Warren Buffett has shared a lot through the years, and he has reached the pinnacle of fame and fortune. But his most recent revelation may be his most important.
Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B) is now the third richest man in the world with nearly $64 billion in estimated net worth. Despite the notorious secrecy of some, Buffett has been more than willing to share his nearly unbeatable advice on companies and investing through the years, however his recent insight is critical for individuals and investors everywhere.
In a wide ranging conversation on ESPN's Mike & Mike radio show, Buffett was asked what the underlying secret to his almost immeasurable success was. His answer was honest, humbling, and something everyone can keep in mind.
Profoundly simple, yet beautifully elegant Buffett noted:
"I found what I love to do very early...when I was seven or eight years old I knew that this particular game really, really intrigued me. And then I had some great teachers along the way."
Buffett began pursuing his passion in business early: when he was seven, he began selling Coca-Cola to friends, family and neighbors. He made his money along the way -- he bought the six-packs for a quarter and sold the Coke's for a nickel -- and used his profits to buy his first stock when he was 11. The rest, as they say, is history.
Everyone has passions as a child, and all too often they're shelved in an effort to become the person and pursue the passions others direct us toward. Yet Buffett notes the secret to success is pursuing those very things an individual is gifted in -- whether it be business or something altogether different -- from a young age.
Trusting in teachers
Buffett likely learned quickly he had a natural gift in his passion of selling and investing, but also a willingness to be taught by others. Buffett was met with great success in his adolescence, graduating high school when he was 16 and attended the University of Pennsylvania before graduating from the closer-to-home University of Nebraska when he was 20.
Yet he's noted one of his "luckiest days" was when as a 19 year old he picked up the Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, which was a book he said "not only changed my investment philosophy, it really changed my whole life."
Buffett then learned under Graham, who was a professor at the Columbia School of Business, when he received a graduate degree in economics from the Ivy League School. And he later went to work for Graham after campaigning for a job for few years. Ultimately Buffett notes in the owner's manual of Berkshire Hathaway:
I benefited enormously from the intellectual generosity of Ben Graham, the greatest teacher in the history of finance, and I believe it appropriate to pass along what I learned from him, even if that creates new and able investment competitors for Berkshire just as Ben's teachings did for him .
The final takeaway
Warren Buffett provides a helpful reminder to the reality and necessity of finding and pursuing passions from a young age, but also the essential nature of being willing to learn from older and wiser teachers. While the pursuit of those passions and individual gifting may not result in a fortune beyond belief, Buffett ultimately suggests those are the true secrets to success.