In a recent meeting hosted by Forbes, Warren Buffett and Jay-Z shared stories of their mutual success despite drastic differences in achieving it. The full article is here and worth the read, but I wanted to share a few particular bits of advice that Warren Buffett gave.
Steve Forbes: Warren, what advice would you have for Jay-Z in the music business? You’ve seen business models change a bit in the newspaper business with the Washington Post and Buffalo News.
Warren Buffett: It happens. Street railways were big here in Omaha 100 years ago. But I will say this about investing: Everything you do earn is cumulative. That doesn’t mean that industries stay good forever, or businesses stay good forever, but in learning to think about business models, what I learned at 20 is useful to me now. What I learned at 25 is useful to me now. It’s like physics. There are underlying principles, but now they’re doing all kinds of things with physics they weren’t doing 50 years ago.
But if you’ve got the principles, if you know what makes a good business, if you know what makes a good manager, if you know what makes a good product, and you learn that in one business, there is some transference to other businesses. As you go along, you learn what things you’re not going to understand. Knowing what to leave out is just as important as knowing what to focus on. Somebody said how to beat Bobby Fischer; you play him any game except chess. And so I don’t play Bobby Fischer at chess.
Steve Forbes: Warren, one of the things you do in your annual reports is discussing what went wrong and what you’ve learned.
Warren Buffett: Part of making good decisions in business is recognizing the poor decisions you’ve made and why they were poor. I’ve made lots of mistakes. I’m going to make more. It’s the name of the game. You don’t want to expect perfection in yourself. You want to strive to do your best. It’s too demanding to expect perfection in yourself.