Warren Buffett: The investing world 'just doesn’t require advanced learning'

The Berkshire Hathaway 2018 Annual Shareholders Meeting moved into its afternoon portion as Warren Buffett and Charlier Munger turned to answering questions about the business world at large and general best practices when it comes to investing.

One of the subjects that was broached touched on the importance of higher education, particularly business school — which Buffett has notoriously viewed as unnecessary and unimportant in the past.

The best books, according to Bill Gates
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The best books, according to Bill Gates

When Breath Becomes Air 

Gates' review: "I’m usually not one for tear-jerkers about death and dying—I didn’t love The Last Lecture or Tuesdays with Morrie. But this book definitely earned my admiration—and tears." 

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I Contain Multitudes 

Gates' review: "In the end, I Contain Multitudes is a healthy corrective. Yong succeeds in his intention to give us a “grander view of life” and does so without falling prey to grand, unifying explanations that are far too simplistic."

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The Heart 

Gates' review: "When Melinda recommended the book to me, she said, “It’s different from most of the books you read.” And that’s true—but part of the reason for that is that it’s different from most books."

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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow 

Gates' review: "Harari’s new book is as challenging and readable as Sapiens. Rather than looking back, as Sapiens does, it looks to the future. I don’t agree with everything the author has to say, but he has written a thoughtful look at what may be in store for humanity."

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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Gates' review: "Through deeply personal stories like these, Hillbilly Elegy sheds light our nation’s vast cultural divide—a topic that has become far more relevant than Vance ever dreamed when he was writing this book." 

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Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood 

Gates' review: "In fact, Noah’s mother emerges as the real hero of the book. [...] If my mother had one goal, it was to free my mind,” he writes. Like many fans of Noah’s, I am thankful she did."

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A Full Life: Reflections At Ninety 

Gates' review: "A Full Life feels timely in an era when the public’s confidence in national political figures and institutions is low. It is true that President Carter made unforced errors during his time in office. But when you read this book and have a chance to meet him in person, you can’t help but conclude that Carter is a brave, thoughtful, disciplined leader who understands the world at a remarkable level and who has improved the lives of billions of people through his advocacy for human rights and global health."

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Buffett, who attended three business schools himself, started by validating his experiences there through the educators he encountered and clarified that Berkshire Hathaway isn’t outright against higher education:

“Each [school], I found a teacher or two that everyone got a lot out of … we’re not anti-business school here at all.”

And it was those teachers that were the true vehicles of learning for Buffett, a nod to what has come to be one his most well-known beliefs among those familiar with his business practices: There are many ways to become educated in the investment sphere that have nothing to do with formal education at all.

One of these is through literature, as Buffett often refers to the book that he swears by, ‘The Intelligent Investor’ by Benjamin Graham.

Chapter 8 of the book (‘The Investor and Market Fluctuations’) has become the basis of Buffett’s fundamental investing philosophy. 

In short, the chapter reflects Buffett’s attitude towards being patient when buying or selling stocks, even if that means looking at the bigger picture over time (instead of watching the stock market intently with every fluctuation as they occur in real time).

Buffett is firm on the notion that getting into the investing business “just doesn’t require advanced learning” and that’s the reason why higher education and business school degrees aren’t the only attractive quality in looking for someone to hire:

“I would rather have a person, if I could hire someone among the top five graduates of the number one, two or three business schools, my choice [would be] somebody who was bright. 

But [if there was someone who] had chapter eight of ‘The Intelligent Investor’ absolutely memorized, it was just natural to them, they had it in their bones basically, I’d take the person from chapter eight honestly.”

Buffett is proud to say that he’s been “extraordinarily lucky in having great teachers, including Charlie [Munger].”

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