The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.
Warren Buffett’s staggering net worth of $91 billion USD is enviable even to people who are successful and insanely rich in a variety of different fields. But beyond just his self-made bank account – which started growing humbly thanks to a small pinball machine business he started in his teens – Buffett has demonstrated many attributes which speaks to his substance as a human being, and showcases the he’s not simply a caricature like Scrooge McDuck who swims around in a pool of gold bullion every day.
Although the 87-year-old isn’t a mainstay at Highsnobiety like other notable figures people aspire to be like – including Elon Musk and Kanye West – and may even have you asking, “who is Warren Buffett?” – the way he’s gone about his business and lived his life continues to make him as relevant as ever before.
When asked how someone should go about choosing a role model, Buffett responded, “Usually it is because they are generous, decent, kind people, and those are the kind of people to emulate.”
Not surprisingly, Buffett encompasses all of those attributes and should serve as an example for those who want to be financially, philanthropically, and spiritually rich.
Elon Musk needs Mars. Kanye West needs Calabasas. Here’s why you need the Oracle of Omaha.
Warren Buffett began investing when he was 11-years-old when he purchased three shares of Cities Service for $38 USD a piece. Shortly after, he sold his holdings for a modest gain. He would later refine his investing strategy completely and understand that quick flips – although seemingly a win – were not as wise a decision as picking companies he wanted to hold for long periods of time.
His “set it and forget it” ethos stems from the notion that if you had a chance to buy into a good company in your hometown – and you knew it was a good company, knew good people were running it, and you bought in at a fair price – you wouldn’t cash out shortly thereafter.
In today’s “flippers” economy – where streetwear and sneakers have been as valuable as owning shares of Apple – and have at times outpaced returns on the the S&P 500 – people would be wise to evaluate their current strategies. If you do believe that the bubble will eventually burst on the resale market, than by all means, treat your finds like how Jordan Belfort did Steve Madden in The Wolf of Wall Street.
But for those who believe that the resale market will continue to thrive, perhaps you’d we be wise to consider that $1,000 USD right now isn’t as good as $20,000 USD down the road.
This is Highsnobiety after all, so we’d be remiss not to bring it back to the world of sneakers.
Consider stayfresh’s account on StockX. Amongst the 20 most valuable collections, his 2,279 pairs outpaces the next closest holder in volume by 210 pairs. While his collection on a per pair basis is the smallest (just $212 USD and in the 41st percentile) his strategy closes mirrors that of Warren Buffett in two ways. One, he has diversified his account more than others so no single dip in a shoe’s price will impact him all that much. And two, many of his holdings date back as far as 2008 – which in a sneaker resale context – is akin to holding something from the prehistoric age.
Even for those who consider themselves to be passive consumers and make purchases with companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Apple, Buffett’s strategy reveals gains of $51,996 USD, $12,398, and $6,628 USD had a person invested $1,000 dollars and held them for ten years.
If you simply value Warren Buffett for what he’s worth, invest in companies that you believe in, and be prepared to play the long game.
Integrity is key
When attempting to evaluate people he is going to hire, Buffett points to three key attributes; intelligence, energy, and integrity as being the most importance factor.
In the hyper competitive worlds of academia and business, the first two traits are almost assuredly shared by 99 percent of applicants. However, Buffett argues that integrity is not something you can just decide to have one day.
“Integrity is not hard-wired into your DNA. Buffett says. “If they don’t have integrity [now], they never will.”
While it’s one thing to say that you’re going to dedicate more time and effort to a particular task that needs finishing, it’s quite different to attempt to do that with strong moral principles that may not adversely effect others as well.
Comfort goes a long way
Consider for a moment the major real estate holdings for Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. He has a home in Medina, WA which is estimated to be worth $25 million USD (and counts Bill Gates as a neighbor), a 27,000-square-foot home in Washington D.C. which he purchased for $23 million USD (with the Obamas as neighbors), a 2.03-acre property in Beverly Hills, CA, worth $25 million USD, and a trio of apartments in The Century building on Central Park West in Manhattan worth $17 million USD.
And then there’s Warren Buffett, who lives in the same Omaha, NE home he bought back in 1958 for $31,500 USD – a sum which is .001% of his total wealth.
