Essential Attributes That Contributed to Warren Buffett’s Success

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Success is not defined by your bank account, your job, or your résumé. Success can mean different things to different people. But for all intents and purposes, it can probably be safely assumed that most people in the world would characterize Warren Buffett as successful.

The “Oracle of Omaha” built a multi-billion dollar company in Berkshire Hathaway from virtually nothing, he has a net worth of ~$124 billion, AND he’s pledging to give 99% of that wealth away to philanthropy.

Here are 7 attributes that have contributed to his success:

Self-Awareness

To be successful, you need to be aware of your own weaknesses to compensate or fix them. One of Warren Buffett’s greatest weaknesses early on in life was his intense fear of public speaking. He said he would become physically ill and would schedule his life around avoiding public speaking. However, he later addressed the issue by enrolling in a Dale Carnegie public speaking course and overcame his fear. His ability to communicate complex ideas in simple and charismatic ways is now one of his strong points. Buffett’s self-awareness and ability to identify his own shortcomings was a contributing factor to his success.

Passion

Buffett says he loves what he does for a living and that he “tap dances to work” every morning. He’s had a passion for investing since a young age and bought his first stock, Cities Service, in 1942 when he was just 11 years old. Passion and success are often intertwined, and he’s been quoted as saying:

“Being successful at almost anything means having a passion for it. If you see somebody with even reasonable intelligence and a terrific passion for what they do, things are gonna happen.”

Humility

Warren Buffett rejects the “Wolf of Wall Street” ethos and extravagance that is often associated with those working in the investment industry. Despite being one of the wealthiest people on the planet, he still lives modestly in the same Omaha house he bought in the 1950s before he amassed most of his wealth. He lives simply and is even known to frequent the McDonald’s drive-thru to get dollar breakfast sandwiches. It is refreshing to see people who can be incredibly successful and be humble at the same time. Undoubtedly, his down-to-earth demeanor made Buffett more approachable and allowed him to garner more investors when he first started out.

Curiosity

Buffett has an insatiable appetite for knowledge and spends an exorbitant amount of time reading. In a recent interview, he stated that he read every book on investing in the Omaha Public Library by the age of 11. Now at Berkshire Hathaway, he typically spends five to six hours a day just reading and thinking. On one of his keys to success, he explained:

“Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.”

Integrity

When asked what he thought was the most important quality to look for when hiring someone, Buffett said “integrity.” When he was appointed interim CEO of Salomon Brothers in 1991 following a trading scandal at the firm, he made it clear to everyone at the company that unethical behavior would not be tolerated. He said:

“Lose money for the firm, and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless.”

Patience

Buffett tends to be a long-term investor and holds his investments for years at a time. He doesn’t worry about the day-to-day fluctuations of the stock market and even joked that his favorite holding period for a stock is “forever.”

Buffett says:

“Successful investing takes time, discipline, and patience. No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time: You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”

Resilience

He’d be the first to tell you that he’s made countless mistakes over his career. Some of his previous mistakes include investments in U.S. Airways, Dexter Shoe Co., and General Reinsurance. He even considers his original purchase of Berkshire Hathaway to be a mistake. Obviously, he has bounced back from these missteps and is now widely regarded as the greatest investor of all time. He states:

“The triumphs in life are partly triumphs because you know that everything isn’t going to be a triumph.”