Saturday, 17 October 2020

The Importance of Integrity

Warren Buffett looks at three character traits in people who surround him:  integrity, energy and intelligence.  He says, if you don't have the first, the last two will kill you.  In fact, if they don't have integrity, he would rather his managers be lazy and dumb.

"Integrity is like oxygen.  If you don't have it, nothing else matters."

"Be honest.  Never lie under any circumstances.  Just basically lay it out as you see it.  Simply speak openly and frankly."

Integrity is also about principles, full disclosure and openness.

Integrity is a choice, and the lack of it most often leads to self destruction.

The Value of a Good Reputation

"Conduct all business way inside the lines. and if it is near the line or on the line don't do it."  This advice would keep you out of trouble.

"Never do anything in business that you wouldn't want printed on the front page of your local newspaper written by an intelligent but critical reporter."

Always be on the lookout for managers and business with excellent reputations as possible acquisitions.

"It takes twenty years to build a reputation and only five minutes to ruin it.  If you'd think about that, you'll do things differently."

"He that is of the opinion that money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money." (Benjamin Franklin)

Respect Yourself and Others

Follow the rules of common courtesy and political politeness.  Answer all letters promptly with a lighthearted one-paragraph reply.

"Of the billionaires I have known, money just brings out the basic traits in them.  If they were jerks before they had money they are simply jerks with a billion dollars." (Warren Buffett)

Good Character, Strong Ethics

Business success and wealth creation can be achieved with the highest ethical standards and without shady, questionable practices.

Warren Buffett treats his shareholders like partners and has created wealth with them, not at their expense.  

Character is tested most in defeat or when you have great power or great wealth.  A powerful man in business has stood the test of time and power.

One of the most powerful messages Buffett delivers in his humorous style is this:  Make a list of all the traits you admire and respect in others.  Think of people close to you or even those who have passed away.  His point is that whatever character traits you put on your list, you can adopt those same qualities and be that person.  Warren Buffett also suggests to his student audiences to make another list of the character traits that they don't admire or respect in others.  If you think about it and put some effort to it, you too can avoid all of the negative characteristics of the person you don't want to be.

Character cannot be hidden or faked.  You can tell if someone is the type of person with whom you want to associate.

A German motto says this, "When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost."

Money Can't Buy Happiness

"No matter how rich you become, how famous or powerful, when you die, the size of your funeral will still pretty much depend on the weather."

Most people agree that if you have created wealth at the expense of your relationships, health or ethics, then you have nothing.   Life is more than money and more than wealth.

"Happiness is not the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort." (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

True happiness is doing what you were born to do, also known as self-actualization or following your bliss.  

Each person is born with a different genetic code.  The challenge for each of us, in order to find our happiness, is to figure out what our passion is, what our talents are and how best to express them.

Many people have found the attainment of wealth is without happiness if you fail to:

  • Give credit to others
  • Live with moderation
  • Select the right heroes and mentors
  • Give back and mentor others
  • Look after your health.
  • Earn the respect you deserve
  • Stay well within the laws (including paying taxes)
  • Be industrious
  • Be socially connected and have friends 
  • Have the love of those you want to love you
"Tell me who your heroes are and I'll tell you what kind of person you will become."

With the ability to buy most things, Warren chooses to enjoy few possessions and to keep the things he does have for a lifetime.  Warren finds happiness not in his vast fortune, but instead in delivering newspapers with his grandson and taking his family to the Dairy Queen on Sunday, talking with and mentoring college students, explaining that he lives no better than they do, he just travels better.

"Good managers never take credit for more than they do."

Warren carefully chooses those friends who, when they are around, bring out the best in him.  

Hang out with people who are bigger than you, bring out the best, and inspire you, and you will have a network of giants.

In the end, happiness does not come from Buffett's wealth, but rather from the number of people who love you. The most important thing is not how many or how large his assets are, but how his children feel about him.  Warren considers parenthood vital to happiness,  and unfortunately there is no rewind button on child development.

The more love you give, the more you get, and you can never give too much of it away.  It is inexhaustible.

Reference:  Warren Buffett's Lesson on Having a Rich Life

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