Becoming Buffett. Why?

Topic: Finding your drivers, your purpose, your why

Length: Short

Summary: Start with why you do things, instead of just going through your daily and weekly motions on autopilot. Is Warren Buffett a good role model?

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…did you just check your social media (or the stock market)?

Availability/proximity bias? Just because it’s there? Happened automatically; couldn’t think of anything better to do?

If you ask yourself that question – and answer – right before clicking on Twitter, Snapchat or trading platform, you might save yourself the trouble. More important, it’s the first step to break an ugly habit, and save time for better things.

What’s wrong with right now?

What’s wrong with your state of mind, your situation that makes you want to change it by going online to check your news flow of soundbites to see what others are saying, thinking or liking? What good can come from checking your stocks if you’re not trading actively?

-Oh, I’ve got 97 likes on that retweet of a snappy comment about Trump! I wonder if it can get to 100. Yes, it’s 98 now; getting cloooser.


Warren to the B says a lot of things: “Ohhh, this is so good” about a mug of coke, “Taking care of your body and brain like it’s a car you have to make last your entire life is paramount” and then driving to his daily breakfast at McDonald’s.

He also says “managing your own future worth while still young is your most important asset allocation and investment decision”.

“How much is 10% of all your future earnings worth? What would you sell it to me for?” is another of WB’s spiels that makes the issue tangible. (ignore the recursivity and moral hazard issues). So, what would you sell 10% of your future earnings for? That amount times ten is what you have to allocate today so choose wisely.

Morale: Investing in yourself is the most important thing you can do, according to Buffett

But what has Buffett himself done?

Sure, he’s the world’s wealthiest man (give or take a few billions or decades), but what is his WHY? What was his purpose of getting rich? What’s his purpose with his amassed fortune? How did making all that money make his life worthwhile? What was it he was able to do, and de facto did, over the last 60-70 years?

  1. Use the same office in a small village
  2. Drive the same short commute, including a fast food breakfast
  3. Hold annual meetings and write annual letters
  4. Give it all away to cure diseases after he’s dead

Everything else have been circuitous, with just one endgame: make more money.

I’m sure he is happy, it’s not that I’m after; he found his purpose early on and stuck with it:

Accumulate wisdom in order to become the richest man in the world and thus be able to accumulate more wisdom. He could of course have just stayed in the same office in the same village for 60+ years without making money, in effect doing the exact same thing – except for the fame. What I don’t quite understand is why he is so laser focused on making money, when he doesn’t seem to want to use it in any other way than to get hold of more money.

Sure, he’ll give it to charity, and that’s quite something. I think it’s really good that he takes money from ignorant people buying coke and burgers, and gives it to Bill Gates to deal with some of the worst troubles in the world. But he himself doesn’t seem to do anything else with his life than eat the same McD breakfasts and sit at the same office reading company statements.

He obviously doesn’t care about the money per se. Perhaps he likes the fame, but first and foremost he probably simply enjoyed the game of investing – much like many enjoy playing Candy Crush, Angry Birds or clicking on their social media accounts for the 100th time.

Anyway, enough about Buffett; there are no good reasons to watch the recent HBO documentary. If you are serious about gaining some practical wisdom you should instead check out this speech by Charlie Munger (or episode 526 of TrendFollowingRadio with Michael Covel for a shorter version of Munger’s most important observations regarding psychology).

What’s your why?

So, Buffett found his why, which amounted to daily dopamine kicks as he rose to investment fame and fortune. His purpose was no better or worse than watching TV or playing video games all life. He had fun. He became nr 1. He sat in an office.

What’s your purpose?

Why do yo do what you do? Why do you drink what you drink, eat what you eat, eat where you eat, dress the way you dress?

Why do you check your social media dozens of times a day?

When I was young, including when I went to college, there was no internet, no mobile phones, no social media. There was nothing to check to get that dopamine kick. Instead I read books, thought, did sports, or played.

I’m not saying life was better, since it wasn’t. Internet connected smartphones have their uses; a lot of them. However, mindlessly wasting time on updating likes, reading memes for a second’s amusement or smirk aren’t among them.

I’m sure you wouldn’t bother to turn on a turned off phone to see “what’s going on” in your Twitter flow. But when the phone is already on, the kick is just a second away, hence you do it again and again.

Short meaningless kicks with no motion forward. But what should you do instead, what do you really want?

What are you waiting for? Why are you just passing time? Or is Twitter, Angry Birds and dinner all you care for?


Are you wasting your life in a similar fashion?

Why do you live? Why did you go to school? Why do you work so hard? Why are you building that life “platform”, of house, car, boat, work, status…, so intently?

What is it that really drives you? What makes you happy? (see my previous article from December 2015 on everyday happiness) What do you enjoy doing without posting it on social media?

