Wisdom from the Oracle of Omaha

Warren Buffett, arguably the world’s greatest investor, when considering an investment tends to look at and stay within what he calls his “circle of competencies.”  He learned this concept from Thomas Watson, founder of IBM.  Watson said, essentially, “I don’t know everything but what I know I know.  And I tend to operate within my circle of competency.”

When Buffett first met fellow billionaire Bill Gates in 1991, he declined to invest in computer technology, specifically Intel and Microsoft.  He didn’t know computers, simple as that.  (He later invested heavily in Bill and Melinda Gates and their philanthropic ventures.)

Bill Gates knows computers.  Henry Ford knew cars.  Gene Simmons knows rock and roll branding.  Warren Buffett knows chewing gum, soft drinks, insurance and textiles, among other things.  These successful men stayed and stay within what they know.  And they profit doing so.

What are your circle of competencies?  What things do you know better than the average bear?  Buffett tells potential job seekers to seek a job they would do if money were no option.  Corollary to that he likens the résumé building approach to career development the equivalent of saving sex for old age.  It misses the point.

Here are some things to think about when evaluating your circle of competencies:

  • What do you find yourself thinking about and pursuing when off the clock?
  • What ignites your passion—what subjects and pursuits? Dead giveaway on that one is your body language.  Your eyes fire, your pulse increases, you get excited and it’s obvious to those who know you.
  • What do you read about that is not part of some school or work assignment? Same goes for viewing and listening.

Challenge:  Focus on what lights you up and genuinely interests you—whether the pursuit is popular or not.  Then start doing deep dives in these areas.  You’ll be surprised how far you can go with them.


Suggested Reading:

Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist (Roger Lowenstein)

Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2013 (Carol J. Loomis)


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The Cardone Zone and Full Commitment

Grant CardoneA friend and colleague of mine has recently turned me on to yet another personal development trainer, Florida real estate mogul Grant Cardone.

While listening to an audio book of his today, Sell or Be Sold, he made this provocative statement:

“I’d rather be fully committed to the wrong thing than be half committed to the right thing.”

I have to admit, his statement rattled me.  Now, I’ve listened to enough of his material to know he’s definitely not arguing for getting behind a losing cause.  “Choose well” is his advice.

But his unnerving statement highlights an important truth, one we’ve discussed here on The Upside:  “Wherever you are, be all there.”

There is energy in full, unbridled passion for what is important to us.  When we decide “This is it—I’m getting behind this effort, this value, this goal, taking no prisoners, come hell or high water,” stuff begins to unlock, paths open, your subconscious mind begins serving you and the target you’ve set.

Life is far too short to live in half-hearted fashion.

What are your goals and are they compelling enough to motivate you to burn your bridges and trash your excuses to make them a reality?

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Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires

Brian TracyI listened today to one of my favorite speakers on self-development, Brian Tracy.  He turned my thinking upside-down, as he often does.

Speaking on the topic “Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires,” Brian hit on the question of motivation.  Paraphrased, he pointed out that, more importantly than increasing one’s income to seven figures, what one must become in order to earn a million dollars is of paramount importance.

I’d heard this before, many times.  But today, it hit me in a fresh and invigorating way.  I’m not really the kind of person that would find happiness in more and better “stuff.”  Vacations in exotic and storied locations?  Sure, I’d enjoy them.  But I’ve a happy marriage and would gladly count an evening talking to my wife of twenty-five years a night well-spent.

In terms of self-development, however, he had me.  As I learned many years ago, many–perhaps most–of those with annual incomes in excess of a million dollars are “past the utility curve” with respect to money (to quote Chuck Missler).  Money becomes a way of keeping score.  “Am I contributing something of such value that people will give up their hard-earned cash to acquire what I offer?”  It’s a worthy question–one that will rattle you if you let it.

And it should.  Time, after all, is money.

To increase one’s income substantially requires tenacity, discipline, clearly-defined goals, continuous learning, and constant self-evaluation.

Okay, how about you?  More cars, vacations, and devices will probably not make you happier in the long haul.  But becoming the kind of person who can use his or her skills, carefully cultivated habits of work, and creative thinking to acquire a sizable income will.  Why?  Because, as Brian says, to do this, you’ve got to transform who’ve you’ve been into someone better.  Sharper.  Above the mediocre herd.

In a word: Excellent.

Are you up for this?

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Educate Yourself On Money

Know Your Money

“You must walk to the beat of a different drummer. The same beat that the wealthy hear. If the beat sounds normal, evacuate the dance floor immediately! The goal is to not be normal, because as my radio listeners know, normal is broke.” (Dave Ramsey)

Now, more than ever, you owe it to yourself and those you love to do your financial homework.  There are lots of audio and video resources to help you get a handle on your money.  Among them, Dave Ramsey (quoted above).  Scores of people have liquidated their debt and got on their feet by taking his Financial Peace University class. Many others have been helped by the direct and passionate style of Suze Orman.  Here are some things I am reading and learning:

The current debt-ceiling crisis in Washington D. C. highlights the need to be aware of our money—what we have, what we owe, where to get more, etc.

Do yourself a favor and get yourself an education—if you haven’t already done so—on the way money, debt, deficits, markets, lending, borrowing and the like functions.  In this time, more than ever, ignorance is not bliss—it is dangerous.  Be awake.

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The Fine Print? Pay Attention

Fine PrintIf you’ve ever purchased a new home or vehicle through an automotive dealership, you’ve been through the experience of signing, initialing and dating voluminous documents related to the transaction.  Disclosures, releases, obligations, waivers.  It can be daunting.  The easiest thing in the world is simply to sign, initial and date with only a cursory glance.

I know.  I’ve done it numerous times.  So have you.  And that is the problem.

We call such encounters “signing our lives away.”  Given the careful, legal language in which these documents are composed, it’s not far from the truth.  And in the normal course of events, one normally doesn’t think much of it.  Just sign the thing and be done with it.

Until you get surprised when one of the terms, contingencies or disclaimers affect you—your plans and your pocketbook.  You feel as if you’ve been sucker punched.  It feels that way.

But you haven’t been blindsided.  One of the documents you signed said, in effect, that you had a full understanding of the terms of the agreement.  And you’re now legally liable to fulfill the terms of the agreement.

Liable to pay double-digit interest on that credit card when the economy flags and banks are low on cash.   Liable to have to negotiate the use of your own art if you’ve surrendered copyright to a publisher.  (I know one recording artist who, when younger and untutored, gave up ownership of his music and now has to lease master tapes from the record companies just to press CD’s for his fans.)

No, it’s not unfair.  It’s called fine print.  And most don’t read it.  Those who do are often the ones who are better off financially than the rest of us.  They’ve done due diligence in their financial affairs.  Part of their reward is an often proportionate lack of unpleasant “surprises.”

What to do?

  • Take your time when signing documents.  Read the small print.  Ask questions.  And don’t be intimidated if the agent with whom you are doing business seems impatient.  You have everything to gain or lose by taking the time you need to know what you’re getting into.
  • Do your homework.  If you’re buying a car, go in knowing the worth of the vehicle better than the salesperson.  The blue book information is available on the Web.  Same for house and land purchases.
  • Learn about compound interest, something Einstein purportedly called “the Eighth Wonder of the World.”  You’ll buy far less and shop around more before parting with your hard earned money.

This is a step that those who would own their future must take.  Be diligent and ahead of the pack.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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