The billionaire Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway investing partner Charlie Munger have been dispensing financial wisdom and life lessons for 24 years at their annual shareholders meetings. CNBC has recently archived about 120 hours of videos from meetings dating back to 1994.
I've gone through those epic question-and-answer sessions to find these five tips from Buffett, which will make you a better entrepreneur and leader:
1. Develop your public speaking skills.
Buffett tells young people that their most valuable asset isn't a stock--its investing in themselves. And no investment will pay off more than improving your public speaking skills. In 2008, he talked about overcoming the fear of speaking. He acknowledged that he was once terrified of speaking in public. "I would get physically ill if I even thought about having to do it," he said.
Buffett conquered his fear by investing in a Dale Carnegie course and volunteering to teach investing at a local college. "I think the ability to communicate, both in writing and orally, is of enormous importance," he said.
At the 2011 shareholders meeting, Buffett told the audience that he displays just one diploma in his office--the one he received from taking the public-speaking course, which cost him $100 at the time. "It's incalculable how much value I got from that hundred dollars.If you can't talk to people, you've got a real problem."
2. Read Buffett's favorite book.
Buffett and Munger are both voracious readers. In 2007, Buffett told shareholders that he had read every book on investing in the Omaha public library--at the age of 10.
In nearly every meeting, Buffett refers to one book that changed his life--Benjamin's Graham's The Intelligent Investor. "All of the important ideas are in that book," he told shareholders.
Specifically, he tells the audience to read chapter eight on short term market fluctuations, which underpins on one of Buffett's most successful investing philosophies: Sell when others are greedy and buy when others are fearful.
3. Wear your passion on your sleeve.
Don't sleepwalk through life, Buffett is fond of saying. "There's nothing like following your passion," he told shareholders in 2010. "I love what I do and I've loved it the whole time I've done it. Charlie is the same way...Some people are very lucky in finding it [passion] very early. And if you haven't found it yet, you've got to keep looking."
Buffett says they look for passion in the leaders of the 60 or so companies Berkshire owns. He specially focuses on CEOs who "tap dance to the office every day."
4. Always take the optimistic viewpoint.
Melinda Gates once said that Warren Buffett's wealth didn't make him an optimist; Buffett's optimism made him wealthy. Buffett's optimistic outlook shines through each and every year.
At this year's meeting, Buffett was asked if he's concerned about the current political division in America. Buffett responded optimistically because he has a longer, historical perspective on world events.
Buffett started investing in 1942. He picked up a copy of The New York Times from that year and showed it to the audience. Buffett said he's invested through fourteen U.S. presidents (seven Democrats and seven Republicans). He's invested through the Cuban Missile Crisis, civil rights conflicts, recessions, wars, and bank failures.
Yet, $10,000 invested in stocks in 1942 would be worth $50 million today. Despite the disagreements, "This country really, really works...This is a remarkable country. We have found something very special," he reminded the audience.
5. Pick someone you admire and adopt their qualities.
Buffett believes that you can become--to a large extent--the person you want to become. You can accelerate your success by emulating winners.
In 2000, Buffett said, "Just pick out the person you admire the most and sit down and write out the reasons why you admire them." And then, he suggested, take on those qualities.
Buffett said to look at things like personality, character and temperament. "It's not complicated," he said. In 2004, Buffett added, "Hang out with people better than you. Pick people whose behavior is somewhat better than yours and you'll drift in that direction."
If you want to drift into a successful direction, pick Buffett as one of those people you admire. Now you have 120 hours to hang out with him.