The Billionaire Boys Club

Lessons on customer service, the greater obligation towards society.

Are you ready to win? The artists 50 Cent, Diddy, and Jay-Z once made a song about “The Pounds, The Pesos, and The Yens.” Warren Buffett has all of them, but his greatest lesson is customer service. Second best advice is to surround yourself with higher level people. Buffett compares it to a planetary system, your behavior revolves around those you spend your time with. If you spend time with those below you, you’ll naturally be pulled in that direction. Public speaking was impossible for Buffett, but he credits Dale Carnegie courses for turning his life. He feared public speaking, and purposely picked his college courses to avoid talking in front of students. The first time, Buffett quit the course because it was too frightening. The second time, he handed a hundred dollar bill knowing there was no refund. It took six months of work, but the Dale Carnegie course was Buffett’s greatest education…

It’s about tap dancing to work everyday. Buffett’s first job was for Benjamin Graham, not bothering what the salary was. Buffett found that out on his paycheck. Partner with those you admire, because the first ten years of your career shouldn’t be about money. The inner scorecard, matters more than the outer one. Buffett talks about enormously wealthy individuals, who have hospital wings and college campuses named after them. But no one thinks much of them, and surely they must know it. When Benjamin Graham was a youth, he made a list of good character qualities and not so attractive ones. Habits are habits, and there’s the famous saying of “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Graham made a list, and worked on those appealing qualities, and eliminating less attractive ones.

The last lesson is to stay in your lane. Someone might have a huge circle of competence with fuzzy borders, but someone with a smaller niche who knows his borders will always outperform. Warren Buffett was gifted with the skill to evaluate businesses, but he focuses on simple brands like Coca-Cola. It’s a utilitarian, universal product that’s not rocket science. Buffett quotes Tom Watson of IBM, who said “I’m no genius, but I’m smart in spots. And I stay around those spots.” In America, failure is no big deal. Buffett talks about his rejection from Harvard Business School. He took a ten hour train ride for Chicago, meeting with a B School alumnus for the interview. His shyness made a bad impression, fumbling and bumbled over his words. Buffett was rejected on the spot, a long train ride back home. Of course, he otherwise wouldn’t have met Benjamin Graham at Columbia.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg says there were three types of peers at Harvard. The people whom he perceived as smart, did well for themselves later on. People who were less smart, less well. The third category were bullshitters, who just completely faded away, says Bloomberg. As a mediocre student, Bloomberg’s real asset was as a manager. Kids usually know what they’re good at by middle school, and Bloomberg was involved in Boy Scouts, student office, and was the man on campus early in college. Generally, booksmarts and people skills are opposites. Journalists make lousy managers, because human assets deal in shades of shade- not finite and concrete distillation of information like data. Bloomberg picked up the phone, and did the dirty job of securities when that line of Wall Street wasn’t glamorous.

Bloomberg talks about getting the can, when Salomon was merged with an unknown commodities company called Phibro. You were a Goldman guy, or some other identity your whole life. You adopted the identity of the employer, Salomon’s identity was meritocracy. Didn’t matter where you came from, do the job and we’ll tolerate any odd quirks. The merger had people wining and dining, which included large sausages inside a hotel floor. When Bloomberg opened his envelope, it was a nice paycheck- and termination. The best advice is to take the punch, but don’t start kicking or crying. Because if you do that, you’ve let your opponent win twice. When stresses happen, distract yourself by thinking about other things.

Don’t look back…

The triumphs of life are triumphs because you know that not everything is going to be one. If you played golf and got a hole in one on every hole, you’d get bored. Part of the fun is hitting one in the woods, then getting a great recovery shot. The reason I continue is similar to why top golfers keep playing.

They’re not doing it for the money.

It’s for the sport.

-Warren Buffett.

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