistently exceeds his life span.
  7. Him saying it better: "Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."
  8. He's human. He fears nuclear war and his own mortality. He's frequently more adept at business relationships than personal ones. He can hold a grudge. His hero is his daddy.
  9. Classic line: "Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1."
  10. Once branded a stingy miser (rightly or wrongly), Buffett has evolved (assuming it wasn't his intention from the start) into one of the most effective philanthropists I know. After growing his potential givings at a 20% compounded rate per year, he set a plan to give most of it away.
  11. Perhaps as importantly, he put ego aside and outsourced the charitable decision making to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Circle of competence at its finest.
  12. "I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years." Contrast that with computer algorithm-based trading, day trading, and some of the moves you've made in your own account.
  13. Buffett's smarter than you and I, but he's kind enough to let us feel otherwise.
  14. David Sokol was once an heir apparent and arguably Buffett's most trusted operations guy. But when Sokolgate erupted, Buffett stayed true to his word: "We can afford to lose money -- even a lot of money. But we can't afford to lose reputation -- even a shred of reputation."
  15. "Derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction." He said it early, and we are reminded of it often.
  16. In a glimpse of the nuance that some commentators call hypocrisy, Buffett uses derivatives himself. But he does so in a way that doesn't threaten the entire financial system and explains why in his annual shareholder letters.
  17. He doomed himself from ever holding public office: "A public-opinion poll is no substitute for thought."
  18. I like juxtaposing these two quotes: (1) "It's better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction." (2) "Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls-Royce to get advice from those who take the subway."
  19. "You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don't do too many things wrong."
  20. He has the ability to resist the allure of the quick fix or quick buck when longer-term dynamics are at play.
  21. Not sure if this quote was before or after the Internet: "Let blockheads read what blockheads wrote."
  22. For those hoping to become famous and respected, he's a testament that the challenges and doubts keep coming regardless of the length of the track record. He's publicly prevailed so far.
  23. An investing truism: "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."
  24. The business side of that investing truism: "Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it's not going to get the business."
  25. He uses colorful language and analogies when drab jargon could do the trick.
  26. Boring example: moat vs. competitive advantage.
  27. Not-so-boring example: sex.
  28. "Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy; profit from folly rather than participate in it."
  29. Classic line: "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked."
  30. He backs up his saying, "Our favorite holding period is forever," by keeping past-their-prime subsidiaries others would "spin off to unlock value."
  31. His Robin (Charlie Munger) can kick your Batman's butt.
  32. He makes loophole-free handshake deals.
  33. "Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing."
  34. Keep it simple, stupid, quote No. 1: "The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective."
  35. Keep it simple, stupid, quote No. 2: "There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult."
  36. The Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) annual meeting is an unrivaled spectacle in investing, truly living up to its billing as the Woodstock for Capitalists.
  37. One of the most succinct summations of why America is great: "There are 309 million people out there that are trying to improve their lot in life. And we've got a system that allows them to do it."
  38. Trash-bin-diving caution No. 1: "It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price."
  39. Trash-bin-diving caution No. 2: "Time is the friend of the wonderful company, the enemy of the mediocre."
  40. He's an eternal optimist in a sound-bite culture that often rewards pessimists.
  41. His shareholder letters reveal an artisan-like craftsmanship only seen when the proprietor cares deeply about his creation.
  42. The contrarian credo: "We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful."
  43. Genius fails: "When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact."
  44. Like so many great thinkers, Buffett is able to ignore noise and whittle a decision down to its core variables. After he explains those variables, the decision sounds elementary.
  45. Why banking can be dangerous: "When you combine ignorance and leverage, you get some pretty interesting results."
  46. He allows me to see the word "Buffett" without thinking of Jimmy.
  47. Buffett maintains a high thought-to-speech ratio.
  48. Buffett's librarian fantasy: "If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians."