  • Just make money like Buffett
  • Quality time with your closest friends
  • Work hard, play hard; essentially buy expensive toys and travels
  • Experience as much as possible, through, e.g., various travels and trips
  • What would you actually change if you had a billion, i.e., after buying a house, securing transportation and getting a better computer or phone, how would you change what you do in a given day? Do you really need (much) more money than you already have to do that?

Start with your why

(an inspiring book and TED talk about identifying and pursuing your true drivers). The book deals with how to be successful by knowing your ultimate purpose, but I’ve interpreted the question a little more freely.

Once you’ve fulfilled your basic needs in terms of internet connection, food and shelter, what is your WHY for getting up in the morning, for going through the motions?

Which people do you want to spend time with? Doing what? How do you plan to feel good, to feel relevant? How do you want to express yourself? Who do you want to be?

On that topic, by the way, Buffett had this to say in the clip in TrendFollowing: “Think of a few character traits you admire in others, and a few you loathe. Act to become the person you admire the most

Summary: Just ask why

Ask WHY before checking your phone (app that counts how much you check)

Ask WHY before accepting that invitation

Ask WHY you’d do A, and thus miss out on B (alternative cost)

Ask WHY you want more money, status, fame, in exchange for your limited time

Ask WHY you are a member there, why you go to the gym, why you keep postponing what you really want to do, WHY you keep investing but never reaping?

Ask WHY you post things online. Wouldn’t you enjoy your food, your vacation, your expensive car, your tour on a yacht if you couldn’t get any likes?

Then what is it really worth to you?

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14 Replies to “Becoming Buffett. Why?”

  1. Excellent post as always. Those questions are so essential, yet so many of us exert our effort without ever challenging our axioms. Perhaps the very top of our incentive tree structure, the ‘be happy’ super-axiom, cannot be changed (unless we become egoless monks or something) but everything in between is very malleable indeed, and has the potential to greatly simplify our lives.
    Thank you for providing this valuable perspective, a lot of your readership is young like myself (I assume) and it’s incredibly beneficial to ponder these questions early, before we’re forced to do so. Wishing you a good week.

  2. Thank you for the article, it is interesting new look on Buffett and I must say I partially agree with you but still would recommend Snowball book as a good study material for investors.

  3. This post is extremely inspirational. Thank you for remind me to see things with perspective.

    I really know what I want, freedom. But I’m still considering how to get it.

  4. Great post again sir!
    I have a Question for you – what to do : I am now I am 57 and all my savings are deleted. Bad investments, no luck, I still need to earn a pension. What strategy would you propose?

    1. I’m so sorry, I have no idea how to respond to this in any way or manner that would be of value. I mean, I could say something lame about moving to Thailand, or trying to appreciate the smaller things in life, but I really have no idea what it would feel like being close to retirement and losing all.

      Could you sell your services online? If not, can you consult on the side of your ordinary job? Could you drastically reduce your costs in order to build a nest egg?

  5. Mikael, great post as usual. I think your blog will be found in the future by archivist/historians and be considered one of the greats of our century.

    Relax. The most important question is
    where to eat. I hope Freddie made a

  6. This is one of the few blogs I read, exactly because of posts like this. Posts like this that remind me how shallow my thinking is beyond chasing $.

    I always feel that I’ll have enough time to figure “all this out” once I’m financially free. Which is, of course, somewhat deceptive because what truly makes me happy *may* not require financial freedom at all.

    Also, some of these questions are tough to answer, unless you experience them yourself. Would expensive toys, such as driving a Ferrari, considerably boost my everyday happiness? Most likely not, but who knows? It’s hard to answer unless you drive such a car for a period of time and see it yourself.

    So the real question in my mind is this: what’s the most efficient way to experience all the things that you suspect that can make you happy in the future? For expensive toys and travels, it’s straightforward: you can rent cars / vacation houses. But. What about items that cannot be tested easily? E.g. Would it make me happy to be a dad?

    How do you tackle those?

    ***delete this part***
    There is typo in the post:
    ” Do you really need (much) more money than you already have to *to* that?”

    1. thanks for pointing out the typo. Fixed now.

      Issues like the “dad” experience can’t be tackled ;), the are too singular to emulate vicariously.

  7. Great work as usual Mikael…
    I find it funny how we all live on autopilot while keeping up with the cat down the road. My hapiness has increased tenfold since accepting who I am and what I like.
    Walking and biking are the two physical activites that fill me with absolute bliss, but we’re told that is “not enough.” Why can’t simple activites like talking with an interesting person and visiting beautiful places be enough for a happy life?

    Funnily enough most people are living inside a prison with no walls or gates keeping them in. They act on what they believe they want without being able to see the prison they have made for themselves.

    It is honestly refreshing to hear these things from someone who has had the fame, money and relative success. Hearing you tear down this collective delusion thay there is an objective “goal” in life and riches will bring happiness is beautiful.

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