This video is of the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting. I actually listened to the audio of this meeting for a week or two each morning hiking with my dog.
Fast forward to around 53 minutes. Someone asks Buffett and Munger what they would have done differently throughout their lives in their search for happiness.
“Well, I’m 85 and I can’t imagine anyone happier than I am. By accident, or whatever, I’m sitting here eating exactly what I want to eat, doing in life exactly what I love to do with people I love. It really doesn’t get any better than that. I did decide earlier in life that my favorite employer was myself and I’ve managed to avoid the aggravation of almost any sort.
If you, or those around you, have health problems that is a real tragedy and there isn’t much you can do about it, but accept it. Charlie and I have really been blessed. Charlie is 92 and he’s doing something everyday that he finds fascinating. He probably finds everything he is doing at 92 as interesting, as fascinating, as rewarding, as socially productive as any period you can pick in his life. We’ve been extraordinarily lucky. I’ve got no complaints”
I find his answer to be extremely important on several levels. Here’s why….
Buffett designed a life he truly loves.
He eats what he wants to eat. He does what he wants to do. He spends his time with the people he loves. He avoids aggravation and works for himself.
This doesn’t happen by accident. He worked to engineer a life he loves. Anytime he encountered something in his life he didn’t love, he eliminated it. This includes every area of his life – personal and business. Read his biography and you’ll actually see this process happen in his life.
You can also get a sense of the appreciation he has for his life. It almost seems as if he won the lottery by the way he answers this question. He is so incredibly thankful for everything in his life, including his health. He seems to feel this way on a daily basis.
This is a choice he makes… daily.
You have to think he has dozens of business challenges with the various companies Berkshire Hathaway owns. However, he doesn’t focus on these challenges. His focus is on enjoying his life and being thankful.
Finally, notice he didn’t mention money in his answer. Some may say he didn’t mention money because he is one of the richest men in the world. This may be true, but I don’t think it’s the case. I don’t think money factors in to his happiness. He is happy because he has devoted his life to pursuing what he enjoys and avoiding what he doesn’t enjoy. He is happy because he engineered happiness into his life.
The reason why I believe his answer is so incredibly important is because we have the opportunity to live the same way. We don’t need money to feel like Buffett feels.
We may need a shift in our mindset.
We may need to learn to appreciate our lives.
We may need to focus more on our enjoyment.
We may need to work to eliminate things and people that aggravate us.
We certainly don’t need a billion dollars.
Now, fast forward again to around the 1:15 mark….
Buffett is asked about his investment in and his love of Coke-Cola. Coke-Cola stock is one of Berkshire Hathaway’s biggest stock investments and he is asked about the negative health consequences of the consumption of sugary drinks. Before we go further, I agree that Coke-Cola (and sugar) may be the cause of many health problems. However, his answer really drives home the idea of engineering a life we love.
“I elect to get my 2,600 calories a day from things that make me feel good when I eat them and that’s been my sole test. It wasn’t a test that my mother necessarily thought was great……. I make a choice to get about 700 calories a day from this (Coke-Cola.) I like fudge a lot, peanut brittle and I’m a very, very, very happy guy. I’m serious about this… if you’re happy everyday, it may be hard to measure, you’re going to live longer as well.
I wish I had a twin who ate nothing but broccoli his entire life and we both consumed the same number of calories. I know I would have been happier and the odds are fairly good I would have lived longer.”
Really listen to Buffett and you’ll see he has thought a great deal about happiness. Happiness comes from designing our lives around what we enjoy. Happiness comes from choosing to be happy everyday.