  49. He converts a deadly sin into a virtue: "You do things when the opportunities come along. I've had periods in my life when I've had a bundle of ideas come along, and I've had long dry spells. If I get an idea next week, I'll do something. If not, I won't do a damn thing."
  50. Averaging 20% returns for almost half a century results in beating the S&P 500 78:1!
  51. Even as he has fewer and fewer meaningful investing options because of the size of Berkshire Hathaway, he continues to wow us.
  52. On a chili-dog-and-onion-ring-flavored note, Berkshire Hathaway owns Dairy Queen, my favorite fast-food chain.
  53. Many of Buffett's managers were wildly successful entrepreneurs before selling out to Berkshire. Convincing successful, often headstrong, boss-less superstars to voluntarily subjugate themselves and to keep those people motivated and happy is a feat.
  54. On a related note, Buffett doesn't micromanage. Good thing, with an empire this large.
  55. He gets doubted again and again and again and proves the doubters wrong most of the time. Yet, you never hear him say "I told you so."
  56. Well, maybe sometimes he gloats. Harvard Business School rejected him, which led him to study under his mentors Benjamin Graham and David Dodd at Columbia. His "how do you like me now?" statement: "Harvard did me a big favor by turning me down," he said. "But I haven't made any contributions to them in thanks for that."
  57. He has become America's de facto investing teacher. And he's done so willingly.  
  58. Perhaps my favorite Buffett line: "We like things that you don't have to carry out to three decimal places. If you have to carry them out to three decimal places, they're not good ideas."
  59. Not that he can't be ruthless, but Buffett tends to look for win-win situations where possible. Contrast that with the Wall Street art of "ripping the face off" of clients.
  60. He's often described as a "learning machine," extending his natural abilities and allowing him to make behemoth investing decisions over the span of just hours.
  61. He added to Ben Graham's teachings with the help of that learning-machine ability and Munger's counsel.
  62. Here's a good place to point out that available-to-all company annual reports are the primary fuel in his learning machine. He reads them voraciously to compare and contrast companies and build his business knowledge base. See the next point.
  63. When asked what the most important key to his success was, Buffett answered, "focus." His biographer Alice Schroeder elaborates: He has "focus like you have never seen on anybody else." For good or ill, Buffett's entire life has been dedicated to investing. It's much harder than he lets on.
  64. Plenty of business fish in the sea: "There are all kinds of businesses that I don't understand, but that doesn't cause me to stay up at night. It just means I go on to the next one, and that's what the individual investor should do."
  65. How many people can pull off being a contrarian by buying shares of Coca-Cola?
  66. Even with an investing world full of Buffett students and imitators, he manages to surprise.
  67. He takes every legal, ethical advantage available in the current system, but lobbies for a better system. For example, he supports higher taxes for the rich, more severe estate taxes, and a level playing field. As he puts it, "I don't like anything where the bottom 20% keep getting a poorer and poorer deal."
  68. He is grateful for the advantages he has had in life -- as many of us have, he won the "ovarian lottery."
  69. When he talks, E.F. Hutton listens.
  70. Like many geniuses, he is frequently the confounding exception to the rule. For example, "not a dime of cash has left Berkshire for dividends or share repurchases during the past 40 years." And we shareholders thank him for it.
  71. Buffett buys what he knows (and frequently loves), but he doesn't overpay out of affection. He has the discipline to wait decades for the right opportunity.
  72. He gives credit to his direct reports.
  73. Not only is Buffett a great investor and manager, he's one hell of a writer. My jealousy grows.
  74. He once picked up a date in a hearse he co-owned.
  75. Before having his money work for him, he worked for his money early on with a series of jobs, schemes, and ventures. These included a paper route, selling chewing gum door-to-door, a pinball business, a sales job at J.C. Penney's, caddying, marking up refurbished golf balls, and founding a horse-racing tip sheet.
  76. It's very possible the house you live in is worth more than the house Buffett lives in -- the house in Omaha he bought in 1958.
  77. Over the years, he has relied on a similar set of answers to oft-asked questions. That his philosophy has stayed stable throughout that time is remarkable.
  78. His wealth has bought him the ultimate trophy: He does whatever he wants to do just about every single day.
  79. He's the outsized calming influence a lot of us need. From his biography Snowball: "If a tornado were barreling straight toward Kiewit Plaza [where his office is], Buffett would say that things were 'never better' before mentioning the twister."
  80. Anyone who can make the hyper-opinionated Charlie Munger regularly utter "I have nothing to add" must be saying something impressive.
  81. He fully expects this list to one day reach well into the triple digits. And I look forward to adding those lines. Happy birthday, Mr. Buffett!

