He’s a billionaire many times over, a highly successful businessman, and arguably the best investor to ever live.
While his business and investment acumen are no doubt extremely impressive, I find myself admiring and valuing Buffett’s teachings across a broad swath of life. He’s probably one of the best thinkers, philosophers, and teachers that humanity has ever had.
Indeed, when you ask Warren Buffett how he’d like to be remembered, it’s as a good teacher.
Someone this successful obviously knows a lot about success.
And as a student of Buffett and broader life success, I find it interesting that he’s been highly consistent whenever asked about his views on what makes someone successful and how to become successful in life.
The answer might surprise you…
Buffett doesn’t believe that success in life has anything to do with money.
This is right line with my personal beliefs on the matter. While too many people conflate net worth with self-worth, one of the wealthiest people to ever live boils success down to one word:
Take it away, Warren…
Well, I’ve said many times that, if you get to be 65 or 70 and later, and the people that you want to have love you actually do love you, you’re a success.
He adds to this…
I’ve seen some very, very wealthy people that they give testimonial interviews to, and name schools after, and everything, and they’re miserable. Nobody loves them.
Wealthy people who are miserable?
I can’t believe it. Say it isn’t so! (Sarcasm now off.)
Money just isn’t the answer. Superfluous amounts of bartering paper won’t make you happy or successful.
The answer is mutual love and respect in your life.
Of course, much of this is based on the partnerships you take on in your life.
Be it business or personal, the people you associate with will have a great impact on who you eventually become and how successful you end up.
Here, Buffett teaches us some more.
The most important thing… is who you associate with. You want to associate with people that are better than you are. I mean, basically, you’ll go in the direction of the people you associate with. And you want to have the right heroes. If you want to emulate someone, you’d better pick very carefully who you want to emulate.
Now, it’s obviously important to pick your business partners, friends, and other close associates very carefully.
But it’s one partner in particular that’s above all else.
Rightly so, Buffett notes that it’s your life partner that is more important than any other partner.
You want to pick a spouse that’s a little bit better than you are. And then he or she, you hope they don’t figure it out too fast.
My Experience With This Measure Of Success
I couldn’t agree more.
I personally noticed an inflection point in my own life when I started being more cautious regarding the people I spent time with.
My early 20s were fraught with personal setbacks. It seemed like I couldn’t get any traction, no matter what I did.
Ultimately, I blame myself for all of my failings. But being dumb has made me smarter. And failing only drove me that much harder to succeed.
Upon reflection, though, it’s interesting to note that the people I was associating with were not the kind of people I should have been associating with.
I had some girlfriends back in my early 20s that were, well, just bad news. They simply had all kinds of personal issues. And that tends to rub off on you.
Jim Rohn has said you’re the “average of the five people you spend the most time with”.
I mean, if you’re hanging around drug dealers all day long, the odds that you become some wild success are quite low.
Conversely, associating yourself with good, driven, smart people means you almost have no choice but to emulate that and soak it in a little bit. A rising tide lifts all boats.
I met Claudia, my life partner for about seven years, back in late 2009. And that was just about the time when I was starting my journey to FIRE.
She’s a great person. A very sweet soul who genuinely means well. I’m confident that I wouldn’t have been so successful had I instead decided to form a partnership with a woman who had massive issues. That would have acted as a huge headwind on my life.
Also, I met my best friend in life way back in high school. He and I still chat pretty much every week, even though we live halfway around the world from each other. He’s a humble and hard-working guy who does right by everyone in his circle. We have a certain sympatico that’s a lot of fun.
Conversely, I can look back on my decision to say goodbye to pretty much my entire family as a fine choice in this regard. Honestly, they were going about life in the opposite way of my direction and trying to bring me down. Leaving one’s entire family behind isn’t an easy call. But I felt it was necessary to blossom into the person I always wanted to become. Compared to who I was back then, I’m now far happier and more successful in every aspect of my life.
And today, I find myself partnered with a wonderful Thai woman who’s better than me in so many ways. It’s almost embarrassing how much better of a human being she is. And I strive to better myself as a result of trying to emulate her in some ways. I’m lucky to know her. I’m also lucky that she hasn’t figured out the mismatch yet. It’s a secret, so let’s just keep that between us.
Be very careful about who you associate with, especially in terms of your personal partner(s).
You can’t pick your family. But you sure can pick a lot of other people. Be wise with your choices.
Where FIRE Comes In
Money isn’t the best measure of success. Not according to Buffett, at least.
Then what’s the point of FIRE?
Glad you asked.
FIRE isn’t about the endless, mindless accumulation of more for the sake of more. It’s not just piling up income-producing assets that you then sit and marvel at.
FIRE is simply a platform that gives you the financial resources you need to live life on your terms.
It provides you the freedom, via the money, to go off and live your best life.
But – and this is the crux of it – this freedom allows you ample opportunities to maximize the three most important things in life (which can’t be bought): time, love, and health.
I think Buffett would agree with that.
In fact, I know he would. He had a very similar line of thought just last week.
More free time gives you more chances to have better and more love and health in your life, which breeds the very success that Buffett is talking about.
Many people admire Buffett almost solely for his wealth, which was built from his hard work and business acumen.
He’s no doubt incredibly proud of that and what he’s built for his shareholders. Rightly so. It’s worthy of admiration and praise.
But I’ve long felt that Buffett is underrated as a teacher and philosopher, and it occurred to me some time ago that I personally feel more compelled and rewarded by his teachings as they relate to life success and happiness. To me, that’s what he should really be remembered for.
It made me very happy to hear that Buffett himself feels the same about that.
Warren Buffett knows a thing or two (or 20) about success.
And he’s shared the ultimate barometer for success.
Heed the words wisely.
What do you think about Buffett’s measure of success? Have you found this to be true in your own life? Why or why not?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons.
P.S. If you’d like to achieve FIRE and have more success in your life, check out some awesome tools and services I personally used on my way to becoming financially free at 33!