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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Remarkable Documentary - Becoming Warren Buffet


A few weeks ago I was with a good friend of mine who quoted Warren Buffet from a recent documentary on his life, which piqued my interest.

I am not that much into financial stuff despite a degree in agricultural economics and a basic understanding of commodities etc,  nor do I watch the financial markets closely or talk about it over dinner. The thing that interests me about money is how people attain it, what they do with it once they have it and I am fascinated by people who manage to manipulate other people to work for them in order to make more money. That might sound simple and stupid - but to me that is quite remarkable - that one human being might be able to grow a company through sales that is strong enough to convince another human being to come into that business and work for a wage, possibly to take some equity in the business and that they might go on to have a company with thousands of employees by the end of their lifetime. Personally I have a hard enough time motivating myself, so this is particularly of interest to me and I hold these people in high esteem.

Perhaps this was why I wanted to know more about Warren Buffet and how he managed to convince a whole bunch of people to work for and invest with and in him. And it was fantastic to see how he did it, because it made much more sense after the documentary.

In my head I imagined someone that goes to work in an office where hundreds of people dart around and the thought of all that pressure just makes me cringe with anxiety - but what we see is Warren Buffet in a quiet office with 36 employees not that far from where he lives in Omaha, a quaint little drive from his home via the McDonalds drive-thru .

One would expect that sitting on all those billions of dollars you'd be sweating all day long but Buffet is relaxed and reads the papers, gets himself a coke, takes a few phone calls.

I just love this guy and I can understand the cult that has been built around his persona.

And his secret to success, which he repeats many times over during the course of the documentary, is the nature of compound interest over an extended period of time ( which is also explained well by Dr. Albert A. Bartlett here) and the fact that he has kept his expenses down. The second part is very much inspirational for me than the first. Watching Buffet live a simple -  and perhaps comparative to his contemporary billionaire cohorts - frugal existence, is quite exciting and somewhat paradoxical.

For Buffet the accumulation of wealth was no more than a game that some other kid might play on Xbox which he played very well over the course of his lifetime. But the game was all about making or at least relying on human beings to consume. Without consumption and in many respects, over-consumption, Buffet would not have had such a great result from the game. But in order to play the game better, he himself made sure that he never fell victim to consumption. He avoided the pitfalls of the 'hamster wheel' of life, ensuring that his personal costs were at a minimum.

It is nice to know that Warren Buffet is one of the richest men in the world - he seems to be the right fit of character for that role. He carries with him a sort of Bernie Sanders-esque frugality about him from an era that understood what financial hardship was all about. But the game is what I don't understand and will never understand - the endless pursuit of numbers that sit in bank accounts like a score card.

The one thing I loved about Steve Jobs was he had one sole aim for his profits in the early days, and that was to make better products. Make a profit so you can make better products, to get more sales, to get more profit to make another round of better products. Whereas, it seems if Buffet's first wife had not died, the purpose of his money seems to have been nothing more than a game.

If you have a spare hour, watch this documentary on this remarkable human being.

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