In a 2010 letter to his shareholders, Buffett called the 6,570 sq. foot, 5 bedroom, 2.5 bath house. the third-best investment he’s ever made, after two wedding rings.
“I’m happy there. I’d move if I thought I’d be happier someplace else,” he told the the BBC. “How would I improve my life by having 10 houses around the globe? If I wanted to become a superintendent of housing … I could have as a profession, but I don’t want to manage 10 houses and I don’t want somebody else doing it for me and I don’t know why the hell I’d be happier.”
For some – notably Kanye West – he has embraced the exact opposite, saying, “I’m not comfortable with comfort,” while also criticizing rich magnates, noting, “so many people talk about their investments or how much money they have but there’s so many rich people who spend a lot of that trying to buy a piece of happiness.”
In Buffett, we understand that happiness does in fact have a price tag, but it doesn’t have to be an exorbitant one to pay.
Knowledge is the true capital
Whether it’s with business or athletics, one’s rise to the top is a mixture of natural talent mixed with hard work and dedication.
If winning at the stock market was simply picking a handful of companies a person doesn’t know much about, and waiting 20 years, everyone would be rich. It’s also probably why the cryptocurrency trend in so popular amongst millennials.
But for Buffett, the companies he invests in is more a meditation on research than it is his willingness to use his massive bankroll to plant seeds all over the place and see what grows.
His secret trick?
“I read and read and read,” he says. “I probably read five to six hours a day.”
Consider that other luminaries like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Zuckerberg have all touted the benefits of making the teachings and viewpoints of others a major tenet in their approach to business.
The power of luck
In 2010, Forbes’ Editor-in-Chief, Steve Forbes, sat down with both Warren Buffett and JAY-Z to get a greater understanding about how they approach business.
Rather than pointing to key moves he made along the way, Buffett rightfully acknowledged that luck played a huge part in his success – specifically pointing to things like being born in the United States and being a white male.
“In 1930, if I had been born a female, if I have been born black, I would not have had the same opportunities that I had,” he said.
JAY-Z mirrored the counterpoint by stating, “there were very few people from my neighborhood, and my environment, that make it out. Forget about being successful, [I mean] making it out alive.”
While good grades beget good schools which lead to good jobs, people often overlook the very circumstances that led them down a so-called, “self-made path.”
Early factors that are out of our own hands can either be winning lottery tickets, or mountains of debts which we are forced to climb.
Failure can be a good thing
In HBO’s 2017 documentary, Becoming Warren Buffett, he recounted his attempt to try and get into Harvard Business School after graduating from the University of Nebraska in only three years.
“They told me I was to get interviewed in a place near Chicago,” he said. “I got there and they interviewed me for about 10 minutes and said: ‘Forget it. You’re not going to Harvard.'”
Although Columbia Business School is hardly a consolation, it did lead Buffett toward a teacher who would prove to be instrumental in shaping him as an investor; Benjamin Graham, the father of value investing.
“Ben was this incredible teacher. He was a natural and he drew us all in,” Buffett said. “It was like learning baseball from a fellow who was batting .400.”
To borrow from Buffett’s own baseball analogy, failing 70 percent of the time at the plate makes you a Hall-of-Famer. If the strikeouts make you to skittish to get back up to bat, you’re probably doomed.
Charity is the ultimate flex
Warren Buffett is one of 175 people who have committed to giving up the majority of their wealth when they die as part of The Giving Pledge – positioning him alongside people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Larry Ellison, Paul Allen, Richard Branson, and Reed Hastings.
But as recently as 2013, only 5 percent of the world’s billionaires had agreed to passing on their wealth to initiatives to benefit the global community.
As of 2017, Buffett has given away more than $46 billion USD since 2000 – which at the time worked out to 71 percent of his then $65.5 billion USD fortune.
When asked about his own self-image, Buffett has referred to something he calls his “inner scorecard.” That is to say, how he perceives himself.
Becoming Warren Buffett director, Peter Kunhardt, explains, “an ‘outer scorecard,’ which many people have, is: What will people think of me? Will they judge me by the way I dress or the way I look or the car I drive? And the ‘inner scorecard,’ which is much more important, is: Am I doing the right things? Am I treating people correctly? Is this working for me as an individual?”
For more on business juggernauts, read why Elon Musk is getting into comedy.
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