What Can We Learn From Warren Buffet?

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In a recent CNBC article, Ashton Jackson discusses Warren Buffett’s unique status among investors, attributing his success to doing what he knows best.

Harvard leadership expert Bill George, a former CEO and Harvard Business School executive fellow, told the CNBC Make It that “found the “sweet spot” between doing something he’s good at and doing something he actually enjoys”.

To be truly successful, to do anything great, you have to use your strengths. You can’t just correct your weaknesses. Motivation, is equally important. If your work doesn’t excite you, it just becomes a time attack.

Ask yourself what matters to you and why you take the actions that you do.

– Bill George, former CEO and Harvard Business School executive fellow

In the article, George argues that true success requires both strengths and motivation, which can be intrinsic, like job satisfaction, or extrinsic, like financial rewards. “If you’re just motivated by making a lot of money, it will run out on you. You’ll find that things are very hollow and you don’t actually have the joy you thought you had.”

George suggests find what motivates you. According to George, for Buffett, intrinsic motivations such as sharing knowledge and philanthropic commitments are significant drivers, alongside his substantial wealth. “If you’re just motivated by making a lot of money, it will run out on you. You’ll find that things are very hollow and you don’t actually have the joy you thought you had,” George says.

At 93, Buffett’s estimated net worth is $135.6 billion, making him the seventh-richest person in the world, but his commitment to pledging 99% of his fortune to charity illustrates his intrinsic motivations.

Achieving Buffett’s level of self-awareness begins with understanding what motivates you and what you excel at. George suggests starting by listing activities and passions to identify intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. As George and his co-author Zach Clayton wrote in their book, “True North: Emerging Leader Edition,” figuring out what drives you and what you have to offer the world is crucial but challenging.

Finding fulfillment also involves applying your strengths to your job, which can enhance engagement and productivity. A 2015 Gallup analysis found that professionals who use their strengths daily are six times more likely to be engaged at work, three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, and 8% more productive. Buffett’s strengths include autonomy, investment acumen, and optimism. He is also aware of his weaknesses, such as being “sloppy” with hands-on management and disliking letting go of employees, as he admitted at Berkshire Hathaway’s 2014 shareholder meeting. This self-awareness allowed him to build a supportive executive team.

George advises that even non-leaders can benefit by recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, seeking feedback, and aligning tasks with their capabilities for greater success. “The more you learn, the more you can take on opportunities and projects that better align with your capabilities,” he says. By following these principles, anyone can aim to replicate Buffett’s balance of skill and passion to achieve long-term success.

Acknowledgements: ChatGPT was used to summarize some content and prepare its first draft.