The personally revealing and complete biography of the man known everywhere as “The Oracle of Omaha”—for fans of the HBO documentary Becoming Warren Buffett
Here is the book recounting the life and times of one of the most respected men in the world, Warren Buffett. The legendary Omaha investor has never written a memoir, but now he has allowed one writer, Alice Schroeder, unprecedented access to explore directly with him and with those closest to him his work, opinions, struggles, triumphs, follies, and wisdom.
Although the media track him constantly, Buffett himself has never told his full life story. His reality is private, especially by celebrity standards. Indeed, while the homespun persona that the public sees is true as far as it goes, it goes only so far. Warren Buffett is an array of paradoxes. He set out to prove that nice guys can finish first. Over the years he treated his investors as partners, acted as their steward, and championed honesty as an investor, CEO, board member, essayist, and speaker. At the same time he became the world’s richest man, all from the modest Omaha headquarters of his company Berkshire Hathaway. None of this fits the term “simple.”
When Alice Schroeder met Warren Buffett she was an insurance industry analyst and a gifted writer known for her keen perception and business acumen. Her writings on finance impressed him, and as she came to know him she realized that while much had been written on the subject of his investing style, no one had moved beyond that to explore his larger philosophy, which is bound up in a complex personality and the details of his life. Out of this came his decision to cooperate with her on the book about himself that he would never write.
Never before has Buffett spent countless hours responding to a writer’s questions, talking, giving complete access to his wife, children, friends, and business associates—opening his files, recalling his childhood. It was an act of courage, as The Snowball makes immensely clear. Being human, his own life, like most lives, has been a mix of strengths and frailties. Yet notable though his wealth may be, Buffett’s legacy will not be his ranking on the scorecard of wealth; it will be his principles and ideas that have enriched people’s lives. This book tells you why Warren Buffett is the most fascinating American success story of our time.
Praise for The Snowball
“Even people who don't care a whit about business will be intrigued by this portrait. . . . Schroeder, a former insurance-industry analyst, spent years interviewing Buffett, and the result is a side of the Oracle of Omaha that has rarely been seen.” — Time
“Will mesmerize anyone interested in who Mr. Buffett is or how he got that way. The Snowball tells a fascinating story.” — New York Times
“If the replication of any great achievement first requires knowledge of how it was done, then The Snowball , the most detailed glimpse inside Warren Buffett and his world that we likely will ever get, should become a Bible for capitalists.” — Washington Post
“Riveting and encyclopedic.” — Wall Street Journal
“A monumental biography . . . Schroeder got the best access yet of any Buffett biographer. . . . She deals out marvelously funny and poignant stories about Buffett and the conglomerate he runs, Berkshire Hathaway.” — Forbes
“The most authoritative portrait of one of the most important American investors of our time.” — Los Angeles Times
Ms. Schroeder was born in Texas, and she earned an undergraduate degree and her MBA at the University of Texas at Austin before moving east to work in finance. She is a former CPA and lives in Connecticut with her husband.
Alice Schroeder was a noted insurance industry analyst and writer who was a managing director at Morgan Stanley. She first met Warren Buffett when she published research on Berkshire Hathaway; her grasp of the subject and insight so impressed him that he offered her access to his files and to himself. Their friendship and mutual respect make her ideally positioned to write the The Snowball.
Why I Read this Book: Warren Buffett is the epitome of success in many ways for a lot of people. I had to find out the real story.
* Modeling * Internal Values * Value Investing * Trade offs of various forms of success * Understanding your purpose and priorities * Importance of Relationships
I preordered my copy of Snowball through Amazon the day it was announced. I will warn you that I am a fanatic. I make it out to Omaha each year for the Berkshire Hathaway meeting and it’s one of my favorite weekends learning lessons on life, business and of course investing. The foundation of my investment firm is based on the principles he made famous. Needless to say, I could not wait to get my copy.
Nearly two months later, I have finally turned the last page. One thing is for sure, Alice Schroder managed not to spare a detail in the 830 odd pages. No doubt that the length of this biography is a symbol of the depth and fanatics of Warren’s life, which becomes clearer with each page. I believe that Alice could have spared some of the detail so be prepared for a dense read.
I have been a student of Buffett and his approach for years, which made Snowball a logical progression in my ever-growing investing curriculum. Although for those of you looking for deep insight into Warren’s investment approach and steps on how to mimic it, you have come to the wrong place. There are hundreds of other titles that do a much better job of that (some of which you will see on my site). That value in this book instead was to get a window on the mind, life and thinking of the most financially successful person of our time.
For years I have had my question prepared for Buffett at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, but I have yet to awaken early enough to secure a place in line. Shareholders and attendees willing to stand in line starting at around 3am are granted one question on a topic of their choosing. Mine is along the lines of “What was it that you told yourself, thought about and visualized when you were younger that made you certain that you would be one of the wealthiest people in the world one day? We have heard of your physical routine, but what about your psychology?” I believe The Snowball is my answer (although I hope to ask him again in Omaha next year).
Snowball brings up plenty of realizations and surprises of Warren’s life, but for me more than anything, this was a lesson in modeling. Modeling is one of the most valuable tools available for success. Early on, the likes of Ben Franklin, Benjamin Graham and plenty more, discovered that if you learn how someone lives their life and the beliefs they possess, it is possible to model their actions and thinking to achieve similar results. Tony Robbins is the biggest promoter and teacher of this technique in today’s world. This tool is incredibly valuable in anyone’s tool chest to success. It’s a huge handicap to not put it to use on your journey. That is essentially what ReadingForYourSuccess comes down to. A guide on how to model the most successful authors, people and approaches I come across.
Anyone looking to model Warren Buffett (and I know there are a lot of you out there) must read Snowball. Over the years I have worked hard to model what I’ve learned about Warren’s approach to investing and life. Outwardly it seems doable, but after spending two months and 830 pages peering through the window on his life, it has become glaringly clear why there is only one Warren Buffett.
From the early years of childhood, Warren has had a one track mind about collecting as much money as possible. This has come at the regrettable sacrifice of various family interactions and relationships throughout his life. I wont get into the specifics but the eye-opener for me was that when it comes down to success, never forget that trade off’s exist around every corner. Only a true understanding of your life’s mission, purpose and definition of success will allow you to properly choose as these issues are presented. For Warren, he loved nothing more than analyzing businesses and building wealth. He obviously did not care about what it could buy, since he is still quite frugal and is giving it all back to society, but he loves the accumulation. This has taken top priority and there’s little doubt that he could have achieved what he has without the inhuman discipline that he’s displayed in his 78 years.
* Discipline is one on of the most valuable traits one can possess * There is no substitute for a firm set of values * The importance of giving back and philanthropy—there’s no pride in being the richest guy in the graveyard * ake every opportunity to teach, develop and give knowledge to others * Desire and commit to never stop learning
This was a fundamental learning for me and I hope it presents a valuable example for you as well. While, building a successful investment business is very important to me, it does not rank as high as my health and my relationships and interactions with my family, friends and the love of my life. I am willing to accept this as I set my goals and expectations for my business and all other things important to me.
Snowball is a wonderful guide to what it would really take to model the success of Warren Buffett. And just as it took an incredibly unique individual to become who Warren is today, it would take just as much to model him. You wonder though, even if you could model Warren, would you really want to? After learning the details provided by Schroder, I have a feeling fewer would be up to the task. This is a fantastic realization however. It is up to you to choose what traits and qualities you want to model about a mentor or teacher. Just as important as what you choose to model, is what you choose to leave behind. We do this everyday without knowing it, whether it’s with our parents, friends or significant others. Common sense says to take the desirable and leave the rest. As you reevaluate your modeling for this new year, keep this close in mind.
