5 Lessons From Warren Buffett's Office Hours

How does Warren Buffett paint the canvas of Berkshire Hathaway? He gave an Office Hours interview unpacking the how and the why.

It's easy to have a mentor-crush on Warren Buffett: He's worth $50 billion, he's had friendships that have lasted decades, he leans in. For an hour this afternoon, the Sage of Omaha made our mentee dreams come true.

Buffett was interviewed by Caroline Ghosn, cofounder of women's careership startup Levo League. The live-streamed conversation drew from Buffett's 82 years of facing fears, finding heroes, and painting canvases--if you have questions, ask him on his Levo profile.

Don't sweat the funhouse mirror

Buffett told Ghosn about how he orignially wrote the essay about women and work that ran in Fortune as a possible forward to Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In. In it he writes of his friend, the late Katharine Graham, who was the CEO of the Washington Post Co. and won a Pulitzer for her autobiography.

He writes that she had been convinced by society that women did not have equal potential in business--a "fun-house mirror" that did not reflect reality, as the Post's stock went up 4,000 percent over her 18 years as boss, and yet "her self-doubt remained, a testament to how deeply a message of unworthiness can be implanted in even a brilliant mind."

Painting a canvas

Throughout the interview, Buffett talked about how Berkshire Hathaway was his canvas, one that he got to paint on every day. He doesn't need to work, he says, but does because he loves it. This is the same alignment he looks for in the people he surrounds himself with, he says. When you work with people who are already rich, they'll work because they choose to do so, "rather than being on a yacht somewhere."

But you don't have to be rich. Buffett says that while it may take a job or two to get there, you should do the work you love.

On heroes

"If you tell me who your heroes are," Buffett says to Ghosn, "I'll tell you how you'll turn out." He says that you want to hang around with people that are better than you: Buffett has had a dozen or so major heroes, he says, starting with his father, to his first wife, to Katharine Graham and others. The key is to associate with first-class people.

Biggest fear: public speaking

As an introvert, Buffett had an immense fear of public speaking. So when he was studying at Columbia, he enrolled in a Dale Carnegie course, but never went. Then he got back to Nebraska and he learned to talk to people, including teaching classes at the University of Omaha--and a little lesson from Susan Cain could have helped, too.

"You have to be able to communicate in life and probably schools underemphasize that," he says. "If you can't talk to people or write, you're giving up your potential."

Habits to be cultivated, person you want to be

"Just imagine you could be given 10 percent of the future earnings of one person you know," Buffett says. Would you pick the smartest person? The fastest runner? No, Buffett says: "You're going to pick the person that has the right habits."

The qualities that you admire the most in others are the ones that you should develop in yourself, like cheerfulness, generosity, and giving credit to others. If you look at the natural leaders, Buffett says, they're the people you want to work with. So you, then, can become that.

Bottom Line: "Find the job you would have if you were independently rich. Associate with people you love doing what you love," Buffett says. "How can it be any better?"

[Image: Flickr user Fortune Live Media]

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38 Comments

  • Jeff Flinn
    "You have to be able to communicate in life and probably schools underemphasize that," Buffet says. "If you can't talk to people or write, you're giving up your potential."

    With that statement, he just cast a pall of doom on about 95 percent of people under the age of 30 -- they may be able to click out a tweet in seconds flat, but they can't look someone in the face and get 10 intelligible words out edgewise.

  • Jeff Flinn
    "You have to be able to communicate in life and probably schools underemphasize that," Buffet says. "If you can't talk to people or write, you're giving up your potential."

    With that statement, he just cast a pall of doom on about 95 percent of people under the age of 30 -- they may be able to click out a tweet in seconds flat, but they can't look someone in the face and get five intelligible words out edgewise.

  • Oldilocks

    LOUSY interviewer. She's more interested in looking at the questions and posts on her device than in really listening to what Mr. Buffet has to say. You can see she's not giving him her full attention and REALLY wants to get back to the screen. Rude, unprofessional, and painful for me to watch.

  • SalesSavvy

    This was scripted and made for "us" to listen to his comments. She is reading questions coming in as the interview takes place. Just listen to Warren. No one is watching to learn from the interviewer.

  • Peter. S.

    Bad news to celebrate poeple as such
    ripping of the world so they eat Horse instead of beef buying caviar.

    what hoax to celebrate such loosing man and its ruthless making of more then he vere could control or need.

  • SavvySales

    You, my friend, are very short on knowledge of Warren. Warren is far from "ruthless". He heads up a corporation where he answers to a board of directors. Warren buys companies and Warren "allows" those companies to continue to operate as they were. Warren invests into those companies millions of dollars so that they may grow and create more jobs. The money he makes is "just" a ROI. He still lives in the same house he purchased when he had "nothing" and drives a modest car and lives a modest life. You should really be well versed before making such irrational comments.

  • Whizbang2013

    Interesting to read that he enrolled in the Dale Carnegie Course but never went. I have seen a video of him clearly saying that the only certificate/diploma he has on his wall is his Dale Carnegie Course Diploma. Because it taught him how to understand how people think.
    If he can lie or be mistaken about this small thing........

  • fitpal

    Hey whizbang2013 listen to the interview again. You will hear him mention that after he moved back to Omaha he went back and completed the Dale Carnegie course.

  • Jackie Gil

    I really enjoy this site and article.  It's just like taking someone out to lunch and asking for advice.  I really needed this especially because I am starting my own production company and producing a new web series.

  • Amruta Pelapkar

    "Just imagine you could be given 10 percent of the future earnings of one
    person you know," Buffett says. Would you pick the smartest person? The
    fastest runner? No, Buffett says: "You're going to pick the person that
    has the right habits."----Very thoughtful...

  • Kannan R

    Great Personality and always admirable. Lots of things to learn from his experiences.  

  • acronymforme

    I love love love warren buffet. Anyone who thinks women really have an equal opportunity in the largest US corporations, need to come to my office. That thought will be quickly wiped from your mind, along with the smile on your face. Bravo Mr. Buffet for joining our cause

  • raymond

    there is a saying that all the people that success are the same , and the failed one has his own reason. i really believe that  we should talk to the success suck all the marrow of their life. and be success.

  • Raymond Yuan

    Hello Salessavvy, Hope you know what i mean in the above. Well there is a little grammar mistake in sentence. And the sentence, suck out all the marrow of life, was written by Henry David Thoreau in Walden. Then i not a native English speaker, I really want to learn. May be you can teach me some. My e-mail is ray.z.yuan@gmail.com . Thanks for your good advice.