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3 Things Everyone Can Learn From Warren Buffett and Elon Musk

By Brendan Byrnes - Feb 21, 2014 at 4:19PM

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Betty Liu shares what we can learn from these two rock-star CEOs.

Betty Liu, anchor of Bloomberg's In the Loop with Betty Liu, has had the privilege of meeting and interviewing numerous influential CEOs and leaders of corporate America. We recently asked Betty a few questions about her new book, Work Smarts: What CEOs Say You Need to Know to Get Ahead, including what we can learn from the likes of Warren Buffett and Elon Musk. Her answers are below.

The Motley Fool: A lot has been written and said about Warren Buffett over the years. Is there anything that surprised you after talking with him, and what are some things we can learn from him?

Betty Liu: The No. 1 question people ask me about Buffet is, "Is he for real?" And the answer is, from what I've seen, yes. He really IS that passionate about what he does and his beliefs, and he really is as "folksy" as he's portrayed in the media. That also goes for his children, especially Howard. And yes, he does give people rides to and from the Omaha airport in his car.

I've learned two things from him through the years: 

1. Stop overthinking things. His investments are usually very basic in ideas -- many people will drink Coca-Cola, chew Wrigley's gum, and buy insurance. It's basic.

2. Read a lot. Buffett is known to pour over financial statements, annual reports, newspapers, books -- he's a big consumer of information. He will read what others glance over. On occasions when I've sent him articles or videos of interest, I know he's watched or read them fully. I'm no expert in dissecting people's personalities, but I'm sure that's part of what's made him a great investor and communicator. 

The Fool: You interviewed one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time – Elon Musk. What can people, and specifically aspiring entrepreneurs, learn from him?

Liu: Elon is an unconventional thinker -- when others go right, he goes left. He mentioned his way of thinking is to reason by first principles. Most people, he said, reason by analogy. Essentially, whenever anyone says, "It's just the way it's been done," that's his cue to find a better, different way. Elon has done this with electric cars and with space rockets. To his point, you can't do that with everything in life because then you'd never be able to get out of bed; but if you pick the right areas, you can break new ground. 

Brendan Byrnes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola. The Motley Fool owns shares of 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.

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