We are all uniquely fortunate to be living and learning among the likes of such business and financial greatness. Never before have we seen a man with an internal set of rules and convictions (an “internal yardstick” as Buffett would call it) so strong that no one would be successful in throwing him off his finely calculated path to the top. Generations to come will listen in envy as we tell them of what we learned as we witnessed Warren amass his Snowball in real time. All the while giving those willing to listen, some of the most fundamental and priceless lessons on life, values, philanthropy, business and investing ever provided. If you have not taken advantage of these real time lessons, it’s not too late, but sadly that will not always be the case. If you’re up to it, dig into Snowball, but if not then you need not look further than any book store or a month’s worth of news papers to begin seeing all that Warren has been providing to us and society. The years are limited where it will still be real time. There is a strong dose to be had every year out in Omaha. Perhaps I’ll see you out there in 2009.
After finished reading almost 800 pages book on biography of Warren Buffett most pressing question I have now is WHO THE HELL IS CHARLIE MUNGER?!?!!
I was completely fascinated by the straight talking lesser known partner of Berkshire Hathaway. The few quotes of Charlie Munger in the book is enough to justify the poor writings elsewhere. There are so much fluff in the book, that gems of wisdom from Charlie Munger stood out. Once asked about technology stocks in late 1990s Munger once said "Even if you mixed raisins with turds, it's still turds."
Munger once call Efficient Market Hypnosis as bullshits invented by academia. In 1980s Efficient Market Hypnosis became very popular in academia. The idea was you could use stock's volatility as measure of risk and market is extreme efficient. There's no point in trying to beat the market. Corollary drew from EMH was that successfully investors such as Warren and Munger are due to lucks not skills.
Ideally, when I read a biography I would like know the person and go deep inside their heads and understand what motivate them. Despite extensive coverage of where Buffett took vacations every year this book does not make me feel I understand Buffett. There are a lot trivia about Buffett's life, but that's not something I want to read about.
Warren Buffett is a nice guy, sometimes too nice. I got the impression that every CEOs should be utterly ruthless but he's not. Berkshire Hathaway, before it became a household name was originally a textile company owned by Buffett. The textile company was doing poorly ever since Buffett purchased it. Buffett kept it alive for longer than he should. Despite his legendary records, he also made some mistakes in his investments (e.g. Dexter shoe company).
The key to success according to Buffett is pick your parents carefully. Buffett is big proponent of Ovarian Lottery. A person's success has a lot to with their environment where they grew up.
Nevertheless I did learn a lot from the book. Base on reading of this book, I will need to add following books to my list.
Poor Charlie's Almanack by Charlie Munger The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham The Gospel of Wealth Essays and Other Writings by Andrew Carnegie Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This was a disappointing book. At 834 pages plus notes and index there were a lot of words, but at least 80% were just gossip about who had a problem with drinking, drugs, hurt feelings etc etc etc.
(NOTE: Just read Buffett, The making of an American capitalist, That book is 1000 times better: 22 March 2012)
The trivia even included who their babysitter married!!!
Over the years I've read often about the remarkable partnership of Buffett and Munger, but very very little of that is mentioned in this book.
And clearly Mr B didn't proof the book, because it's rife with factual errors and silly statements.
For instance on p530 "volatility - how likely it was to deviate from the market average." That just doesn't match any definition of the word.
The very next paragraph, " sold a group of stocks short to help cushion results if the market went down"
Not true, the major cost of investing is the cost of capital, if you have say $100,000 you can buy that much stock long. THEN, you can use it as collateral to SHORT up to $100,000 worth of stock AT NO EXTRA COST. And, some brokerage firms will share the interest earned on the proceeds of the short sale, even more profit.
You double the utility of your capital. If you pick right and your timing is right you have double the profits for a given amount of capital.
If you think stocks might go down, you sell some you think are fully priced. You don't "hedge".
2 paragraphs further, "They defined risk as not losing money" As Munger might say: "twaddle and bullshit" Risk is the CHANCE of loss.
On page 545 her explanation of what a derivative is is so goofy I'll leave it to you to read.
She makes it sound like all derivatives are a type of insurance. CDS's are that, but they are not really derivatives, they're just called that to avoid coming under regulations governing insurance.
A true derivative is an option or future that DERIVES it's value from the changing value of something else, like a stock, a metal, food, energy...
Other stupid sentences: page 754 "Surviving a first bout with (oral cancer) carries a twentyfold greater risk of recurrence." !!!!! 20 fold greater than what????? NOT surviving the first bout?
She mentioned the 1974 Forbes mag article where Buffett is alleged to have said: "I feel like an oversexed man in a harem"
That was my first introduction to Buffett and his remarkable career. She failed to mention, I guess she just doesn't know, that's not what he really said.
A few years later Forbes admitted they bowdlerized his remark, he really said: "I feel like an oversexed man in a whorehouse"
Small point, but for 834 pages and many years spent writing this book, the author didn't research the early writings about the man very well.
I had thought that a book about a guy who made $200 Billion dollars for himself and others would be both pleasant and interesting.
Wrong, the misery index in this book is higher than any other book I've seen that is even slightly related to finance.
At times I felt I was reading a Thomas Hardy novel, where on every page a new and more awful suffering is impinged on the protagonist.
As the book draws to an end the misery is accelerated with one person after another dying of increasingly painful, disfiguring, and debilitating types of cancer.
Spelled out in graphic detail.
One thing I'm sure of, this won't be the last book written about Warren Buffett.
And the next one has about a 99% probability of being better.
Want a real bio of Warren Buffett? You'll have to keep waiting, because this book ain't it.
This baby's got some major boo-boos in just the first 50 pages. (But there's more later!) Add in overwriting, poor writing, and apparently economic slants or ax-grinding and ugg ....
First, the early errors:
1. She claims Hoover was Coolidge's VP. Nope, twas Charles Curtis.
2. She claims some other speech, not "Cross of Gold," was William Jennings Bryan's most famous. Not even close.
3. A possible whopper. On page 17, she describes the "notoriously fumble fingered Buffett" trying to "get up" a PowerPoint slide as if it were an actual slide... Dunno if she believes that, but it halfway sounds that way.
And, as I said, that's just in the first FIFTY pages.
Biggest of the later errors?
Page 639, Schroeder says the Taoiseach is "head of state" of Ireland.
NOPE. Try "head of government," not "head of state." And, in a parliamentary government, that's a big difference.
She also appears to take some Dust Bowl yarns as truth.
Economic ax-grinding? Claiming that going off the gold standard, specifically, Great Britain in 1930, is just an "excuse to write bad checks."
So, Ms. Goldbug, you still carry non-gold-backed Federal Reserve Notes in your wallet? Vote for Ron Paul? Etc., etc.
Also speaking of writing back checks, in the midst of this economic meltdown, you didn't "fluff" any CDOs, CDSs, etc. at Morgan Stanley, did you? Afraid of having any bonuses capped by the "bad check writing" U.S. Govt?
She later repeats the oft-retold conservative myth, or lie, that the New Deal "didn't work." Wrong. Especially before FDR got balanced-budget cold feet, he cut unemployment in half during his first term.
When we have a footnote, a DUH footnote, telling us banks were more vulnerable to robberies during the Depression because they didn't have electronic security systems, you know this baby has been over-written by at least 200 pages.
Another anal footnote? Footnoting a source for Buffett not ice-skating well as a kid because he had weak ankles. Anal.
You could surely whack half or more of the 100 pages of footnotes, leaving 150 pages out of more than 800 to easily be cut.
It's overwritten in another way.
