Legendary investor Charlie Munger passed away this week at the age of 99. Volumes have been written, and more will come, about Munger’s wisdom and his exemplary multi-decade partnership with Warren Buffett. What stands out most to me are two lessons, one from the very start of his professional life and one from the very end.
When Charlie was a young lawyer, he disliked the idea that his time was for sale to others, and decided to “bill himself” by working an hour a day on his own priorities instead of his clients’ projects. I’ve often caught myself putting obligations to others ahead of my own most important endeavors, and while there is an occasional whiff of nobility in this kind of self-sacrifice, it is not a path to either greatness or contentment. Munger’s example showed me that it’s possible to pursue independent dreams without forsaking others, nor abandoning common sense.
Near the end of his life, the most insistently repeated advice Munger highlighted was the importance of learning – endless reading, exploring, and engagement with the world and its ideas. In this past year’s Berkshire Hathaway annual report he was quoted,
You have to keep learning if you want to become a great investor. When the world changes, you must change.
Even more remarkable than the brainy parts of Charlie’s success is the fact that they were accompanied by constant wit. Warren noted in this same report, “I never have a phone call with Charlie without learning something. And, while he makes me think, he also makes me laugh.”
Dear ones, we might not all be destined to become 99-year old billionaires.
But let us be steadfast and true.
Let us invest in lifelong friendships.
Let us help each other to think.
Let us laugh together along the way.
A coincidentally timed and beautiful new edition of Poor Charlie’s Almanack , Munger’s collected wisdom, will be published this week – this volume comes highly recommended, especially since the original unabridged version is a bit harder to find these days.