Notes From Warren Buffett

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Feb 28, 2010    •    2175 Views

Released yesterday, Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders, as always, included sections that make me smile: 

Talking about how he uses a consistent standard to assess Berkshire Hathaway’s performance:
“That keeps us from the temptation of seeing where the arrow of performance lands and then painting the bull’s eye around it.”

As an introduction to “What We Don’t Do”:
“Long ago, Charlie laid out his strongest ambition: ‘All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there.'”

Discussing ownership of Geico:
“An old Wall Street joke gets close to our experience:
Customer: Thanks for putting me in XYZ stock at 5.  I hear it’s up to 18.
Broker: Yes, and that’s just the beginning.  In fact, the company is doing so well now, that it’s an even better buy at 18 than it was when you made your purchase.
Customer: Damn, I knew I should have waited.”

Commenting on incorrect advice he gave to Geico management about issuing a credit card:
“I subtly indicated that I was older and wiser.
I was just older.”

On seeing a silver lining in the housing bubble cloud:
“Indeed, many families that couldn’t afford to buy an appropriate home a few years ago now find it well within their means because the bubble burst.”

After stating his own responsibility for risk control at Berkshire:
“In my view a board of directors of a huge financial institution is derelict if it does not insist that its CEO bear full responsibility for risk control. If he’s incapable of handling that job, he should look for other employment.  And if he fails at it-with the government thereupon required to step in with funds or guarantees-the financial consequences for him and his board should be severe.”

And finally, an inspiring conclusion:
“At 86 and 79, Charlie and I remain lucky beyond our dreams.  We were born in America; had terrific parents who saw that we got good educations;  have enjoyed wonderful families and great health; and came equipped with a ‘business’ gene that allows us to prosper in a manner hugely disproportionate to that experienced by many people who contribute as much or more to our society’s well-being.  Moreover, we have long had jobs that we love, in which we are helped in countless ways by talented and cheerful associates.  Indeed, over the years, our work has become ever more fascinating; no wonder we tap-dance to work.”

May we all tap dance to work!


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