Schroeder never claims she's trying to imitate the personality of Buffett in her writing style, as defenders of her claim here. Therefore, it's obvious she just doesn't know how to write a biography, or a hagiography.
It's like Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, ultimately. "There's no there there" in this book, other than the Chinese water torture of nearly 900 pages of draggy writing, interspersed with defensiveness of Saint Warren of Omaha.
And, that's the primary part of the "more" from the title of my review.
This is NOT a neutral biography. Interesting that Schroeder doesn't tout it as the "authorized" biography, because that's exactly what it is. So, it's not going to be neutral, despite Warren's charge to her to write the worse whenever she hears two accounts of a story. Warren knows she's already sold herself by this point, so he doesn't have to worry.
I might originally have rated this baby at two stars, but it appears Buffett-heads are little short of Obamiacs, so this baby has to get a one-stsr rating to compensate.
I will say that, ***not having read ANY Buffett bio before,*** I learned some things about him (which I surely could have learned from another bio).
His almost-intuitive "friends" approach to buying nearly cost him his a** with Salomon. He only survived that because of a reputation he'd already had. But, in her "dispassionate" or mind-numbing/quasi-hagiographic style, Schroeder never takes him to the woodshed for the dumbest "friends" decision this side of George W. Bush looking into Vlad the Impaler Putin's eyes and not seeing John McCain there.
To succeed in business, be patient, look for value, be honest, and have cash in hand. And don't think about anything else. In fact, be an unrepentent monomaniac. Warren Buffett has become the worlds richest man by making investments that he gets derided for at 10-year intervals, then, when the bubble bursts, he is a saint again.... Buffett is extremely good at making money - and has a rather impressive idea about what to do with it (keep investing, give it all away to someone who is good at giving away money, such as Bill Gates.)
The biography is an impressive work in itself. 838 densely written pages about a man whose personal life has been rather unspectacular (hamburgers and Cherry Coke, poring over stock lists and annual reports). Schroeder is a business writer and financial analyst, so she has real knowledge about deals and can write with authority on complicated cases such as Salomon Brothers. I would have loved to see her write a biography on Bill Gates with the same level of business detail, though we will probably have to wait another decade or so for that to happen.
Recommended as a backgrounder on the financial crisis as well - it is up to date as of April 2008, which is rather impressive in itself.
I rarely give up on books but I gave up on this one after about 100 pages. After 100 pages we are still sorting through Warren's paper routes and stamp collections. I am interested in Warren Buffet, but do we really need over 800 pages in this biography? There are biographies of Winston Churchill that are shorter.
I would say this book is only for people that are really, really interested in Buffet.
The story of how pinball machines and counterfeit salad oil helped build one of the great modern fortunes is fascinating, but there is a reason people generally aren't clamoring to read 976 page books by former CPA's. The writing is dull and repetitive, the pacing slows to a crawl by the end.
Clearly worth reading if you are a Warren groupie (which I am)
Maybe worth reading if you aren't?
Some have faulted the book for not being stronger in the secrets of his investment success. This is silly. For starters, Warren Buffet himself has written extensively on that topic, imparting most of the wisdom that can be imparted. Read his annual letters or even interviews if you want that. And second, by definition there isn't an easy playbook of rules that people can follow for financial success. I wouldn't read a book about Tiger Woods and be upset that I didn't have a great golf swing at the end; why would anyone have a similar complaint about a book about Warrent Buffet?
So overall I liked it because it *didn't* rehash the investment advice stuff too much, and focused more on bio, both personal and to a lesser extent investing. It didn't make me like Warren more (clearly that wasn't the point), but it was interesting nonetheless to learn a little more about what makes him tick, and I think the book was successful in that.
The snowball gives a sneak preview look into the life of the greatest investor in Universe (Yes, he can beat Mars folks too). The biography tells his nature, his characteristics, his habits and so many other things about him. If you want to read this book to get some tips to become billionaire, or some stock tips, then this might not be the right book. The snowball doesn't give any tips or tricks; it just presents the incidents in Warren's life and how he reacted to them. Everything is left for your interpretation so you will get lots of good points for introspection. Book presents Warren's thought process by introducing concept like Inner scorecard, bathtub memory, value of reputation. Buffett threw newspapers in his neighborhood as a child, handicapped in race course, had stage fright but he conquered all odds by sheer perseverance and his grit. Anyone would have recommended a book on Warren Buffett so am not doing you a favor by recommending this. Go and grab your copy. And read it twice. Enjoy reading!!
Let no one ever accuse Alice Schroeder of being anything less than thorough. She has brought new meaning to the phrase "exhaustively researched."
I first got really interested in finance a couple years ago when I decided to pay off my student loans at an accelerated rate (and now they're all gone, thanks in part to the research I did on effectively managing personal finances). Anyway, at that time well-meaning people (including my father's financial advisor) recommended I read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Only by that point, I'd already learned about debt snowballs and the Ramsey method, and it didn't really have much to offer me. I can see how it would be useful for someone with little willpower and out-of-control spending. But that wasn't me. It was pretty useless advice actually, and I benefitted a lot more from various blogs and less-hyped financial gurus.
Because the one thing that seemed to be missing from the philosophies of a lot of said gurus was the idea of living simply. I don't want to build wealth so I can spend it on a $40k car. I don't even want to own multiple homes (that's what a tent and a camp stove are for). I want to live a good life well.
Enter Warren Buffett, famous for still living in the same $31,500 house he bought sixty years ago. He drives cheap cars, wears cheap clothes, and insists that his children work for their money (more on that in a minute). And yet he's got more money than God. What a fascinating person.
So I decided to read The Snowball first to learn about this very interesting and influential person and to see if I could glean some wisdom for my own financial journey forward. The result was that I learned more than I ever wanted to know about Warren Buffett and was introduced to a few really smart financial ideas that never would have occurred to me before. I'll start with the latter.
Since he was a kid working his paper route, Buffett learned to treat every dollar like it was ten dollars. Which is genius, right? Because if you invest that one dollar, it really will end up being ten dollars some day in the future. So why not pretend like it is currently its future worth? That certainly makes one pause before making any sort of purchase, from a latte to a house. You have to really want something if it's worth ten times more to you than its sticker price. I like this idea so much I started using it immediately.
Starting early was another thing Buffett hit out of the park. I didn't really "start" getting my financial house in order until I was about twenty-seven--before then I was just kind of flailing. But Buffett had that shit dialed in since he was twelve, and the result was that he was a millionaire by his early thirties. And as we all know, once you have money it's relatively easy to make more of it. So by Buffett's standards, I'm lagging way behind. And while I wish I had really flexed by financial muscles earlier on, at least I started strong when I did, and I'm now on track. Not to be a millionaire, mind you, but to have enough fuck-you money to not have to work a job I'm unhappy with in ten years.
But let's talk about Buffett the man. He kind of has this reputation for being a totally outlandish character, which I don't think is fair. In fact, now that Alice Schroeder has taken me through his thought process in minute, painful detail over the course of his entire life (have I mentioned this book is long?), I actually find him to be pretty rational and understandable.
Buffett is a lifelong proponent of human rights. He very wisely and logically understands that he won "the ovarian lottery," and that he could very easily have ended up a Bengali factory worker. Instead he was lucky enough to be born in the literal Land of Opportunity, and he took that opportunity and used it to make billions. I find it perfectly understandable that he therefore feels a strong obligation to the poor and unlucky of the world. He is effective and compassionate in his philanthropy, and he is ruthless when it comes to tax reform not favoring the rich. I firmly believe the world would be a better place if more billionaires and millionaires thought like Warren Buffett. If he believes in a humanitarian cause, you should probably give it a chance (I'm looking at you, anti-choice politicians).
