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Warren Buffett's folksy advice to MBA students

The legendary investor told students that a wonderful group of friends is the biggest asset
BY Uttara Choudhury |   02-11-2017
Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett

It’s easy for MBA students to have a mentor-crush on legendary investor 87-year-old Warren Buffett: he’s worth $80 billion, he’s had great friendships that have lasted decades, and he has committed to donating his fortune to philanthropic causes. Several times a year, Buffett invites business students to Omaha, Nebraska, to have a freewheeling conversation with him and visit his businesses.

Last week, a group of high achievers from 10 universities and business schools drew from Buffett’s years of investing wisdom. Known as the “Oracle of Omaha”, Buffett has been called “one of the most successful investors of all time” by Forbes magazine. He runs Berkshire Hathaway, which owns more than 60 companies. The son of a US Congressman, Buffett first bought stocks when he was just 11.

Career advice

Buffett has run Berkshire for 52 years, and his ability to identify attractive acquisition candidates as well as deploy huge sums of money quickly and decisively is unmatched. Now 87, Buffett is the company’s best asset and is showing no signs of slowing. Throughout the Q&A session with students, Buffett talked about how Berkshire Hathaway was his canvas, one that he loved to paint on every day. “Ask yourself, why do you do what you do?’ and if you can’t answer that, find something else.” A big advocate of doing what you love, Buffett told the students to “look for the job you would take if you didn’t need a job.”

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

“It was a dream come true for me to meet Mr Buffett,” said Raghu Raghavan, a second-year MBA student from the University of Mississippi, who met Buffett at the Hilton hotel in downtown Omaha.

“He is absolutely charming, funny, full of stories and brims with humorous self-deprecation. It’s easy to embrace his folksy advice,” added Raghavan.

File photo of investor Warren Buffett with MBA students from the Questrom School of Business in Boston University

The value of good friends

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have been close friends for over a quarter century. The billionaires regularly discuss industry news and trends, take time to catch up and bounce ideas off of each other. So it’s not surprising that Buffet told the students that who you spend time with matters.

“You will move in the direction of the people that you associate with,” said Buffett. “It’s important to associate with people that are better than yourself. A wonderful group of friends is the biggest asset.”

“You want to associate with people who are the kind of person you’d like to be,” Buffett says.

In other words, invest your time and energy in your social circle like you would your money: wisely.

Buffett earlier told students at the University of Florida that has had many heroes starting with his father, to his first wife, to his good friend Katharine Graham who led her family’s newspaper, The Washington Post, for more than two decades. The key is to associate with first-class people.

Steely Wall Street temperament

The Berkshire Hathaway CEO, famous for his long-term investing strategy and assessments on market risk, said that with regard to careers on Wall Street, temperament is far more important than IQ.

“As far as investing goes, Buffett’s philosophies are that temperament is the most important investing characteristic,” Jocelyn Cropper, a managerial finance major from the University of Mississippi, told the student newspaper DM Online.

“He said being focused is essential to being a good investor,” added Cropper.


Buffett has joined the ranks of those who believe the market for bitcoin is in bubble territory. “People get excited from big price movements, and Wall Street accommodates,” he told the students.

Bitcoin is a red-hot digital currency, but capriciously volatile. It first appeared back in 2009, and has gained steam. It circulates on the web and currently trades at $5,700 with a market cap now surpassing $90 billion.

“You can’t value bitcoin because it’s not a value-producing asset,” said Buffett. He added that there’s no telling how far bitcoin’s price will go and described it as a “real bubble in that sort of thing.”

The rebel internet currency has been in red hot demand because of world events that have shaken confidence in government-issued currencies. Virtually untraceable bitcoin currency can be swapped anonymously online for almost anything. It is in a sense the digital equivalent of using hard cash and so some have criticized it for facilitating online drug markets.

Uttara Choudhury is a writer for Forbes India and The Wire. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.

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