Fool contributor Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. He thanks fellow Fool Mike Klesta for the idea to celebrate Buffett's birthday. You can follow Anand on Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola and Berkshire Hathaway. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Berkshire Hathaway and Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (33) | Recommend This Article (80)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 2:32 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    Well done, Anand.

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 3:09 PM, tangstarr wrote:

    Great article. Thanks for posting.

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 4:35 PM, catoismymotor wrote:

    #21 is aimed at TMF?

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 4:46 PM, TMFBomb wrote:

    @catoismymotor,

    Haha. I was wondering who would take advantage of that opening even as I was writing the line!

    Fool on,

    Anand

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 4:51 PM, whyaduck1128 wrote:

    I love #56. I think this country's economy would function much better if we ignored all the "sage" advice we've had from the self-designated experts who went to Harvard-Yale-Princeton and, yes, even Columbia. We keep getting into deeper and deeper doo-doo--and we keep getting policies crafted by and implemented by the same idiots who get us into these messes and new idiots taught by the old idiots.

    As for #69, I doubt it. I don't think E.F Hutton is listening to anyone, and it hasn't in years.

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 5:08 PM, DoctorLewis4 wrote:

    A great investor and an even better human being. Happy birthday Mr. Buffett.

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 5:47 PM, twobeerjohn wrote:

    Buffett is a blowhard! He has benefitted from years of tax incentives, and now at a ripe old age, wants us to pay more while it won't affect him going forward for very long. Also, he has never paid taxes on all those unrealized gains in BRKA/B, and by giving the money to charity, he will beat the bill and never pay taxes on the money. This guy is a hypocrite!!!!!!!!! I used to like him, but his holier than thou attitude has worn thin.

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 5:55 PM, AvianFlu wrote:

    I used to own a lot of BRK/B. I admired the man. However, it is now clear he is yet another crony capitalist.

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 5:58 PM, TMFKopp wrote:

    "He is that guy in school who tells you he may have failed the test ... only to bust the top of the curve."

    Umm... didn't most of us hate the guy that did that?

    Matt

    (great work Anand!)

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 6:01 PM, TMFKopp wrote:

    @twobeerjohn

    "by giving the money to charity, he will beat the bill and never pay taxes on the money. This guy is a hypocrite!!!!!!!!!"

    Fantastic perspective here. Suggests that somehow Buffett's bottom line is benefiting from *giving away* his money...

    More correctly, I think we could say that the charities that will get his money are beating the tax bill. Damn those wily charities!!!!

    Matt

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 6:05 PM, mikecart1 wrote:

    1 reason why we Hate Warren Buffet:

    He disowned his grand daughter for asking the rich about rich vs. poor. "So what got Nicole voted off Buffett Island? She participated in a follow-up to Jamie Johnson’s “Born Rich” about the lives of young people raised in wealthy families, and then went on Oprah to talk about it."

    Warren Buffet is scum of the earth and is able to buy people's love only because he has a lot of money. Horrible human being and someone I would never want a picture with, an autograph of, or even a handshake.

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 6:06 PM, McScot wrote:

    Mr. Buffet should have just stuck with investing and stayed out of the political fray. He's recent comments concerning taxation, support of massive stimulus, and his unwavering support of the Obama Administration causes me serious concern.

    Another example of a very wealthly man, ultimately, selling out his country to maintain his wealth.

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 6:35 PM, TMFBomb wrote:

    @TMFKopp,

    You know, I think we all did hate that person. New working title: "80 Reasons We Love Warren Buffett and 1 Reason We Want to Give Him a Swirlie."

    -Anand

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 7:53 PM, BuyloPESellHiPE wrote:

    Well done Anand. Wish I could write so well and wish my Hero Mr. Warren Buffett a Very Happy Birthday so beautifully.

    Thanks.

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 8:06 PM, soycapital wrote:

    Yes, well done! I'd hope we could get at least 81 recs for Mr Buffett. He has done a lot for his community and America if you don't see that you are blind.

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 10:24 PM, HarryCaraysGhost wrote:
  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2011, at 10:30 PM, dstb wrote:

    Despite the fact that Buffett is one of my investing heros I agree with McScot above. His incessantly annoying comments regarding political policy have ruined my appreciation for him.

  • Report this Comment On August 31, 2011, at 1:03 AM, dgmennie wrote:

    ** He takes every legal, ethical advantage available in the current system, but lobbies for a better system. For example, he supports higher taxes for the rich, more severe estate taxes, and a level playing field. As he puts it, "I don't like anything where the bottom 20% keep getting a poorer and poorer deal." **

    Is this not the vintage comment, "I'm all right, Jack" (as proffered to any desperate soul looking for help) simply refurbished for modern consumption? The continued and growing income disparity in the USA between the top few percent and everyone else is behind most social discontent/upheaval and will no doubt create even worse problems in the future. But if the bottom 20% (or more likely, bottom 75%) did NOT get a "poorer and poored deal," then where would the billions come from that accrue to Buffett? Level playing field? Ya gotta be kidding, blind, or worse to buy into this BS.

    Entirely too much space is devoted to Buffett in the Motley Fool since his success is unique and will never even be remotely duplicated by typical Fool readers regardless of any investing strategy they pursue.

  • Report this Comment On August 31, 2011, at 8:15 AM, wrtraxler wrote:

    Happy Birthday Warren. I would also wish you many more but the comment about taxing the rich more is just dumb. Its obvious you would benefit somehow from a higher tax on the rich...come clean already.

  • Report this Comment On August 31, 2011, at 10:16 AM, mikecart1 wrote:

    wrtraxler,

    Buffet has been in this for him and him alone since the 60s and 70s. Don't believe for a second he wants anything good for the overall good of mankind. Just watch that movie I mentioned in my post above "Born Rich" and other similar movies. He is a tyrant and a true piece of scum when it comes to family values. Him investing $5 in BAC is for his personal gain only. Don't think for a second he is actually trying to "save" the bank or "support" BAC shareholders/customers. He has been making invidualistic deals like this for half a century.