He also knows himself: what makes him happy, who he cares for. And he doesn't waste any time on anything that doesn't fall into those categories. So if Buffett loves you, you can expect for him to never, EVER let you down. Likewise, he doesn't really get out of his comfort zone where food or new experiences are concerned. "If a three-year-old won't eat it, I won't eat it." And while this sounds like a miserable way to go through life if you enjoy varied and interesting tastes, you have to admire his commitment. Man knows what he likes! Why deviate?
I was pretty tired of the details of all of his business dealings by the end, though I completely understand why such a thorough and detailed biography is called for. I'm sure there are Buffett wannabes out there who pored over this thing like it was holy writ. But I'm not one. A lot of it could have been condensed for me and I would've walked away with the same impression.
Lastly, I'll just say that the author's tone trended almost toward fawning adoration. But it's easy to see why! He literally is a larger-than-life figure whose mistakes were made with the best impressions and whose successes overshadowed even his minor faults. But if you're not one for hero-worship, it might be best to skip this really incredible work of biographic integrity.
This is a good biography of Warren Buffett, but it could have been better. While it depicted his personal life and his character well, it could have done a better job with his investment philosophy. Roger Lowenstein's earlier biography was better, in this regard.
Buffett is a complex character, as Schroeder portrays him. He inveighs against privilege, inherited wealth and nepotism, but gives his kids $1 million a year as birthday gifts and appoints them as directors of his company, Berkshire Hathaway. He derides Wall Street investment bankers for earning massive fees while contributing little or nothing to society, and then invests heavily in major investment banks, first in Solomon Brothers and then in Goldman Sachs--each mired in scandal. He protests loudly and often about the inequality of wealth in the US, but has himself been one of the greatest contributors to that inequality, through his own massive accumulation of wealth and his reluctance to give to charity in his own lifetime. And while he preaches "social justice" he practices hard-nosed capitalism, laying off workers and breaking strikes to add to his already enormous profits. Moreover, while he pushes for higher taxes on the wealthy, he takes every legal measure to minimize his own taxes.
So Buffett is open to charges of hypocrisy, as Schroeder makes clear. Hers is no work of hagiography. But he also deserves much of the praise he gets, as an honest and highly capable businessman who takes his fiduciary responsibilities seriously. Through shrewd investments in companies like See's Candies, GEICO, Coca Cola and Gillette, he built enormous wealth for himself and his shareholders. And he did so honestly and conservatively, not exploiting inside information like Bernie Madoff or George Soros, nor through "greenmail" and risky levereged bets like Michael Milken and his acolytes.
This biography depicts Buffet as a very limited man. He cares little for art, philosophy or literature. He would rather ponder the balance sheet of General Electric than the beauty of the ocean. But he is the greatest in the world in his own limited sphere.
In sum, this is a good biography, but it's too long and should do more to explain Buffett's investing ideas. For example, when describing his investment in Coca Cola, Schroeder mentions Coke's price, but not its P/E ratio, nor does she explain sufficiently why he thought that price was attractive. In 900 pages, one would expect more.
Like the man himself, the book can often be dry, riskless, and homespun. The aesthetic quality reflects the subject-matter of the book. And that is one of the points of this great man's life: high quality success is rarely very flashy. It can be as simple as a man sitting in a room reading newspapers and almanacs for hours on end, obsessed with finding bargains, inner score cards, and margins of safety. Success, often, is a person marrying wisely and staying married despite the hardships. Success is as simple as finding a good invest or two and holding onto it.
I take comfort from knowing that Warren would have been right at home with someone like my mother. She spent many thankless hours clipping coupons, buying used goods, and diving in dumpsters just to help our family save money. She also started a "junk" business where she would advertise in the local paper to buy people's junk. She would buy it cheap and then turn around and sell it in a flea market for a profit.
How different is my mom's old business from Warren's? Well, what my mom might called "junk", Warren would likely call discarded "cigarette butts." Where Buffett "Buffetted" distressed people into selling cheap, my mom "mommed" her way into getting people who were moving to either sell cheap or even give away their unwanted things.
You'll learn a lot about investing in this book. You'll learn what it means to be a person of strong core values (an inner moral compass). You'll learn the value of leading a life that fits what you do best.
But you'll also learn some ugly lessons. Even the wisest among us make mistakes. Tragedy strikes us all. Time is undefeated.
And the worst lesson of all...it's almost impossible to get good (usually introverted) people to run for public office.
Biographies are not something I read a lot of, and when I do I am not sure exactly how to review them - we will just call this a disclaimer.
Solidly written and well balanced between the personal and the more over-arching, this was a really good read. I also appreciate the fact that this is not a glowing portrayal from start to finish, it seems like a fair portrayal, not overly filtered nor overtly striving for the negative. Mr. Buffett is simply a man, yes, a man with a fairly brilliant mind, but one with limits. That great mind is focused and while it can be said to be brilliant at certain things - mostly analytical and business oriented - this is also a man/mind that has it's weaknesses and faults - I think he would readily admit that in some areas he is in fact deficient. He is also an individual, often solitary man, but also a man of conviction and determination. I love getting a glimpse inside who Warren Buffett is and what he has done, but I know that I can not become a Warren Buffett, my mind simply works very differently than his. I can take certain lessons from him however, one of which is that we can all accomplish great things if we are determined to do so and we play to our own strengths. Another lesson is that we can all try to be morally decent people no matter what path our lives may take. I guess the take away might be that while money can be important, it can make a difference, it is also not the most important thing, not even for Mr. Warren Buffett.
This probably is a very good book -- the author is a superb writer -- but it didn't overcome my natural aversion to lengthy, overly detailed biographies such as this. Buffett is, of course, a fascinating subject, the richest man in the world but one who is not greedy, does not wallow in conspicuous consumerism, and is inherently modest. Schroeder leads us through every phase of his life, and it is a remarkable one. But I found myself skimming over much of the minutiae and fixating on some of the more compelling moments (and there are many, not just in his financial exploits but also his relationship with his wife Susie and his children). Overall, however, this was about 400 pages too much for me.
This book has 960 pages and i have read it in 3 days. It's most likely top5 in biographies i've read in my life. And i've read dozens. I'm not going to critique it, instead a quote from one of the last chapters:
He admits to ambition, but he denies that there was ever a plan. He finds it hard to acknowledge his own powerful hand as the creator of the sweeping canvas that is his masterpiece. As he tells the story, a series of happy accidents built Berkshire Hathaway; a moneymaking machine sprang up without design. Its elegant structure of true partnership with like-minded shareholders built on what Munger called a "seamless web of deserved trust," with an investment portfolio buried inside an interlocked set of businesses whose capital could be moved at will, all of them turbocharged with "float"---all this had come about, he claims, simply as a reflection of his personality. The final product was a model that could be analyzed and understood, yet few did and, for the most part, nobody coattailed it. What people paid attention to was simply how rich he was. Indeed, as much as he wanted them to study his model, Buffett sometimes inadvertently discouraged it; he also wanted people to believe that he just tap-danced into work every day and had fun.
But that would be the less flattering version.
The truth is this.
When Warren was a little boy fingerprinting nuns and collecting bottle caps, he had no knowledge of what he would someday become. Yet as he rode his bike through Spring Valley, flinging papers day after day, and raced through the halls of The Westchester, pulse pounding, trying to make his deliveries on time, if you had asked him if he wanted to be the richest man on earth---with his whole heart, he would have said, Yes.
