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Success is more than intellect and energy – Warren Buffett

I’ve been keen to listen to the wisdom of Warren Buffett more and more lately. I’m not too sure why that is, but there is something very soothing and enjoyable about listening to his ideas and thoughts about life and success. He has a way of speaking in a way that’s very easy to understand and digest.

Today, I caught this video of his. It’s an interview he gave to an MBA class some time ago. In the first 5 minutes, he simply says that he wants to share something quickly and then answer the questions they have for him, because that’s always more useful to everyone. However, the ‘something’ that he shared in the first 5 minutes was quite profound and so it’s something I’d like to share today.

“Think for a moment if I granted you the right to buy 10% of any one of your classmates. If I gave you an hour to think about it, who would you choose to own 10% of?”

He poses the question above, which I think is an extremely interesting way to essentially think about how you rank various qualities in people. For Buffett, he goes on to speak about three things a friend of his looks for when hiring people. Integrity, intelligence and energy. However, he says, the second two are nothing without the first one. You don’t want people with no integrity who have lots of intelligence and energy!!! He is essentially making the point that based on a whole raft of factors, you’ll choose to take an ownership of the person in your class that portrays the most integrity to you. As he says:

“You’ve all got the ability to do very well. In determining whether your’ll succeed, there’s more to it than intellect and energy.”

And this is the main point he makes. Integrity is something you can learn. It’s something that is changeable. All the facets of people that you admire, you can replicate. Buffet talks about his mentor Benjamin Graham, who when very young made a list of the people he admired and then set out to replicate the things he liked in those people. As Buffett says:

“The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they’re too heavy to be broken.”

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3 thoughts on “Success is more than intellect and energy – Warren Buffett

  1. Doug Hopkins says:

    Interesting view Steve. The question is how do you prove integrity? In a job interview some time back (within the govt sphere) that involved providing information to a parliamentary committee l got questions about honesty and integrity. I must say l found them difficult to answer not just because no one had ever asked me directly about morals and ethics etc before in a job interview but mainly because the evidence l might give could not be corroborated. Just to answer, “l always have shown integrity, just ask anyone l know” does not cut it really. A lot of job activities can be corroborated. Most job interviews are behavourial based e.g. tell us about a time when……Maybe the interviewer gains an insight into you in how you tell the relevant story on “integrity” and not the facts themselves. I don’t know. Your blog prompts me to review my notes from the interview which l made as l tried to answer my own question raised here. I think integrity is a strong characteristic l have to “sell”, just how do l prove it?   

    • Hi Dad. I don’t really know the answer, but I think integrity is a result of the things you’ve done before. How much you can point to those things, helps confirm integrity in that sort of environment. 

      Fred Wilson spoke about this when he speaks about his blogging. As he says…

      “You can fake a resume, but you can’t fake 500 blog posts…or 5,587!”

      In the same way, the things you’ve done in a past life and the people that have seen you do them will always add to your reputation. And thus, your integrity. 

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