  • Report this Comment On August 31, 2011, at 11:50 AM, wrenchbender57 wrote:

    Thanks for the article Anand. From what I know of WB he seems like a great investor, a great guy and a down to earth person. His affinity for the current Obama administration and more taxes for the rich do not lessen my admiration for him. Just shows the other side of his personality. I believe he really would like to see our budget balanced and the wealth in this country more evenly distributed. Rather unusual for a Capitalist, and refreshing. Especially compared to all the propaganda on Fox News, etc.. I am sure he is not a saint, but then who is?

  • Report this Comment On August 31, 2011, at 1:36 PM, Classof1964 wrote:

    It is unfortunate that ideologues fail to discriminate between someone who honestly succeeds in a system he did not make or lobby or and those who through lobbyists, campaign contributions, and manipulation of the tax code and public opinion also make huge amounts of money. For example, the top 25 hedge fund managers in 2010 made $25 BILLION in income on which they only pay a 15% tax rate. Few people seem to realize that the top 1% of the population have doubled their share of the annual national income over the last 30 years, from about 11% to about 23% a year. How? by lower capital gains taxes, lower rates of dividends, by removing the progressiveness of tax rates on income, by gutting the estate tax. By misleading the public to think that we all paid a Death Tax (only 1-2% did). The superrich are the ones who collect most of the dividends and capital gains and own the great majority of the capital in the country. But Buffet has the civic sense of realizing that the great majority (about 80%) of the people have has stagnant incomes for thirty years and donated nearly all of his gains for the public good.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2011, at 11:00 AM, pkbw wrote:

    To mikecart1: So what? So Buffett makes financial moves that benefit him. Why shouldn't he? I hope he makes billions more. It's called capitalism and I will take it everytime.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2011, at 11:57 AM, lazytype wrote:

    And he's 80yo and you're not!

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2011, at 11:16 PM, MCrawley1970 wrote:

    Sorry to be pendantic but, Number 21 was actually attributed to Lord Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield (1694-1773) by editor John Shanahan in the book "The Most Brilliant Thoughts of All Time - In Two Lines or Less", on page 254.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2011, at 5:27 AM, lazytype wrote:

    MCrawley1970: only 21?

    Most of it comes from Graham book, and many are not true at all.

    Do not over idolize.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2011, at 10:00 AM, MCrawley1970 wrote:

    Sorry to disappoint you lazytype, though while I respect Buffet, I don't idolize him. Perhaps you should apologize for being pendantic, among other things.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2011, at 12:27 PM, lazytype wrote:

    My last sentence was about the article..

    I scoff at people who repeat all this stuff without even checking. Anyone who read at leastAlice Schroeder book will find out that he's much more than one house and is not so humble and straightforward at all.

    Repeating all those "tv facts" (I mean low quality popular culture facts) is imho over idolizing.

    Yes, he deserves respect, just don't be a blind fanatic.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2011, at 3:47 PM, MCrawley1970 wrote:

    I don't think I'm in any danger of being a blindly fanatical devotee of Buffet, lazytype, least of all after reading about his ongoing dispute with the IRS.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2011, at 4:12 PM, KarmaKnight wrote:

    7. is a popular Chinese proverb. 前人種樹後人乘涼 see e.g. http://edu.ocac.gov.tw/lang/basic/ch_preschoolers/adage/01ht...

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2011, at 4:22 PM, addikt06 wrote:

    He's a great investor but somewhat of a hypocrite in that he pretends to be a philanthropist while investing in crooks like BAC. And I use the word "invest" loosely because he essentially lent BAC $5 billion while being heavily protected from losses.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2011, at 4:49 PM, mm5525 wrote:

    To me, the BAC investment was very un-Buffett-like assuming what he said was actually true - that he just thought of it the morning before in the bathtub. While I don't really believe a word of that, which, if true, shows a lack of DD on his part, I'd be even more concerned Warren is "losing it" if he really is making $5B decisions in a mere 24 hours if I were long Berkshire.

    My #1 reason to give WB a "swirlie" as someone above me mentioned is those thoroughly obnoxious Geico commercials. He ought to buy Progressive next so he have a true monopoly on the all-time worst commercials ever known to mankind.

    A good book about Buffett I'd recommend is The Snowball. While it goes only up to the 2008 crisis, it is still a very informative read on Buffett's early days and how those millions, and later billions, were made.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2011, at 9:09 PM, TMFBomb wrote:

    @MCrawley1970,

    Ah, it does appear I'm quoting a quote of a quote in 21. Astute catch.

    Fool on,

    Anand

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