That passion had led him to study a universe of thousands of stocks. It made him burrow into libraries and basements for records nobody else troubled to get. He sat up nights studying hundreds of thousands of numbers that would glaze anyone else's eyes. He read every word of several newspapers each morning and sucked down the Wall Street Journal like his morning Pepsi, then Coke. He dropped in on companies, spending hours talking about barrels with the woman who ran an outpost of Greif Bros. Cooperage or auto insurance with Lorimer Davidson. He read magazines like the Progressive Grocer to learn to stock a meat department. He stuffed the backseat of his car with Moody’s Manuals and ledgers on his honeymoon. He spent months reading old newspapers dating back a century to learn the cycles of business, the history of Wall Street, the history of capitalism, the history of the modern corporation. He followed the world of politics intensely and recognized how it affected business. He analyzed economic statistics until he had a deep understanding of what they signified. Since childhood, he had read every biography he could find of people he admired, looking for the lessons he could learn from their lives. He attached himself to everyone who could help him and coattailed anyone he could find who was smart. He ruled out paying attention to almost anything but business---art, literature, science, travel, architecture---so that he could focus on his passion. He defined a circle of competence to avoid making mistakes. To limit risk he never used any significant amount of debt. He never stopped thinking about business: what made a good business, what made a bad business, how they competed, what made customers loyal to one versus another. He had an unusual way of turning problems around in his head, which gave him insights nobody else had. He developed a network of people who---for the sake of his friendship as well as his sagacity---not only helped him but also stayed out of his way when he wanted them to. In hard times or easy, he never stopped thinking about ways to make money. And all of this energy and intensity became the motor that powered his innate intelligence, temperament, and skills.
Warren Buffett was a man who loved money, a man for whom the game of collecting it ran in his veins as his lifeblood. That love kept him going: buying little stocks like National American, selling GEICO to have the money to buy something cheaper, pushing at the boards of companies like Sanborn Map to do the right thing for shareholders. It had made him independent and competitive enough to want his own partnership and say no to the chance to be a junior partner running Ben Graham's old firm. It made him tough enough to shut down Dempster's distribution center and fire Lee Dimon; it gave him the determination to break Seabury Stanton. It had tamed his impatience and made him listen when Charlie Munger insisted that they buy great businesses, even though listening to other people went against his very grain. It stiffened his will to survive the SEC investigation of Blue Chip and to break the strike at the Buffalo News. It made him an implacable acquirer. It also led him to lower his standards from time to time when his turf dried up. Yet it saved him from serious losses by keeping him from abandoning his margin of safety.
Warren Buffett was a timid man who shied from confrontation and needed people to cushion him from life's rougher edges. His fears were personal, not financial; he was never timid when it came to money. His passionate yearning to be rich gave him the courage to ride his bicycle past the house with the awful dog and throw those last few newspapers in Spring Valley. It sent him to Columbia, seeking Ben Graham, after Harvard turned him down. It made him put one foot in front of the other, calling on people as a prescriptionist, while they rejected him over and over. It gave him the strength to return to Dale Carnegie after losing his courage the first time. It forced him through the decisions in the Salomon crisis to make his great withdrawal from the Bank of Reputation. It lent him the dignity to face years of almost intolerable criticism without counterattacking during the Internet bubble. He had spent his life contemplating, limiting, and avoiding risk, but in the end he was braver than he realized himself.
Warren Buffett would never call himself courageous; he would cite his energy, focus, and rational temperament. Above all, he would describe himself as a teacher. All his adult life he had sought to live up to the values instilled in him by his father: He said that Howard taught him that the "how" mattered more the "how much." To hold his ruthlessness in check wasn't an easy lesson for him. It helped that he was fundamentally honest---and that he was possessed by urge to preach. "He deliberately limited his money," says Munger. "Warren would have made a lot more money if he hadn't been carrying all those shareholders and had maintained the partnership longer, taking an override." Compounded over thirty-three years, the extra money would have been worth many billions---tens of billions---to him.1 He could have bought and sold the businesses inside Berkshire Hathaway with a cold calculation of their financial return without considering how he felt about the people involved. He could have become a buy-out king. He could have promoted and lent his name to all sorts of ventures. “In the end," says Munger, "he didn't want to do it. He was competitive, but he was never just rawly competitive with no ethics. He wanted to live life a certain way, and it gave him a public record and a public platform. And I would argue Warren's life has worked out better this way."2
It was the will to share what he knew in an act of sheer generosity that made him spend months writing his annual letter to the shareholders; his joy in showmanship that made him want a mobile home at his shareholder meeting; his pixieish sense of fun that led him to endorse a mattress. It was his Inner Scorecard that made him cling to his margin of safety. It was pure love that turned him into what Munger called "a learning machine." It was his handicapping skill that let him use that knowledge to figure out what the future might bring. It was his urge to preach that made him want to warn the world of dangers to come.
He wished he could have the next ten years' worth of newspapers delivered to his doorstep right now. The years ahead weren't endless, but with luck they could be long. Trees don't grow to the sky, but he wasn't scraping the horizon yet. Another new person, another investment, another idea always waited for him. The things left to learn far exceeded what he already knew.
"The snowball just happens if you're in the right kind of snow, and that's what happened with me. I don't just mean compounding money either. It's in terms of understanding the world and what kind of friends you accumulate. You get to select over time, and you've got to be the kind of person that the snow wants to attach itself to. You've got to be your own wet snow, in effect. You'd better be picking up snow as you go along, because you're not going to be getting back up to the top of the hill again. That's the way life works."
The snowball he had created so carefully was enormous by now. Yet his attitude toward it remained the same. However many birthdays lay ahead, he would always be astonished each time the calendar turned, and as long as he lived, he would never stop feeling like a sprout. For he wasn't looking backward to the top of the hill. It was a big world, and he was just starting out.
An extremely thorough biography (I had to check out the audiobook twice) plus mini biographies of every person in his inner circle. Some questionable details about his personal life (e.g., he paid his wife and daughter to weigh only 118 pounds). Essentially he had two wives at the same time (Susie and Astrid). Love to learn more about GEICO, The Washington Post Company, and Berkshire Hathaway. High praise for the Gates Foundation. Truly wild that Warren still lives in the same $30,000 home in Omaha. The man loves Coca Cola and hamburgers. He is a medical miracle.
I like what Bob Woodward said about Katherine Graham: “Her skill was to raise the bar, gently but relentlessly.”
A great look at the richest man in the world (or second depending on how Bill Gates' stocks did today.)
I once wrote a letter to Warren Buffet asking him to come speak to the Buckhead Church staff. A few days later, I received an email from him politely declining. I was amazed he took the time to even respond. Here are some insights from one of the smartest people around:
Warren Buffett to his biographer: "Whenever my version is different from somebody else's, use the less flattering version."
When asked what factor was the most important in getting to where they had gotten in life, both Warren Buffett and Bill Gates said one word: Focus. By focus, they meant intense discipline and a passionate perfectionism.
"When you get to my age, you'll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you."
"It's very irritating if you have a lot of money. You'd like to think you could write a check: I'll buy a million dollars worth of love. But it doesn't work that way. The more you give love away, the more you get.
"If you have a problem with an employee in your firm, that's his problem. If you've got a problem with an employee in your firm and you fail to do something about it, that's your problem."
"Lose money for the firm and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm and I will be ruthless." "We are going to do 'first-class business in a first-class way.'
He wanted to run things by what he called the front-page test: "I want employees to ask themselves whether they are willing to have any contemplated act appear the next day on the front page of their local paper to be read by their spouses, children and friends, with the reporting done by an informed and critical reporter."
"Very few people should be active investors. Buy a low-cost index fund, and buy it over time.
"People don't want criticism. They want honest and sincere appreciation. Don't criticize, condemn or complain."
