I recently stumbled across an essay, written by none other than Warren Buffett, about how he “made it” all in his own words. I would like to share some interesting tidbits from the piece, but the work is actually a part of a compilation of essays written by successful people, titled Getting There. The novel is available on Amazon for a good price and features essays and advice from Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, Anderson Cooper, and many others.
“Up until the age of twenty. I was absolutely unable to speak in public. Just the thought of it made me physically ill. I would literally throw up. I selected courses in college where I didn’t have to stand up in front of the class, and I arranged my life so that I would never find myself in front of a crowd. If I somehow did, I could hardly say my own name. I’m not sure what led to this problem, but it was there in a big way.
When I was at Columbia Business School, I saw an ad in the paper for a Dale Carnegie public-speaking course and figured it would serve me well. I went to Midtown, signed up, and gave them a check….
The impact that class had on my life was huge. In fact, I don’t have my diploma from the University of Nebraska hanging on my office wall, and I don’t have my diploma from Colombia up there either—but I do have my Dale Carnegie graduation certificate proudly displayed. That $100 course gave me the most important degree I have. It’s certainly had the biggest impact in terms of my subsequent success….”
I enjoy that Buffett spends all this time discussing what, to most people, would be a measly supplemental course. It shows that he is capable of both admitting his weaknesses and trying to make them in to strengths. He goes on to explain that good communication skills are important for pretty much any field you’re entering— sales, management, investing, etc. Buffett believes it is a skill that everyone should have.
“One of the best things you can do in life is to surround yourself with people who are better than you are. High-grade people. You will end up behaving more like them, and they, in turn, will get it back from you. It’s like a planetary system. If you hang around with people who behave worse than you, pretty soon you’ll start being pulled in that direction. That’s just the way it seems to work. Who you choose to associate with matters.
It’s also imperative to select the right heroes. I have always been lucky in that respect. The people you look up to will form your vision of how you want to be in later life. I’ve had a number of terrific heroes who have never let me down. I’ve been able to pick up all sorts of valuable things from them…”
Buffett is always happy to share advice, especially that which hits close to home for him, and it’s no different in his essay. He sets you on the right path with explaining how having the right friends, and even heroes, can benefit you and your behavior, and then he continues to give us an elaborate breakdown of all his heroes.
There are definitely more interesting excerpts from Buffett’s essay, but these are the sections that stuck out to me. You can read the entire essay here, or purchase the compilation of essays on Amazon, here.