At the 2004 Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting, Warren Buffett was fielding questions from people in the audience.

Along came a teenager who asked something that elicited a great response from the billionaire mogul. The question was what advice would Buffett give to a young person looking to become successful. This was Buffett's response:

It's better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction.

If you think his advice was geared toward a teenager, think again. Anybody at whatever age or stage of life will surely benefit from it, especially as it relates to growing a business or your own career.

The traits of people "better than you"

Buffett teaches a life lesson for all of us about learning and adapting the character and leadership traits of successful people further down the path from us. Because when you do, you grow your influence and network. 

One of the unquestionable behaviors in choosing the right mentor--or someone better than you--is integrity. Buffett once said that you should never hire someone without it, no matter how smart they are. People operating with integrity can be trusted; you never have to worry about their actions, or whether they're hiding anything from anyone.

Another type of person you should choose to hang out with to make you better will exhibit a learning mindset. This is key because learning and growing as a leader or business owner should never cease, because the world is constantly shifting. So, smart and successful people surround themselves with wise sages who will help them increase their knowledge.

Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger credit their success to the fact they are learning machines. Buffett estimates that he spends 80 percent of his working day reading and thinking. When asked how to get smarter, Buffett once held up stacks of paper and said he "read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge builds up, like compound interest."

Finally, invest in relationships with honest and ethical people. Buffett once asked University of Florida students to think of a classmate they felt had the makings of success long term, such that they would want to get 10 percent of that person's earnings for the rest of their lives.

"You would probably pick the one you responded the best to, the one who has the leadership qualities, the one who is able to get other people to carry out their interests," said Buffett. "That would be the person who is generous, honest, and who gave credit to other people for their own ideas."