Part 1  The less flattering version “Balzac said that behind every great fortune lies a crime. That’s not true at Berkshire.” “ Over time our relationship has turned friendly.” This part illustrates how Buffett invited the author to write this biography for him. Their friendship developed from .  Sun Valley P2-P4 “His mood was buoyant; he had been anticipating this trip for weeks.” The Buffetts are on a plane.
P5-P6 “But if that was so, why had nobody else been able to replicate it?” It talked how Buffet got arrived and caught the attention of the press. His public images is a single man and seemingly genuine. However, he lives a complicated life. I like the way the author makes comparison between Buffett’s simplicity and complexity. “Notebook” “Timed to the second, organized to the hilt, his schedule was laid out hour by hour, day by day.” It then illustrated Allen&Co’s president’s secret weapon: “elephant bumping” and “very very attractive babysitters” and how Buffet behaved on this social event.
P7-P8 The new The new moguls got altogether. “A new group of recently minted technology executives, filled with an unusual swagger, introduced themselves to people who had never heard of them a year before.” It is said that Buffett was as a closing speaker of the year. It talked about the technology revolutionary, and its influence on business investors. “This was not the first time that world-changing new technologies had come along and shaken up the stock market. Business history was replete with new technologies - railroads, telegraph, telephone, automobiles, airplanes, televisions; all revolutionary ways to connect things faster - but how many had made investors rich? He was about to explain.”
P9-P11 “There are always losers” “It’s little things like that that history turns on.” Buffet is going to give a speech on the podium. The CEO of Coco Cola is under the stage, along with Bill Gates. Buffet first told a story about how he was several rejected by the former president of Coco Cola. ### “Too dark to read, and too early to go to sleep.” “There is only two questions. One is how much you’re going to get back, and the other is when.” “There were only three ways the stock market could keep rising at ten percent or more a year” One, interest rates; Second, the investor’s share; third, economy grows. And he called cash “the birds in hand”. He compared “interest rates” in finance as to the gravity in physical world. “Autos had an enormous impact on America, but in the opposite direction on investors.” He presented the unchangeable Dow Jones index over dozens of years, and the declining population of U.S. horse. He said should be shorting horse. ### “Too dark to read, and too early to go to sleep.” “Their companies might be losing money, but in their hearts beat a conviction that they were winners’
P12-P14 “Praise by name, criticize by category.” “ You can get in way more trouble with a good idea than a bad idea, because you forget that the good idea has limit.” * Buffett speaking at the podium and sent out several experienced laws: * Stocks earn more than bond. * Buffett made his first prediction in thirty years, while peoples hold the belief that he missed the tech boat.
 Creatures of Habit
P14 - P17 It really amuses me when Munger is introduced. What amuses me is not that he and Buffett are two different type, which is not a big surprise for me. What amuses me is the criteria that the writer used to divided them two. 1. pleasing people 2. need respect only. And it is also funny, how their attitude towards taking a risk: * Buffett: * “He believed in what he called the Circle of Competence, drew a line around himself, and stayed within the three subjects on which he would be recognized as absolutely expert: money, business, and his own life.” * How to build a self-intoxication * It is amazing that how chatty Buffett is, and how he emerged himself in language and opinions. And the same time, the narrative way the author is using is really not worth appreciating. It is so un organized, or so un-selective. This thing like a mixture of essay and journal This part also pictures Munger as an old-fashion man of kind of idiosyncrasy. He and Buffett are both called the creature of habit. This part introduced Munger’s typical day. Work, play, family. No surprise. He likes reading. No surprise, He has a fixed schedule. No surprise, he used the same old suitcase inherited from his father.
* P16 - P17 * “He kept these relationships separate, as he kept many of his relationships separate.” * This part introduced the daily rituals of Buffett, this mega-billionaire. * There are two interesting facts: He answered his phone by himself, not by his secretary. And he has dinner with a woman who is not his wife. This woman, Astrid, and his wife are friends. * He devoted about 12 hours a week to his nightly bridge game on the Internet. * Sounds like his lifestyle is pretty much physical sedentary and intellectual active.
* P17 Ch4 * P17-P19 * This part introduced a failure that Buffett experienced “on the eve of the millennium”. Buffett got derided by Barron’s, but he did not fight back. This story brought us to touch his inner-scorecard. He announced that he inherited this from his father, a man who really did not think about how other people think about him. Buffett emphasized the importance of parenting on teaching children which one is of more importance: the inner scorecard, or the outer scorecard. * The question Buffett asked in this part touched the “being and appearance” questions. “If the world couldn’t see your results, would you rather be through of as the world’s greatest investor but in reality have the word’s worst record? Or be though of as the world’s worst investor when you were actually the best?” * I totally prefer to be authentic to ourselves: focus on inner scorecard gives your power. If you focus on outer scorecard, you will eventually get lost, or you will achieved the things that you do not treasure.
# Ch6 P24 - P28 This part told us how the family of Buffett, when he was a child, approached the more than comfortable middle-class in the shadow of the depression. Howard, Buffett’s father, is like a self-made business man, experiencing unemployment period and startup his own business, and make success from a scratch. Leila, Buffett’s mother, takes care of the family, house work, and parenting children. An interesting comparison is that Leila behaved different when she faced the neighbor and her husband from when she treated and lashed her children. It is called “the damage to their souls”. Anyway, Buffett still were raised wholesome on the whole. He had his unique favorite things, like stopwatch and bathtub-marvels game. One trait shows in this part is that how strong-willed his father and mother both are. One strived in the business, the other provided him a good support, spiritually and practically. And Buffett shows the similar level of resilience through his eccentric childhood hobby. I wonder whether his mother’s harsh lash made Buffett never mention her innerscored card, and gave all the credit to his father.
Ch7 “He had learned a lesson: It might seem easier to go through life as the echo - but only until the other guy plays a wrong note.” It tells the story of Buffett’s childhood. His tactful, intelligent and idiosyncratic characteristic. His fond of numbers and computation, crime and identification, books and ping-pong, music and cornet. His relationship with two friends who are not very friend. His relationship with two other smart siblings. His unlike of his mother’s outer scorecard. Most of the time, he seems physically retiring and behave in a more collaborative way. At the end of this part, his big moment comes. In a concert, the cornet player who played previous to him made a mistake, All of a sudden, he lost the guide and clues, whether to follow or change the situation? (It is like to be a follower or a leader?) (his inner scorecard is struggling with being tactful and being rebellion)
The author illustrated so many details without thoughtful organized. It is because she was a former CPA? Or is it because she shared the same fondness with Buffett on minutiae?
Ch8 This is a very essential chapter. It illustrated the first investment Warren had made and the three lessons he learned from it: 1. Don’t overly fixate the paid stock; 2. Don’t rush unthinkingly. 3. don’t take responsibility for other people. 前两条都有点曾国藩：过往不恋，未来不迎 的意思。不过第三条相当美式。 This part also told, how the big figure in wall street enlighten Warren’s life and along with his desire for money, which means independence to him. Three: Independence / Attention / Lure Ch9 1. interesting stories about how his grandfather slaved him and taught Buffett Erne’s philosophy of business, including his canny opinion towards socialism. 2. How Buffett and his peers develop relationship with girls. They are testing water to make better. 3. The unhappy experience of moving to Washington D.C., Buffett’s schooling behave was SHOCKING at that time. He showed his rebellion, escaped and headstrong . How adolescent Buffet treated being left behind and recovered from failure is here. On a very very very personal note: I donna why. I recognized that I’ve developed a personal relationship with this book. I like the stories in it. I love Buffett’s teenage experience around his moving, schooling and developing. All the daily life scene in this part makes my intrigued.
