In 2008, my friend Mohnish Pabrai and I sat down with our families for a “power lunch” with Warren Buffett at Smith and Wollensky’s restaurant in New York. Even though I was by then a close follower of Buffett’s, what I learned at that lunch changed my life.
So much so that within a year of having the lunch, I had left New York and the United States to live in Zurich, Switzerland.
Here is some of what I learned:
1. Unconventional is often better
“People will always try to dissuade you from doing the right thing if it is unconventional.”
2. Remain a child
…he showed an intense and youthful curiosity that most children lose by the time they reach their teens. Buffett was genuinely interested in us and wanted to learn as much as he could. Not because we were that special — but because of his extraordinary and inquisitive mind.
3. Learn to say ‘no’
During the lunch, Buffett showed us his diary, which was largely empty. He likes to leave his time unstructured, and to leave plenty of room for spontaneity. Buffett was utterly unwilling to make compromises in his personal, moment-to-moment happiness for the sake of achieving some corporate goal. …even though he is a kind man at heart he also has absolutely no trouble enduring the momentary unpleasantness that comes from saying no.
4. Discover and listen to your ‘inner scorecard’
“Would you like, publicly, to be considered as the best lover in the world, but privately know that you are the worst? Or, would you rather be considered publicly to be the worst lover in the world, when privately you know that you are the best?”
5. Invest time and energy and take risks for the right relationships
I had previously undervalued the power of making sure that I am around people who are better than me, and around whom I can improve. … being able to spend quality time with someone whom I admire and from whom I can learn.