Yesterday I finished "The Snowball" by Alice Schroeder. This is the new biography on Warren Buffett and it’s a great book. In the chapter titled "Claim Checks," the author described how Warren Buffett has achieved massive success in life.
I found it to be extremely instructive.
Before I share what she wrote about Warren, I thought I would give you Warren’s answer to why he was successful – "Intense Focus." In the book, I learned that Warren and Bill Gates debated about what made them successful and they both finally agreed that the number one cause of their success was "Intense Focus."
Warrens intense focus was explained in the book as follows:
"That passion led him to study a universe of thousands of stocks. It made him burrow into libraries and basements for records nobody else troubled to get. He sat up nights studying hundreds of thousands of numbers that would glaze anyone else’s eyes. He read every word of several newspapers each morning and sucked down the Wall Street Journal like his morning Pepsi, then Coke. He dropped in on companies, spending hours talking about barrels with the woman who ran an outpost of Greif Bros. Cooperate or auto insurance with Lorimer Davidson. He read magazines like the Progressive Grocer to learn how to stock a meat department. He stuffed the backseat of his car with Moody’s Manuals and ledgers on his honeymoon. He spent months reading old newspapers dating back a century to learn the cycles of business, the history of Wall Street, the history of capitalism, the history of the modern corporation. he followed the world of politics intensely and recognized how it affected business. He analyzed economic statistics until he had a deep understanding of what they signified. Since childhood, he read every biography he could find of people he admired, looking for lessons he could learn from their lives. He attached himself to everyone who could help him and coattailed anyone he could find who was smart. He ruled out paying attention to almost anything but business – art, literature, science, travel, architecture – so that he could focus on his passion. He defined a circle of competence to avoid making mistakes. To limit risk he never used any significant amount of debt. He never stopped thinking about business: what made a good business, what made a bad business, how they competed, what made customers loyal to one versus another. He had an unusual way of turning problems around in his head, which gave him insights nobody else had. He developed a network of people who for the sake of his friendship as well as his sagacity – not only helped him but also stayed out of his way when he wanted them to. In hard times or easy, he never stopped thinking about ways to make money. And all of this energy and intensity became the motor that powered his innate intelligence, temperament, and skills."
This one long paragraph explains what intense focus really means. When most people hear "intense focus" they have no clue on how intense someone can and should be about building their business. Warren was consumed with investing and making money. Are you consumed with building your business? Do you think about it 24/7?
When I tell people about the book "The Snowball" and that is 838 pages long, they usually make a comment that the book is too big for them to read. I guess they don’t have intense focus. I have extracted numerous lessons on life, business and investing from this book. This book and the lessons within have been extremely valuable to me. Heck, the paragraph I included above was worth reading 838 pages.
Go back and read the paragraph again. Study it. Print it out. Model it in your life. I certainly am.
Oh and one more thing – go get the book and read it. Stay up all night to read it like I did! Or at least download it on audible and listen to in the car!