# Ch10 Disruptive It really amuses me that Buffett is far way from a straight A student, he was so rebelling in this junior high. More disappoint is that even his rebellion cannot make him happy. “It was unpleasant. I was really rebelling.” He even became a school delinquent, or a crime, a thief at that time, and lied about his theft. # Ch 11 OMG. This book goes more and more interesting. Nowadays, I cannot control myself but laugh out loud. I really love the group of Buffett and his adolescent friends’ experience with physical training and sex education. It is the preparation period for their adulthood. You can tell how they do experience and learn new knowledge for the next stage in their life. All this attempt is elementary and they did it in a scientific-and-fantastic-mixed way. # Ch12 This part illustrates the social intelligent enlightenment of Buffett is from Dale Carnegie. Warren took it seriously, and test the rules in a very systematic way. “People around him did not know he was performing experiments on them in the silence of his own head.” His other experiments involves some business scams, such as pinball machine “money that works for its owner, as if it had a job of its own” “Our basic formula was to have our income in currency and our outgo in slugs” and prank with poor Kerlin to make him stripped, nude and watered-down. Warren was canny and a bit lack of empathy in this part.
Ch15 Warren in Penn Warren Buffette hated his college, found himself unfunctional in social life there, still illiterate in how to handle women, indulged in his own business world. His intelligence, nonetheless, still shows off in Penn. His favorite class is Industry 101. In this chapter, I found how Warren choose his friends. It is passive. He liked Chunk, but can not hold this friendship. Warren was still too introvert and meek at that time. It amused me that Chunk’s affirmation of Warren: “an odd mix of immature kid and brilliant prodigy”.
Ch15 Warren learnt accounting in University of Nebraska, and changed his mind to received some schooling.
Warren wanted to get into Harvard, but got rejected. Cause Harvard wants leaders.
Harvard: “the man saw past his confidence as a prodigy in a single subject straight through to his self-consciousness, his shaky inner core” “I looked about sixteen and emotionally was about nine.”
Columbia has two of his favorite teachers : Graham and Dodd. (two books : the intelligent investor & Security Analysis) Columbia taught a specialized craft and did not care about his emotional maturity. He applied in August. “after the deadline, and without an interview” he got accepted by Columbia.
Ch16 This chapter talks about Warren’s study life in Columbia, NYC. One main story is that he is eager to figure out GEICO, which is funded by his hero, Graham. He went directly to the CFO office, and hold a long conversation with Davidson.
Ch17 Ben Graham - idol * This chapter is about a very interesting person, warren’s idol: Ben Graham. *1. I was first surprised by his intelligence and excel at all levels: *2. then his impersonally discipline in stock trading and in treating his star student (warren) (he turned down warren’s offer to work for him for free) * His 3 laws: * 1. A stock is the right to own a little piece of a business. * 2. Use a margin of safety. (which builds his self-reliance against the turbulence of market) * 3. Mr. Market is your servant, not your master. * 3. His personal life: Like his intelligent taste, his romantic taste is also radiant and touched everywhere. * Company A vs Company B: comparison * Class 1 [intrinsic value] vs Class 2: * Class 1 truth were absolute * Class 2 truth were by conviction * Mental independence * Mr. Moody’ * What amuses me and surprised me is how much Warren felt connected to media: he went nuts for reading newspaper, he started junior business with journalism, he gets info. from annual report.
Ch18 Get your future father-in-law done & “I was a mess” This chapter is about how Warren got married with Susan. He did not get her heart from the very beginning, and he had a very strong rival, but he showed enough patient and know who is the crucial one. He spent time on his future father-in-law then get things done. I really do not enjoy this part. I do not enjoy watching Warren does dating or any romantic things. He was not romantic. But one touchy point is that Susan seemed start to like him from the moment that she knows that he is not so confident, he is fragile inside. “All that confident chatter about stocks, the aura of a prodigy, the tiny twang of the ukulele, were wrapped around a fragile, needy core: a boy who was stumbling through his days in a shroud of desolation.”
Ch19 Get married and still young Warren had his most important event in this chapter: he got married. Warren had an unpleasant time in Omaha, he wanna got back to NYC, and got a job offer there under the help of Ben Graham “It seemed to Warren that nearly everything he did in Omaha reinforced his sense of youth and inexperience. He was no longer a precocious boy who was acting like a man, but a young man - about to get married - who looked and sometimes acted like a boy.” I was envious of him that Susie is so smart and mind-reading, what a wife: “She began to understand the damage Leila Buffett’s rages had done to her son’s self-worth, and she started trying to repair it. She knew that the main thing he needed was to feel loved and never criticized.” Sometimes, you really want a guy like Susie in your life to complete you, heal you, or acts like a spirit animal you have yet chase to lead you in your life. But there is none, you have to stand up on your own, with your own, by your own.
Ch20 I do not enjoy this chapter. Reading this book becomes a chore to me. I read this book today in an almost half-day-dreaming half-reading mood. Warren returned to NYC, to his hero Ben Graham. Howard got done in his political life. Sussie took care of Warren, she is like Warren’s mother. 我并没能喜欢他们的爱情，他们的婚姻;他们的一切都跟我不是一个世界的。
Ch21 Ch21 He turned the offer down. Warren got back to NYC. And he got so successful at his age. The Buffett got truly rich. It is surprising that Warren showed his independence (which he was longing for a while) in this chapter. He controlled the budget for home. After getting truly rich, he made his own decision, even when he was filtered by offering a position as a general partner in Graham and Newman. Investor philosophy for Graham: “being an investor meant being an outsider”
Ch23 * Adult 101 * I don’t know why from this chapter, this book becomes Adult 101 to me. * Munger’s mathematical way to make daily plan: * “Everybody should do this, be the client, and then work for other people, too, and sell yourself an hour a day.”
* He and Warren’s philosophy all included independence. * He also focused on not undignified.
Ch24 * Warren started to act powerful, not vulnerable. * His success in investment brought him power, networking and partnership. * Soon after this 6 years (start-up period), he becomes a millionaire. And then the stock market begins to slide. It is time to Greedy vs. Fearful.
Ch25 Ben Graham’s philosophy of cigar butts. Warren used this cigar butt technique, buy “below face-value” until liquidation.“which was to keep buying a stock as long as it continued to sell below book value. If the price rose for any reason, he could sell out at a profit. If it didn’t, and he ended up buying until he owned so much stock that he controlled the company, he could sell off - that is, liquidate - its assets at a profit. In this chapter, he fired the founder of Dempster, and was accused of being “abrupt and unethical”. “Buffett, at almost thirty-two, had not yet learned to fire people with empathy.”
Ch26 Warren's father died in this chapter. In this period, Susie really showed how strong mental she is. She is such a high-level woman, I am deeply touched by her philosophy of death and company. "It was a beautiful experience to be that physically and emotionally intimate with someone you loved, because I knew exactly what his needs were. You know when they need to turn their head, or you know when they need a little ice chip. You know. You feel it. I loved him very much. And he gave me that gift for myself of knowing, of having that experience, and realizing how I felt about it." Warren在父亲的去世面前表现出的不成熟与不悲伤： 不敢面对，而用史无前例地加注自己的投资， 不言不语，而却形销骨立。 这里的笔法与《世说新语》好有一比。 《世说新语.德行》王戎、和峤 同时遭大丧，俱以孝称。王鸡骨支床，和哭泣备礼。武帝谓刘仲雄曰：" 卿数省王、和不？闻和哀苦过礼，使人忧之。" 仲雄曰：" 和峤虽备礼，神气不损；王戎虽不备礼，而哀毁骨立。臣以和峤生孝，王戎死孝。陛下不应忧峤，而应忧戎。" The second theme of this chapter is : the difference of Warren and Munger's investment philosophy.
