Last and not least this week, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. This is an authorized biography that I wanted to read this during the trip to/from PASS, but the book was too big to stuff in the laptop bag. If you're not familiar with Buffett he's the guy behind Berkshire Hathaway and the one who has gifted thirty billion dollars to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I've read quite a bit about him because I just admire his success, but more importantly, his style. For example, at one point he decided to purchase a well known family run furniture store in Omaha. He goes to the store, they talk, and without any other due diligence, writes them a check for....$55 million.He trusts his own judgement, is willing to live with the consequences of mistakes, and wants to do business with good people. Not sure he's so cool? Read one of his annual statements to the shareholders of Berkshire.
If you don't enjoy biographies this one probably won't change your mind, if you do like them this one is done reasonably well. The book shows him as a real, flawed human being, as we all are. He acquired the bug for earning early in life, and soon realized that by keeping the money to reinvest rather than spending, he could make his "snowball" grow bigger faster. He was successful at money early on, and even in his mid 20's had access to substantial funding to make stock trades. By 35 he was a multi millionaire and could have stopped, but he enjoyed the work and was driven by it. There's a part of the book that talks about a big conference in 1999 or 2000, all the 'big name' people were there and it was the height of the dot com boom. Buffett had declined to participate in that because he didn't understand technology well enough to make the right call, and more importantly, he thought the valuations were totally wrong. He took a LOT of heat for his stance, and then more as the value of Berkshire dropped at the same time. It's got to be tough to have a proven record of success and have people tell you that you're past your prime/just plain wrong. Ultimately he was proven to be correct, and he's still on top of his game as he approaches 80. I liked the book, and liked that he was willing to be open about personal areas of his life that must have been uncomfortable. It's interesting that he sees his life was not as balanced as it might have been, and he counsels college students that life is about love, and all else comes after that.
A little hero worship, something you'll rarely see from me. I don't think he's perfect, but I enjoy seeing someone that shares some of my values succeed by playing the game their way and not doing it the way everyone says it has to be done.