The Buffett report
There was much to appreciate on the annual pilgrimage that is the Chicago GSB Warren Buffett trip.
There was comedy: our first step on the tour was the Nebraska Furniture Mart, the largest furniture store in the USA. We got there at 8:55am, but the doors were closed, so we went around in our trams figuring out how we were going to get in.:) Once we got in though, the entire class eventually sat down in their rocking chair section. That's right; there were enough rocking chairs on the display floor for a 120 Chicago GSB students!
There was mild amusement: That's right. I said trams. We rode around Omaha in old-fashioned trams with wooden seats. Omaha proved to be surprisingly more hilly than I thought it would be though. I also learnt that there was a mattress called "The Warren"
There was realization: That office parks, whereever they are, look identical. The ones we visited in the heart of the MidWest were clones of the ones I was used to in the Bay Area.
There was pain: Waking up at 4am to make a 6:55am flight always is.
There was awkwardness and cringing, mixed with uncontrollable laughter: Classmates loudly explaining scatological terms to foreign students and discussing the curriculum at the "School of Exotic Literature and Dance" that they plan to endow will do that to you.
There was inspiration: Not even talking about the Sage yet. We met with three executives associated with Berkshire Hathaway, and there was a simplicity/straight-talking/uncomplicated approach they had that I couldn't help coming away pleased with.
There was a GSB moment: One of the students questions turned into "What discount rate do you use to value companies?"
But all this was just icing, the meat of the trip was the talk (and lunch) with Mr. Warren Buffett. Huh, did I just put icing on meat? Anyway, the picture below is the closest I am likely to ever be to a net worth of $50 Billion.
I couldn't help coming away impressed, and I love reminders that even spectacularly successful people are just still people and there's nothing like standing right next to these people to remind you of that.
The mind behind the Lam Graph has a good summary of some folksy wisdom that I came away with. This video is a good taste of what we witnessed up close and personal. Like, Mr Lam, I was really surprised by his sheer exuberance. It almost seemed to me like he was channeling Rodney Dangerfield at times.
Here are my key Warren take-aways besides the obvious ones:
- Envy is stupidest of the sins. Gluttony and Lust are kinda nice, but envy is just stupid.
- Always marry up. Find someone who make you a better person. The catch is you need to find someone who is willing to marry down.
- Understand your bounds and stay within them. Have fun while trying to do that.
- If you find a job/company you like, don't really worry about the pay. When he moved his family to NY to work for Ben Graham, he didn't know what his pay would be until he saw his first pay cheque.
- Investing is hard work, and as simple as he makes it sound and while sheer intellectual horsepower was without a doubt a factor, sheer discipline and perseverance was probably the bigger factor.