You Only Live Once, Do It Warren Buffett’s Way

Related Articles




“You’d get very rich if you thought of yourself as having a card with only twenty punches in a lifetime, and every financial decision used up one punch. You’d resist the temptation to dabble. You’d make more good decisions and you’d make more big decisions.” —Warren Buffett , quoted in The Snowball, by Alice Schroeder

This week, Warren Buffett celebrates his 84th birthday.

Those of you who follow my blogs know I have a bit of a man crush on Buffett, not just because of his investing acumen but because he has always seemed to me endowed with a kind of uber-common sense… an ability to cut to the heart of a situation or an issue and capture it in a few words, understandable to experts and common folk alike.

Lists of his “10-greatest” or “18-greatest” (or however-many-greatest) sayings pop up everywhere in online searches. But the Buffett-ism that’s stayed with me is the one at the top of this blog – namely, the notion of a punch card (a quaintly antiquated thing you don’t run across very often these days).

Buffett used his punch card analogy in an investment context. It’s consistent with his belief that really profitable investment decisions are few and far between. His counsel to individual investors has always been to “wait for the fat pitch.” [See “Bored Investors Beware.”]

But I think the punch card analogy applies equally well to life, and to the decisions that define and shape our lives over the five, six, seven or eight decades most of us are on the earth. For someone graduating from high school, I think the number 20 is just about right. For someone like me, in middle age, the number of un-punched punches on the card is a lot smaller. There might be only two or three left.

The point is, whether it’s two or twenty, the number of inflection points in our lives is a lot smaller than it often seems. The trick is having the wisdom, or the instinct, to recognize “fat pitches” at the time they show up, which is always easier in hindsight. Then we need to make our big decisions count.

Getting married. Having children (or not). Making a career change. Starting or investing in a business. Those are obvious hole punches.

By contrast, the last two times I punched my card it had less to do with me, personally, than it did the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.

The first of these was agreeing to chair Wall Street’s advocacy group – the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association – in the wake of the financial crisis. I did so because I never wanted our clients, the investing public, to have to go through again the trauma and disruption they experienced in their financial and personal lives during that unprecedented and volatile period.

My second recent hole punch was deciding to help lead, in 2011 and 2012, a campaign to defeat a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in my home state of Minnesota. I got a lot of advice and counsel against getting involved, as a business leader, in what became known as the “Vote No” campaign. But every bone in my body told me this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of LGBT residents in a state long known for its progressive brand, inclusive culture and values of respect and tolerance.

As it turned out, the support of the business community was critical not only in defeating the amendment, but then, six months later, legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

 

Also Read: 17 Facts About Warren Buffett And His Wealth That Will Blow Your Mind

 

That was last year. Just this month, two gay friends who had lived together for 34 years before getting married last year at Minneapolis’ City Hall thanked me, with tears in their eyes, for being able to celebrate their first ever wedding anniversary.

I wish someone had told me about Buffett’s punch card analogy when I was a lot younger. However, I’m glad I have the opportunity to use it now to recognize and lean into the few remaining “big decisions” in my life. I pass it on here as a birthday gift to others – not from me, but from Warren Buffett, who, by the simple arithmetic of his own analogy, has made a big decision once in every four of his 84 years.

 

Credit: John Taft

John G. Taft is CEO of RBC Wealth Management – U.S., and author of Stewardship: Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street (Wiley, 2012). RBC Wealth Management-U.S. is a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, a member of NYSE/FINRA/SIPC.

[divider scroll_text=”Back To Top”]




If You Want to Have More True Friends,...

Everyone want to have friends, but not everyone can be a good friend. First of all, let’s find out what friendship is. I think...

10 Crazy Things That Are Hilariously Similar To...

We love finding similar things and we know that you love them, too! That's why we bring our latest collection of surprisingly similar things....

ROAD TRIP – Indian Family Travelled from Bengaluru...

Bengaluru to Paris by road! If that’s not adventurous enough, what is? 1 family, 1 car, 11 countries in 111 days. imagine the adventure! For...

Top 11 Shocking Pictures of Giant Animals Exist...

This Time we have found something very big & amazing for you on internet. I was shocked after seeing these pictures, some of the...

18 Photos Of Shweta Rathore | Super Hot...

Fitness and Bodybuilding have been looked upon as male dominated professions and sports throughout the globe. However, slowly and gradually women stepped into this...

French photographer Nathalie Croquet Spoof Photography Project |...

Looking at a fashion ad, you might think that nobody looks like that. And in some cases, you’re probably right. But one woman is...