You know how I make fun of other PF folk for having a giant hard-on about Tangerine savings accounts and paying down debt? Well now the shoe is on the other foot. Might as well get this over with.
Hi, my name is Nelson, and I have a Warren Buffett obsession. I would like to quit this obsession, but I cannot. It’s probably the closest my life will ever come to that show Intervention, which I will admit I actually used to watch.
I’ve written about Buffett approximately 3,291 times on this here blog. I busted some Warren Buffett myths, had a mock interview with him that ended very badly, and I examined his ten-year record here. There’s more Buffett stuff in my archives, but let’s stop before this turns into the financial blog version of a 12-year old at a One Direction concert.
And so it’s because I <3 the man so much that this next sentence brings me a great deal of sadness. But I’m beginning to be so over Warren Buffett.
Generic Debt Blogger approves of that last sentence.
Have you watched a Buffett TV appearance lately? God, it’s painful. It’s the business equivalent of watching a sports interview, but with a few more jokes thrown in. Buffett is entertaining as all hell, but he doesn’t actually say anything. The only company I’ve heard him say negative things about is Tesco, and it’s way over in BadTeethLand. Nobody in England gives two craps if Buffett talks badly about Tesco.
So you get him on TV cracking jokes and saying such profound things like he’s bullish on U.S. stocks. HOLY CRAP HOW WHATEVER THE OPPOSITE OF GROUNDBREAKING IS. It’s entertaining, but I’m not sure how valuable it is.
(By the way, if you’re looking for entertaining and valuable, I suggest listening to Charlie Munger. That man has no filter and it’s hilarious.)
Look, I’m not saying you should disregard Buffett altogether. One of the reasons why I’m writing a post like this is because I’ve spent a lot of time studying him over the years. There’s only so much you can learn from one person before they start to repeat themselves, me excluded of course. Buffett also tends to dumb down his advice a little so it can have an impact on more people. If 18-year old Nelson was hearing some of it for the first time, he’d probably think it was pretty profound. But 31-year old Nelson is pretty bored with it.
So why write this post, whiner?
HEY. WHO ARE YOU CALLING A WHIN- oh wait.
Among all the vague platitudes and his folksy wisdom that doesn’t actually say much, there are some real gems. And surprisingly, my favorite Buffett-ism isn’t even really about investing. Take it away, Warren:
“The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard. I always look at it this way. I say, ‘Lookit. Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover? Or would you rather be the world’s worst lover but have everyone think you’re the world’s greatest lover?’ Now, that’s an interesting question.”
I think most people answering Warren’s question would pick the first choice. They’d take having the skill over the prestige.
But reality tells us that no matter how many people answer that the opinion of their peers isn’t important to them, the fact is perception is very important to them. How many people do you know who claim to value travel above material things that still have nice things? I know more than a few, that’s for sure.
When it comes to the inner scorecard, most of us are hypocrites. We not only care about what our peers think, but we care deeply. Even if we just pick and choose the spots where we try to keep up with the proverbial Joneses, the fact is we’re still falling into that trap, albeit in a small way.
By the way, who are the Joneses trying to keep up with? Maybe they’re the ones with the solid inner scorecard and they’re just doing whatever floats their boat.
We’re not getting any better at this problem either. I don’t know about your Facebook, but mine is 90% full of people bragging about their lives with 27 people encouraging it because it’s more polite to hit the Like button than admit you’re jealous as all hell. Suddenly, your normal life looks pretty crappy in comparison, even though you’re comparing your normal life to everyone else’s Facebook lives. That’s not just comparing apples to oranges, it’s more like comparing apples to turds.
Buffett very much just found what made him happy and went with it. Getting rich was always the desire, but it was really just a byproduct of being really good at what he chose to do. As long as he knew he was on the right path, all was good. As you learn more about Buffett’s life, you come to realize that he cared deeply of what people thought, just not enough to conquer the inner scorecard. That’s the important lesson. Let the inner scorecard be your guide, and everything else be noise.