Always Take The High RoadSubmitted by Silverlight Asset Management, LLC on March 8th, 2017
As a student, if you were asked to choose a classmate whose earnings you could have 10% percent of for the rest of your life, which classmate would you have picked? What qualities would cause you to pick them? Would it be the one with the highest IQ? The one who could throw a football the farthest? The one with the highest grades?
Likewise, who would you have chosen as the least likely to succeed? Why?
These are the very questions Warren Buffet often asks students when speaking to them. This “game,” and what Buffet intends to illustrate with it, are chronicled more fully in the Farnam Street Blog, excerpted below:
[Warren Buffet then] asks the students to take out a sheet of paper and list the positive attributes on the left and the negative ones on the right.
Inevitably, the most useful qualities have nothing to do with IQ, grades, or family connections. People pick based on generosity, kindness, and integrity.
He then asks the students which of the qualities they are incapable of having and which they are incapable of stopping?
“To Buffett, the answer is none,” writes Michael Eisner in Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed. “These qualities are choices people make. People decide whether or not to be generous, they decide whether or not to take credit for things they didn’t do, whether or not to keep score in life, whether or not to be envious.”
It's quite simple in the end. Develop qualities from the left and try to stop doing the ones on the right.
“You’re looking for three things, generally, in a person,” says Buffett. “Intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two. I tell them, ‘Everyone here has the intelligence and energy—you wouldn’t be here otherwise. But the integrity is up to you. You weren’t born with it, you can’t learn it in school.”
Buffett and Munger were fortunate. They were both smart and worked hard to improve that advantage. The integrity, however, they chose.
“You decide to be dishonest, stingy, uncharitable, egotistical, all the things people don’t like in other people,” argues Warren. “They are all choices. Some people think there’s a limited little pot of admiration to go around, and anything the other guy takes out of the pot, there’s less left for you. But it’s just the opposite.”
Life isn’t always easy. We all face personal ‘bear markets.’ Yet the greatest return opportunities manifest in those exact times of pessimism and pain. That’s when we become stronger. That’s when we learn and grow. These are the times when bull markets are born, and character is molded.
So, it’s an easy choice—always take the high road. Even if it’s long. Even if it's arduous. Walk proud and carry on.
Along the way, remember the qualities you admire in others. Embrace them. Choose to embody them.
Then you can inspire admiration, and build true wealth.
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