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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.”
“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]