Warren Buffett has a talent for numbers. When looking at several companies, he knows which stock will perform over the long run and deliver the most value, his success has made the name Buffett synonymous with value. Warren Buffett has been a billionaire for a long time, he is probably the most down-to-earth investor and one of the most generous and kind, but his best advice has nothing to do with money or stocks. It has to do with relationships.
“Marry the right person,” he said at the 2009 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. “I’m serious about that. It will make more difference in your life. It will change your aspirations, all kinds of things.”
Would another billionaire, Jeff Bezos, have started Amazon and be the richest man in the world without marrying Mackenzie Tuttle in 1992? It is impossible to know. But, indeed, the person you spend the most time with, the most important person in your life, will affect your attitudes, goals and influence your actions and motivations.
When a 30-year-old Bezos wanted to quit his cushy hedge fund job, give up their apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for a used car to drive out to their new small nondescript beige house in Texas, his young wife, MacKensie said, OK. Sure. Let’s do it.
That’s a special kind of person and a very loving decision.
Brad Stone writes in The Everything Store: “While MacKenzie said she would be supportive if he decided to strike out on his own, the decision was not an easy one.” MacKenzie later told CBS: “I’m not a business person. So to me, what I’m hearing when he tells me that idea is the passion and the excitement… And to me, you know, watching your spouse, somebody that you love, have an adventure — what is better than that, and being part of that?”
She and Bezos brainstormed the name “Amazon” together after almost going with another name: Rententless.com. Mackenzie was Amazon’s first accountant, despite wanting to be a writer. According to Businessinsider.com, “She did a lot of other grunt work, like most early startup employees do, from driving book orders to the post office to handling the company’s bank account and line of credit. She met early Amazon investor John Doerr and partied with the team in Mexico after Amazon’s IPO.”
There would be no Amazon without her.
In HBO’s 2017 documentary, “Becoming Warren Buffett,” the investing legend says the biggest decision of your life will be who you choose to marry. He goes on to say that there have been “two turning points” in his life: “One when I came out of the womb and one when I met Susie,” Buffett says of his first wife, who died in 2004. “What happened with me would not have happened without her.”
Whether or not your partner is a part of your business as a partner or not, most successful couples work as a team focused on a large, overarching enterprise. They work in tandem to achieve common goals. Buffett’s first wife, Susie, raised their children and was active in liberal causes while Warren went to work.
When they met, Warren was a republican; Susie was very liberal. She altered his views by getting deeply involved in the Civil Rights movement as an activist, helping those disenfranchised by systematic racism and sexism of the time. Warren admits in Becoming Warren Buffett, Susie altered his political views, attitudes, and eventually his generous philanthropy. She had a significant impact on the billions Buffett would later give away to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest sum of money given by one person at the time — $37 billion — shortly after Susie passed.
I recently watched the HBO documentary about Buffett. I was surprised at how little I know about him. For example, I found it shocking that he eats at McDonald’s every day and drinks coke regularly while remaining in excellent health at 90. But what was most surprising is how well he treated his first wife, Susie, after she left him for another love — San Francisco.
After they raised their kids together, Susie wanted a more diverse and colorful landscape than Omaha, Nebraska, where Susie and Buffett raised their three children. She wanted an aesthetically beautiful environment of color. I understand this. Of all American cities, San Francisco fills that need.
Susie took off to live the life she wanted (so cool), and Warren continued to love and support her. Wanting happiness for the person you want to spend your minutes with most, even if that person wants something different, is the purest definition of love.
The two remained close friends, vacationing together at least once a year with friends and their three children until Susie died from cancer. While recovering from surgery, Buffett flew to San Francisco every weekend to be with her during her battle with cancer. Buffett was at her side when she passed.
According to Warren Buffett, Susie was the influence for his generous philanthropy. In the documentary, he retells it, “I made large sums of money, I always thought Susie would outlive me, and I’d entrust her to give most of it away.”
Toward the end of the documentary, when Buffett talks about his first marriage, he says, “It’s a very strange thing, love, you can’t get rid of it. If you try to give it out, you get more back. If you try to hang onto it, you lose it.”
Warren is a private person, so no one, except for the two people in it, knows the particulars of that marriage; he is guarded when he talks about his first wife. But he let her go when she wanted to go, and their love remained, altered, but still there. They continued to have tremendous respect for one another, worked together through Susie’s foundation, and remained great friends.
The quality of your relationships determines the quality of your life. When you look back, it won’t be your bank account or your best stock picks that brings you joy and a sense of accomplishment; it will be the people you loved and whether they loved you back.
Buffett addressed the topic during a 2017 conversation with Bill Gates at Columbia University. “You want to associate with people who are the kind of person you’d like to be. You’ll move in that direction,” he said. “And the most important person by far in that respect is your spouse. I can’t overemphasize how important that is.”
Jeff Bezos Ruined My Grocery store
Whole Foods lost its soul and turned this die-hard into a Trader Joe’s shopper.
Jeff Bezos Could Learn a Thing or Two from His Ex-wife
Mackenzie Scott giving her Amazon billions away is pitch perfect for the times.
Jessica is a writer, an online entrepreneur, and a recovering Type A personality. She lives in Los Angeles with her extrovert daughter, two dogs, and two cats.