The Berkshire Annual Meeting: Wrapping It Up in Omaha

The annual weekend-long party in Omaha surrounding the Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) annual meeting concluded with dinner at Warren Buffett's favorite steakhouse, Gorat's. Though I didn't see him, Warren was there at some point enjoying his favorite dinner of a rare T-bone steak, a double order of hash browns, and a nice, cold Cherry Coke.

It's so simple!
One of the things I took away from the weekend was Buffett's his simplicity and sincerity. When I spoke with the Oracle Saturday morning before the annual meeting began, I was struck by the way he interacts. He listens intently, looks directly at you when you're conversing, and talks as though you're an old friend. (Try getting that from a Wall Streeter!) There were certainly more important people that the second-richest man in America could have been talking to, yet when we were chatting, it was as though there was nothing else going on in his world.

That simple, direct style extends to Buffett's work with investing and managing Berkshire. Whether he's talking about his investments in Wesco Financial (AMEX: WSC  ) , Gillette (now part of Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) ), or Costco (Nasdaq: COST  ) , or whether he's dispensing his famous pearls of business wisdom, he speaks in terms that even the financially uninitiated wouldn't have much of a problem understanding.

The Mozart of Farnam Street
It's exactly Buffett's simplicity, though, that can be so misleading.

When responding to a question over the weekend regarding what he's looking for in a successor at CIO, Buffett told a short story about a young person who went to Mozart and asked the great composer to teach him to write symphonies. Mozart replied, "I can't -- you're too young to write symphonies." Undeterred, the youngster reminded Mozart that he was writing symphonies at the same age. "Yes," Mozart said, "but I wasn't asking people how to do it."

The message was clear: In a new CIO, Buffett is not looking for a young person full of vim, vigor, and potential that he can mold into the next Warren Buffett. What makes Buffett as successful as he is simply cannot be taught -- at least, not any more than one can learn to compose like Mozart, play basketball like Michael Jordan, or navigate a chessboard like Bobby Fischer.

Be like Mike
It's not that the concepts can't be taught. In the same way you can learn to play chess or shoot a basketball, you can learn what Buffett does in theory. There are a multitude of books that dissect his wisdom, not to mention multiple decades of annual letters to the shareholders of Berkshire that come straight from the horse's mouth.

But you're still not likely to hit a drive like Tiger Woods.

This isn't to sound dour. Just because most of us won't be able to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix (or is it just me?), that doesn't mean we should avoid ever picking up an ax. With enough study, practice, and devotion, most can attain reasonable levels of success when it comes to whatever they do -- including investing. In addition to the resources suggested above, there are discussion boards on Fool.com where Fools do nothing but help each other invest more like Buffett. You can also follow along with Buffett student Philip Durell, who runs the Fool's value-focused Inside Value newsletter service.

Passing the torch
Buffett will end up finding a replacement -- or replacements -- at CIO. But it won't be another Michael Jordan, simply because there isn't going to be another Michael Jordan. It is very possible, though, that he may find a very able Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, or Steve Nash to step in for him.

But what do I know? Keep practicing that jump shot -- after all, just because there won't be another Mike, that doesn't mean nobody will ever surpass Mike.

A must-see
Buffett likes to mix in a healthy dose of humor and levity when talking about his age and his inevitable departure from the land of the living. He's no longer a young man. Berkshire will undoubtedly continue post-Buffett, and it will possibly continue to do very well. It could even do better than it has under Buffett, for all we know. What's for sure is that Warren Buffett, with his combination of razor-sharp business acumen, humility, and folksy wisdom, is a true original.

As a shareholder pointed out during the annual meeting, it will be interesting to see how Omaha accommodates next year's meeting. With 27,000 participants on hand this year, hotels were booked to capacity, rental cars were a hot commodity, and the Qwest Center filled the stadium and the overflow space that it had set up. But for shareholders who have yet to hear the kings of Berkshire hold court in person, I would highly suggest starting to look into accommodations for next May.

For more on the Berkshire meeting, head back here:

Philip Durell has found lots of bargains on the market for hisMotley Fool Inside Value readers. Among them: Berkshire Hathaway itself. Want to know more? You can! Try out Philip's newsletter service free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer isn't nearly tall enough to be the next Jordan, though he does have a mean hook shot. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. Costco is a Stock Advisor pick. The Fool's disclosure policy can't play the guitar like Jimi, but it is a virtuoso in its own right.


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