There's no question that Warren Buffett is the person you want to whisper business and investing advice in your ear. But Buffett has seen decades of the life that surrounds money and careers, meaning he's got bigger lessons to offer today's ambitious college graduates than when to cash in a stock. These are among the Oracle of Omaha's best points to write on your brain.
1. The biggest investment you'll ever make is in yourself. "Investing in yourself means tackling areas you aren't good at and learning new skills," says Buffett. "Address whatever you feel your weaknesses are, and do it now."
Doing this doesn't necessarily have to cost any money--it can mean home practice, talking to a mentor, or doing a stretch project. It simply requires you to do some self-analysis and be honest with yourself about where you have room to grow. Face your uncomfortable truths and then pick an appropriate path for finding a new one.
2. Read as much as you can (and think about it). "Read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. [...] I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in business. I read and think," Buffett says.
The goal here isn't to have bragging rights at the library. It's to get as much information as possible so you can have the biggest picture possible to inform your decisions, as well as to understand and respect the viewpoints of others.
3. Integrity is your most precious asset, so guard it with everything you've got. You'll likely be tempted to make decisions that, while offering short-term gain, could endanger how much people trust you. Don't fall for that. Instead, be consistent in your behaviors, own your mistakes, and always focus on preserving or building relationships.
"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it," Buffett says. "If you think about that, you'll do things differently."
Buffett also encourages you to spend time with people who are better than you are.
"Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift that direction," he advises.
Note that Buffett doesn't say "associates whose skills" are better. He says behavior. If you stick around people who act with good habits and integrity, you'll learn to practice those things, too.
4. Patience is a precious tool. Studies have confirmed that young people are in a hurry--they expect to climb the ladder quickly, for example, wanting promotions and raises fast. And technology doesn't help--we expect instant replies, buys, and whys from our screens, and we want them anywhere, anytime. But you can't apply a quick fix to everything, especially if what you're going for is complicated or needs a guarantee of safety.
"No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time," Buffett says.
And it's critical to play the long game and be willing to commit.
"If you aren't willing to own a stock for 10 years," Buffett famously quipped, "don't even think about owning it for 10 minutes. Put together a portfolio of companies whose aggregate earnings march upward over the years, and so also will the portfolio's market value."
5. Your attitude influences your experience. Certain jobs or areas of study can have a reputation for being boring. But Buffett's view is, if it's boring to you or not entertaining enough, it's because you're not looking at it right.
"If you're interested in business, or likely to be in business, an MBA is very useful. But what is really important is what you bring to a class in terms of being interested in the subject. If you view a course like accounting as a drudge and a requirement, you are missing the whole game. Any course can be exciting. Mastering accounting is like mastering a new language, it can be so much fun."