Warren Buffett is well known for his finely honed ability to spot immensely profitable investment opportunities.
Besides his sage advice for investing in companies, though, Buffett has been known to share some of his time tested advice for personal development, like when he recently hosted a group of 20 students from China's prestigious Peking University.
The students enjoyed a rare private moment to chat about a range of topics with the "Oracle of Omaha" thanks to their professor, Jeffrey Towson. In addition to teaching classes on investment at Peking University, Towson runs a boutique private equity advisory firm. He's also a prolific writer, and has published several bestselling books on doing business in China and was twice named a LinkedIn "Top Voice."
In an article he published on his LinkedIn blog, Towson relates a fascinating piece of advice about becoming a better person that Buffett shared with his students. Buffett posed this unconventional question to the students from China: "If you could invest in only one of your fellow classmates, who would you choose? If you could buy, say, 10 percent of the future earnings of just one classmate, who would you choose? What would you look for?"
"It͛'s a pretty fun question to think about," says Towson. "Would you choose the person with the highest IQ? The person with the highest grades? The person with really successful parents?"
"His point was that you would probably not look at such things. You would think about personal qualities...the decision would mostly be about personal qualities, not business metrics or test scores."
As Towson notes, Buffett went on to talk at length about "how you want to become the person that other people would choose. You want to become the best version of yourself, over time."
Buffett then broke down his question into three actionable tips, which Towson shares in his LinkedIn post:
Tip 1: Ask yourself "Would this person hire me?"
"Buffett mentioned one trick is to ask yourself 'Would this person hire me?' I have been trying this for the past week and I find it does work," says Towson. "In any conversation, it keeps me thinking about how the other person perceives me and if I am helping them. Have I brought out something positive in them? Am I being helpful? Am I acting in a way such that they would be happy to have me on their team or project?"
Tip 2: Don't be someone that turns people off.
"Buffett raised another interesting question which was: 'Which one of your classmates would you sell short?' That is pretty funny and a great question," says Towson. "He said you would probably sell short the person that turns you and other people off. Of course, as soon as he said this, everyone (including myself) immediately wondered 'Is it me?'"
Tip 3: You can get there step-by-step.
"He made the point that these are all things you can choose to be in life. They are actually under your control and are not that hard to change. You can be the jerk. Or you can be fair. You can be short with people. Or you can be patient."
"He recommended that you start with one habit to change," says Towson. "Just pick one thing, like being more charitable or patient. And the nice part is that the things that you do for others will come back to you."