"Find what turns you on." - Warren Buffett
Get your head out of the gutter. When Buffett spoke those words at Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK-A)(NYSE:BRK-B) annual meeting, he was responding to a question about what advice he'd give to himself if he could go back 50 years and give himself some advice. And with that quip, Buffett was referring to finding something that "turns you on" to do for a living.
Buffett's right-hand man Charlie Munger didn't disagree. He piled on: "You gotta work where you're turned on." Not that that comment did anything to squelch the innuendo.
It's hard to argue the importance of that if you're trying to live a satisfied life. But this isn't just solid life guidance, it's also a reminder of an critical aspect of Berkshire: Just how much Buffett and Munger love what they do. There's a reason that Fortune's Carol Loomis titled her most recent book about Buffett "Tap Dancing to Work."
Is it warm and fuzzy? Sure it is, but it's also a big reason why shareholder have, over the years, seen such incredible returns from Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett and Munger love what they do and that allows them to think in terms of the long term and what will drive long-term success.
During the meeting, both executives opined on how big of an advantage it is that they don't have outside forces -- read quarterly earnings pressures -- weighing on them. Since it's not about a bigger bonus or more stock options, they're free to make tough decisions -- like not writing unprofitable insurance business -- rather than always putting the pedal to the metal.
As shareholders look ahead to whomever will succeed Buffett and Munger, this shouldn't be overlooked. It'll be great to get someone in there who's tack-smart, cool-headed, and value-oriented at heart. But over the long term, the transition will work best if the current duo is able to find somebody that simply loves the job as much as they do (or, at least, close).
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Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. 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.