Ch27 - Berkshire Hathaway * This chapter is the born of Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett’s takeover was out of his folly pulse. 但是这章里他超酷的😎，有木有啊~~~ * And he lets his wife spend money out of limit now.
Ch28 It is so funny that I am reading the Buffett family lose weight in this chapter. Both Susie and Warren are so driven and self-disciplined. Keep eyes on their weight-in day, bet on a check to keep Warren motivated to lose weight. It also shows that their philosophy of upbringing, in a upper-middle-class family, raised unspoiled. Kids have to do chores to get their allowances. The pursuit of money is rooted in their personality. I like the way the author depicted how each family members react to the death of Howard and their beloved aunt. And the Vietnam war escalated at the end of this chapter.
Ch29 How they dress in the textile business Warren’s lookbook at that time: “Buffett never varied his skinny striped ties and white shirt, though the shirt’s collar had grown tighter, and the jacket of the old gray suit he wore day after day bunched around his shoulders and gapped at the neckline.” A potential investor did not want to talk to him, “based purely on the way Warren dressed.” "Intensity is the price of excellence. "
CH30 “Capital was his partnership’s lifeblood”. Warren cultivated a business partner as a friend, whose taste in clothes resembled him.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
TL;DR: * Massively unexpected lessons on morals, more than capitalism and investing. Warren has become my personal hero worth emulating in almost every way. * Very long and long-winded (37h audiobook). If you don't have the patience or the time it'll be painful. But was enjoyable for me.
Oh, what a book. Or rather, what a man. Feels like no matter what I write, I won't do it justice. Let's put it this way: I've been reading many biographies, and this one stands out as the one that really changed my life.
Yes, obviously, you learn a bit about investing. But more than that, you learn about life, and you learn about morals. I never thought I'd learn about morals and values in a book about the biggest capitalist of all time. And yet the naive person in me wants to believe that this is why he did so well - because the values instilled by his father were so rock solid. (In truth, Charlie Munger - Buffett's partner - says Buffett would've done a whole lot better if he had looser morals, which would've allowed him to take opportunities that he instead passed up on because they weren't rightful.)
After this book, Buffett has become my #1 hero, whom I want to emulate in almost every way (except how he sometimes neglected his relationships, which he regrets). Not by making money. Rather, by living life in a way that makes sense long-term. In a way that you'll be satisfied with yourself on your death bed. Warren Buffett is a wonderful person and we're lucky to witness him while he's still alive. Easily one of the best thinkers of the last century.
About the book itself: it's very long-winded. The audiobook lasts 37 hours! It talks a lot about his life. It rambles lengthily on various topics. If you want to only learn about investing, buy another book. If you want to learn about life, start reading.
Topics that are discussed: * How to measure success in life * How much inheritance you give to your children * Taking care of your health, body and mind, in the long term * How to effectively give away your wealth * Why wealth tax is terribly important for a functional society * How to negotiate tough deals * How to be a good board member * The efficient market hypothesis (and why they're really not so efficient) * How to manage people, while making them and keeping them happy * How to deal with success * How to deal with criticism
And so much more! I never thought I'd get so much out of this! I want to reread this book every year to reset my moral compass!
This is the definitely book on Warren Buffett and a treat to Buffett fan. It is extremely detailed about WB's personal life and about his complex personality. It is a must-read for Buffett fan. I really did not want to put it down once I started. I started on a Thursday, and almost every minute of my spare time where my mind was not engaged at work or with family was spent on listening to this book, and I completed on a Sunday morning.
Overall, WB's personality was complex. He's certainly obsessive about making money and businesses from a very young age, and spent all of his free time trying to learn or make money. He's also very emotional-detached from his family, despite the warm folksy public image that he has built. His emotional state may be a result of living under a mom with bipolar disorder who often lashed out on her children. The book also talks a lot on Susie Buffett, his first wife, a wonderful human-being who spends her life helping and giving to others. Btw, the book that Susie gave out most often to people in needs or difficulty was "Man's search for meaning" by Viktor Frankl.
However, the book may be too long (Audiobook: 40 hours, my ebook: 832 pages, 2nd edition: 930 pages) for casual reader without interest in the WB. It's the longest non-fiction book I've read so far. Just a comparison, the audiobook: "Man's search for meaning" by Viktor Frankl was only over 4 hours long. For casual reader who just wants to understand Buffett as an investor/businessman, the book "Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist" by Roger Lowenstein is shorter and provides cover all the key aspect of his investing and business life.
The audiobook (Audible) is longer than the ebook (not Kindle) that I have. There are passages that were absent from the book. I realised this as I tried to read along the audiobook (towards the end of the book). It seems I have the first edition of the ebook but the audiobook was read from the second or third edition of the book.
Warren Buffett is an icon. One of the wealthiest people in the world, he made money through intelligent capital allocation and helping grow the companies he invested in.
Some interesting facts & lessons: - Approach life as if you have a punch card with 20 holes and every big decision takes one. - $10k spent today costs millions in compounded value. - Coined the term "ovarian lottery", meaning that you've been born rich or poor, in a given country, at a given time, to given parents, with given gender. - He's a democrat. Often voices concerns about the growing gap between rich and poor, and how the capitalist system enables wealthy/connected people to shape laws that make them even richer. - His father, reflecting on making money: "Don't ask how much. Ask how." - Meticulously studies companies' financials and only invests when there's a low risk. Missed on many investment opportunities (most famously tech stocks in the 90s) because the risk was higher than he'd allow. - Doesn't give free money to his children (beyond college tuition), instead wanting them to earn money by themselves and find their place in the world. - Pledged to donate 99% of his wealth to charitable foundations, mainly the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The book is mainly a biography of his life. If you're more interested in learning about his investment strategy, I highly recommend Intelligent Investor and Security Analysis by his teacher Benjamin Graham, and Buffett's own Letters to Shareholders.
Schroder, an inexperienced biographer, could have benefited from a more aggressive editor. There are over 300+ pages of minutia and repetition in the main text. Surprisingly, the excessive trivialities centre around Buffett's and his extended family's lives rather than overly detailed discussion of his business deals.
Hierology is probably the wrong word, but you do get a sense that the author idolises Buffett. I would have preferred a more impartial record of the man's life to date.
This is a shame. I think Buffett's story is worthy of a better biography.
P.S. I was surprised to see how limited Buffett's life experience was outside of business until very late in his life. In many ways this is sad portrait of a man who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of capital.
Good attempt at a great biography. Very worthwhile in audiobook format.
Parts of the story are very well done with crisp insights supported with good logic and solid story narratives. Other parts become way too bogged down in the minutiae of details of deal after deal after deal across decades of time.
The portions at the beginning and the end are most helpful in understanding how Buffett operates and used his astounding memory and fascination with numbers to generate the wealth he made, as well as some of the disappointments.
The book is, as can be expected from a book written by a friend of Buffet, a bit soft on his shortcoming and character flaws, but there are only a few instances where this comes off as disingenuous or distracting from the broader story.
This is way more information than I can ever really imagine wanting about anyone I'm not married to. While it scratched my itch of "knowing more about Warren Buffett's life and perspective on finances" I didn't need point-by-point examinations of each of his early childhood friendships. Interesting but depressing background about his relationships with his parents but Freudian analysis is only interesting up to a point...
hard to get through read half of it, it's gigantic and got tired of it. It's all facts and not much about his thought process or how he makes decisions so not exactly what I was hoping for. Generally more interesting than it should be though for the writing style.