One of the benefits to come from the rise in videoconferencing is the increased access to some of the world’s greatest investors. In mid-December, the renowned science and engineering institute Caltech held a video Q&A call with Berkshire Hathaway vice Chairman Charlie Munger, which was attended by 2,000 people. Typically to get access to someone like Charlie you have to fly to the US to attend either the Daily Journal AGM in Los Angeles or the Berkshire Hathaway AGM in Omaha where over 40,000 people attend to ask questions.
“Charlie Munger is truly the broadest thinker I have ever encountered” Bill Gates
As always, Charlie’s wisdom was highlighted through his typically dry and witty responses. When asked for career advice from a young attendee Charlie responded;
“Well, it’s very important when you choose a career. If you go into a career that’s very tough you’re not going to do very well. And if you go into one where you have special advantages and you like the work, you’re going to do pretty well.”
He also stressed the importance of being humble and knowing what your limitations are;
“A lot of smart people think they’re way smarter than they are, and therefore they do worse than dumb people, if you ask me. And it’s very common to be utterly brilliant and to think you’re way smarter than you are. I think Warren and I have been pretty good at avoiding that one. We’re pretty modest. I know what my mental capacity is, and it’s pretty low compared to the best it could possibly be.”
Charlie is well know for studying what he refers to as “the major disciplines” and taking the key learnings from those disciplines and applying them to the field of investing;
“I’m a big fan of knowing the big ideas in pretty much all of the major disciplines, the ones that are pretty easy to assimilate, and then using those routinely in your judgments. That’s just my system. I don’t trust the executive…I don’t believe in just constantly consulting with experts and doing things that way. I might do that if I were building a chemical plant or something. But in investment decisions, I think it’s very helpful to be pretty comfortable with the big ideas in all the disciplines. I think that also life’s more fun if you do that. What I find is that academia is not very good at the interdisciplinary stuff. Academia rewards a researcher who knows more and about less and less, and there are real difficulties with that approach.”
This is a fantastic interview, not just for investors, but for anyone who wants to hear how one of the world’s greatest thinkers approaches various aspects of life.