Wisdom from the Oracle of Omaha

11 09 2017

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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Think It Through!

11 08 2017

IBM founder Thomas Watson became famous, in part, because of a slogan he’d picked up as a young sales manager for National Cash Register Company.  He made it the defining motif for Big Blue from the 1920’s to the present.

Think.

“Think” signs were plastered all over IBM so that every employee, from the janitor to the senior vice president, would capture the vision that strategic thinking would help the company to grow and flourish.  He made a forceful case that the phrase “I didn’t think” was one of the main reasons why companies lost millions of dollars.  Many IBM employees—engineers and others—would carve out big chunks of time every day simply to think.

One of the reasons why things tend to stress us out us is the bad habit of not thinking a thing through and solving the problem by thoroughly understanding it.  We tend to be impatient and want everything now, especially solutions.  This applies to any area of life, not just mechanical headaches like a malfunctioning smartphone.

In his book The Road Less Traveled and Beyond, M. Scott Peck points out that simplistic thinking, which he labels simplism, is the plague of our times.  And the reason for not thinking challenges through is that real thought is hard work!

I know a dad who regularly counseled his adult sons when first entering the real world of work to “think it through” when considering possible courses of action.  My wife likes to call this process “playing the tape to the end.”

Here are some tips to improve your own strategic, solution-based thinking:

  • Create an undistracted atmosphere.  Turn off your smartphone for a while and give yourself to the task at hand.
  • Think with pencil and paper in hand.  Or pen and Moleskine. Leonardo Da Vinci is famous for his Journals, filled with math, drawings, aphorisms and sundry jottings.  Writing things out clarifies your own muddy thinking.
  • Look at your challenge from multiple angles.  Da Vinci again.  He used to sketch things from three different angles, including upside-down, so that he would not miss details and had a better picture of the whole.  Thomas Aquinas, in his famous Summa Theologica, used to state a thesis. Then he’d come up with every possible argument against his thesis.   Then he’d finish with even more powerful arguments in favor of his position.
  • Try seeing your riddle through the eyes of a child.  Albert Einstein was famous for this.  His child-like approach to physics gave us his theories of special and general relativity.  A true “outside-the-box” thinker.

Remember that thinking is hard work, but well worth the effort.  You will be surprised how many more solutions will emerge as you give patience and focus to thinking things through.

 

Suggested Resources:

Good Thinking: What You Need to Know to be Smarter, Safer, Wealthier, and Wiser (Guy P. Harrison)

Leonardo’s Notebooks: Writing and Art of the Great Master (Leonardo da Vinci & H. Anna Suh)

 

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Think!

6 02 2013

ThinkIBM founder Thomas Watson became famous, in part, because of a slogan he’d picked up as a young sales manager for National Cash Register Company.  He made it the defining motif for Big Blue from the 1920′s to the present.

Think.

“Think” signs were plastered all over IBM so that every employee, from the janitor to the senior vice president, would capture the vision that strategic thinking would enable the company to grow and flourish.  He made the compelling case that “I didn’t think” was one of the main reasons why companies lost millions of dollars.  I understand that some IBM employees—engineers and so forth—would carve out significant blocks of time every day simply to think.

One reason why things tend to overwhelm us is that we may have nurtured the bad habit of not thinking a thing through and then finding a solution by thoroughly understanding it.  We tend to be impatient and want everything now, especially resolutions to problems that niggle and irritate.  This applies to any area of life, not simply mechanical malfunctions or engineered designs for everything from highway infrastructure to software apps.

In his book The Road Less Traveled and Beyond, Scott Peck points out that simplistic thinking is the bane of our age and the reason for not thinking challenges through is that real thought is hard work!

One father I know regularly counsels his adult sons to “think it through” when considering possible courses of action.  My wife likes to call the process “playing the tape to the end.”

Here are some tips to improve your own strategic, solution-based thinking:

  • Create an undistracted atmosphere.  Turn off the technology for a while and have your secretary or your family members hold your calls.
  • Think with a pencil and paper in hand.  Leonardo Da Vinci is famous for his Journals, filled with math, drawings, aphorisms and sundry jottings.  Writing something out has a way of clearing cloudy thought.
  • Look at your challenge from multiple angles.  Da Vinci again.  He used to sketch things from three different angles, including upside-down, so that he would not miss details and had a better picture of the whole.  Thomas Aquinas, in his famous Summa Theologica, used to state a thesis and then come up first with every conceivable argument against it.  Then he’d formulate arguments in favor of his proposition.
  • Try to see your conundrum through the eyes of a child.  Albert Einstein was famous for this practice.  His child-like approach to physics gave us his theories of special and general relativity.  A consummate “outside-the-box” thinker.

Remember that thinking is laborious but well worth the effort.  You will be surprised how many more solutions will emerge as you give patience and focus to thinking things through.

Image Credit





Think

6 02 2012

IBM founder Thomas Watson became famous, in part, because of a slogan he’d picked up as a young sales manager for National Cash Register Company.  He made it the defining motif for Big Blue from the 1920’s to the present.

Think.

“Think” signs were plastered all over IBM so that every employee, from the janitor to the senior vice president, would capture the vision that strategic thinking would enable the company to grow and flourish.  He made the compelling case that “I didn’t think” was one of the main reasons why companies lost millions of dollars.  I understand that some IBM employees—engineers and so forth—would carve out significant blocks of time every day simply to think.

One of the reasons why things tend to overwhelm us is the bad habit of not thinking a thing through and solving the problem by thoroughly understanding it.  We tend to be impatient and want everything now, especially solutions.  This applies to any area of life, not simply mechanical malfunctions or engineered designs for everything from highway infrastructure to software apps.

In his book The Road Less Traveled and Beyond, Scott Peck points out that simplistic thinking is the bane of our age and the reason for not thinking challenges through is that real thought is hard work!

One father I know regularly counsels his adult sons to “think it through” when considering possible courses of action.  My wife likes to call the process “playing the tape to the end.”

Here are some tips to improve your own strategic, solution-based thinking:

  • Create an undistracted atmosphere.  Turn off the technology for a while and have your secretary or your family members hold your calls.
  • Think with a pencil and paper in hand.  Leonardo Da Vinci is famous for his Journals, filled with math, drawings, aphorisms and sundry jottings.  Writing something out has a way of clearing cloudy thought.
  • Look at your challenge from multiple angles.  Da Vinci again.  He used to sketch things from three different angles, including upside-down, so that he would not miss details and had a better picture of the whole.  Thomas Aquinas, in his famous Summa Theologica, used to state a thesis and then come up first with every conceivable argument against it.  Then he’d formulate arguments in favor of his proposition.
  • Try to see your conundrum through the eyes of a child.  Albert Einstein was famous for this practice.  His child-like approach to physics gave us his theories of special and general relativity.  A consummate “outside-the-box” thinker.

Remember that thinking is laborious but well worth the effort.  You will be surprised how many more solutions will emerge as you give patience and focus to thinking things through.

Image Credit