Warren Buffett knows a thing or three about becoming wealthy and successful, and the Oracle of Omaha is not averse to handing out mostly excellent advice to others who'd like to follow in his footsteps.
The personal finance site GOBankingRates has pulled together 14 pieces of advice Buffett has given to graduating classes and/or young people. They're all great tips for the young--but also excellent advice that all of us should follow, no matter what age we are. Here are some of the best. You can find the full list here.
1. Invest in yourself before anything else.
"Investing in yourself is the best thing you can do--anything that improves your own talents," Buffett told Good Morning America. That's excellent advice, whether it's getting more education or training, to improve a skill you already have or to learn a new one--or whether it's starting a company of your own. (In case it's the latter, here are 10 Steps to Success as an Entrepreneur.)
2. Change bad habits as soon as you can.
Habits can make or break you, Buffett says. "I see people with these self-destructive behavior patterns," he says. "They really are entrapped by them."
The trick, he says, is to get out of the trap before it closes on you, which is why he advised graduating students at the University of Florida to form good habits as soon as possible. "You can get rid of it a lot easier at your age than at my age, because most behaviors are habitual," he told them. "The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken."
True enough, but if you're older than a college senior, don't despair. Though it may be tougher, habits can be changed at any time in life. Here's the secret of how to do it.
3. Know your own strengths and weaknesses.
Use that knowledge to capitalize on the things that you do well, and avoid the risks of getting in over your head in your weaker areas, Buffett advises. "You don't have to be an expert on everything, but knowing where the perimeter of that circle of what you know and what you don't know, and staying inside of it, is all important," he's said.
4. Never risk something you need to get something you don't need.
It's not that taking risks is wrong--but do it only for the right reasons, Buffett explained to the University of Florida class. He added that he's seen both businesses and individuals take big risks out of greed when they should have held back.
"If you risk something that is important to you for something that is unimportant to you, it just doesn't make sense," he said. "I don't care if the odds you succeed are 99 to 1 or 1,000 to 1."
5. Find work you love.
"You really should take a job that, if you were independently wealthy, that would be the job you would take," Buffett said in that same commencement speech. "You will learn something, you will be excited about it, and you will jump out of bed. You can't miss." Finding work you love is a better bet than doing something because it pays well or because it would look good on your resume, he added. I couldn't agree more.
6. Surround yourself with people you admire.
Buffett has often talked about the importance of mentorship and the role his own mentor, Columbia professor Benjamin Graham, played in his life. But even beyond that, he advised a high school student to spend time with people whose qualities he aspired to. "Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction."
7. Face down your fears.
Don't let fear stop you from doing things, especially things you know you must do to be successful, Buffett advises. In fact, he did this himself--he was once terribly afraid of public speaking, so he took a Dale Carnegie course to improve this skill. He's now one of the most sought-after and frequently quoted speakers in the world. You don't need to go that far, but if there are things you're afraid to do, or that you know are your weak points, do what you must to get better at them and become more comfortable doing them.
8. Your time is a precious resource. Use it accordingly.
Bill Gates once wrote that being jealously protective of his time was an important lesson he'd learned from Buffett. "There are only 24 hours in everyone's day. Warren has a keen sense of this. He doesn't let his calendar get filled up with useless meetings." Even though you're not a multibillionaire, you shouldn't either.
9. Never ignore a great opportunity.
Though much of his advice is on the conservative, cautious side, Buffett is a big believer in grabbing opportunities with both hands when good ones arise. "Big opportunities in life have to be seized," he said in a commencement speech at Georgia State. "We don't do very many things, but when we get the chance to do something that's right and big, we've got to do it. And even to do it in a small scale is just as big a mistake almost as not doing it at all. You've really got to grab them when they come, because you're not going to get 500 great opportunities."