So when I came across what the billionaire investor says is the single best piece of advice he ever got, it piqued my attention. Especially since it turns out to be absolutely critical to living a happy life, according to Buffett.
So what's the pearl of wisdom?
Your inner scorecard is more important than your outer scorecard.
Mic drop. The Oracle of Omaha shared this nugget of wisdom (that he got from his father) with a group of students at a 2005 Q&A session. As Buffett elaborated:
Some people get in a position where they're thinking all of the time what the world's going to think of this or that, instead of what they themselves think about it. If your inner scorecard, if you're comfortable with that, I think you're going to have a pretty happy life. The people that strive too much for the outer scorecard sometimes find it's a little hollow when they get all through.
It really does all boil down to this, doesn't it? If you live your life with integrity and in accordance with your most closely held values (values involving something greater than yourself), you are far more likely to be happy than not.
If you're constantly worried about keeping score, doing better than your peers, worrying about how you're perceived, you are far more likely to be unhappy.
Buffett also talked about his famed "newspaper test", that if you need help discerning whether or not something you're about to do is congruent with your inner scorecard, imagine that action being written about in the newspaper. By a "smart but pretty unfriendly reporter," says Buffett. If you're pending action sails over the bar of the test, you're good. If it comes even close to the bar, don't do it. This has come to be known as the Wall Street Journal test over the years in common business vernacular.
We can face other internal scorecard challenges, internal integrity challenges, and not realize it; it's not just always about big, blatant violations.
For example, we compromise our internal scorecard and act without integrity in smaller ways when we don't do what we say we're going to do, when we show up 10 minutes late for the meeting, again, after saying we were working on that, when we act "fake", inconsistently, or non-transparently, or by failing to just do what's right, even when no one is looking.
And daily we're faced with 1,000 opportunities to focus on the outer scorecard in general over the internal one. It's so easy in a competitive work environment to worry about how you're stacking up to your peers, about whether you're enough and seen as enough.
No one says you don't need some external validation in your life; it's whether or not your factory mode is set to internally calibrate.
Inner scorecard versus outer scorecard.
Striving for authenticity versus approval.
Comparing only to yourself/your values versus others.
It's ironic that such sage advice comes from someone who, in comparison to others on many a scorecard, would win. It's all in how you define winning.
And if that definition is inward, you'll live an outwardly happy life.