12 Life Lessons from Warren Buffett to Being a More Compassionate Writer

Guest post by Scott Dinsmore of ReadingForYourSuccess

Last week I spent a day with Warren Buffett at his annual meeting. The education was profound, and surprisingly serves to make us all better writers, bloggers and entrepreneurs.

12 Life Lessons from Warren Buffett:

1. Lose money and I will forgive you, but lose even a shred of reputation and I will be ruthless. This has been echoed across the business world for years and it applies to us all. Life is too short to cut corners to make an extra buck. Wealth can always be recreated but reputation takes a lifetime to build and often only a moment to destroy. As Warren says, “we will not trade reputation for money.” In the world of blogging, we are writing because we love it. It’s not for the money. This makes reputation more important than anything. Remember this when you are contemplating rushing to monetize your site by filling it with ads, links, etc.

2. The best defense in a tough economy is to add the most you can to society. Your money can be inflated away but your knowledge and talent cannot. No matter the external circumstances, you are always in control of your talent, learning and passion for life. There will always be opportunities for talent. This is the most empowering thing about web entrepreneurship and blogging. Develop those skills with the constant focus on helping others and you will never be without a job.

3. We get worried when people start to agree with us. The best fruit is found out on the limbs. The road less traveled makes all the difference. Make a rule to always stay on the side of the minority in your life’s path and you will be greatly rewarded. Not to mention it will be magnitudes more exciting. These are exactly the topics that people want to read about. Get a little edgy with your posts. Say something fresh. It will stick with your visitors and they’re likely to come back.

4. We celebrate wealth only when it’s been fairly won and wisely used. The goal is not to make money at all costs. It’s easy to forget that in a lot of industries and sub-cultures around the world where everyone is in constant competition. And this can especially be the case when so many of us spend hours upon hours writing and developing our web services for free. Do not rush it and do not get greedy. Help others and the fruit will be there. Wealth is worthless if you’ve destroyed all your relationships to attain it. Take the high road. It’s far less crowded. A bit sad but often true. Makes it pretty easy to stand out.

5. When you are exceptional you jump off the page. There really isn’t that much competition there. Be your own best competitive advantage. Then it doesn’t make a difference what others are doing. You are in control. In blogging, entrepreneurship and life, there are few people really willing to give it their all. Do this and your supporters will love you for it (they will also likely multiply).

6. Do what you’re passionate about. If you do this, there will be few people competing or running faster than you. The best way to be exceptional is with passion! As Tony Robbins says every day of his life, “Live with Passion!” And trust me, life is a lot more fun this way. I cannot think of a better motivator to get you to write for free and love it, than to jump out of bed dying to teach and help others.

7. I think I developed courage when I learned I could deal with hardship. You need to get your feet wet and get some failure under your belt. Courage does not grow on its own. Just like a muscle, it must be constantly worked out and developed. Life begins outside your comfort zone and that’s where courage is developed. Most people don’t succeed because they’re afraid to fail. Failure isn’t that bad anyway. It will make you tougher and more likely to win the next time around. If I had a dime for every time I heard someone tell me about an idea they wanted to pursue or how much they would like to give blogging a shot, without an ounce of action to follow…well, I might own a few more shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock. No one has succeeded without going through their own failures at some point. To try and to fail is much better than to never try. Why not get started early and get some of them out of the way! What’s the worst that could happen? As big wave surfer Laird Hamilton says “If you’re not falling then you’re not learning.”

8. There’s no better way to be happier than getting your expectations down. Most unhappiness comes from misaligned and unrealistic expectations of life. Expect the world of yourself, but expect nothing of the world. Then you cannot help but live your life pleasantly surprised. When I first started blogging a few years ago, I had these huge aspirations of how quickly I’d have a massive following. When it didn’t happen immediately, it got me down. Write and develop your business online with the expectation of it being a charity project to help others. Anything in addition will be icing on the cake.

9. If the only reason you find for doing something is because others are doing it then that’s not good enough. In fact, if everyone else is writing on a topic, maybe that’s the one best to avoid. Tim Ferriss is a master at evading the majority with his 4-Hour Work Week philosophy. Learn to be comfortable on your own path.

10. Decide early in life to make your money by selling things that you really believe are good for the customers. Make this a rule before you write another word to your readers or offer another product to your customers. Life is too short and your reputation too fragile to not have your audience first and foremost in your mind and in your heart. Rules like this make it very difficult to lose.

11. We’ve done a lot of stupid things but we’ve avoided a small subset of stupidity and that subset is important. It’s about avoiding the dumb things. Warren’s success does not come from doing so many things right. It comes from avoiding the things that are terribly wrong. Some say this is two sides of the same coin. It’s not. It requires a fundamental shift in psychology. The stories are endless of people who did a few things right and were massively successful, but then did something stupid that took them back to zero. Before Warren does anything, he and his partner “invert, always invert.” They list every way imaginable in which they could fail at a particular task and then take massive effort to avoid those failures. Do this for your blog or business and the success will come automatically. Always ask yourself, what would disappoint my readers or customers? Then don’t do it.

12. Go to bed a little wiser than when you woke up. This is the crux of the whole meeting. Life is about learning. If you are always learning you can never lose. Keep this as your only rule for the day and the world will be yours for the taking. There has been no better way for me to continue to add value to my readers and followers than this life maxim. Follow it and you will never run out of posts to write or people to serve.

The lessons from Warren are endless. We all stand to learn to be better people, writers and entrepreneurs from what he’s willing to share. He doesn’t charge any money or ask for anything in return. Except of course that we live a life with a burning desire to learn and do all we can to be valuable additions to society. Keep this as the foremost mission of your business or blog and your time spent will be well rewarded.

Read more action-provoking posts by Scott Dinsmore, a writer, and entrepreneur. You can read more by Scott at Reading For Your Success.

Image: The Street

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45 thoughts on “12 Life Lessons from Warren Buffett to Being a More Compassionate Writer”

  • What an incredible article! Real time rules to live by!

  • “Take the high road. It’s far less crowded.”

    A great takeaway from an excellent post. Will refer back to this on a regular basis. Nice job Scott!

  • Scott, I am very jealous of the opportunity to meet Mr Buffett. He is certainly a wise man. I personally like:

    “Go to bed a little wiser than when you woke up”

    I once read a interview with with Charlie Munger in which he talked abiout something very similar to this. I have always thought it to be a very sound piece of advice. It seems that Charlie and Warren certainly share the same sentiments. An absolutely brilliant mantra.

  • Thank you for sharing what you learned with us. I find that being true to your own path is central to happiness, peace, and success. Passion lives on our own path.

  • Great post Scott!

    I am inspired by such words of wisdom. I feel people (myself included) need this kind of motivational writing at times.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Meghan says:

    Great article, Scott! It is awesome to see you doing what you love. Your passion for learning and teaching others is apparent in everything you write.

    All the best-
    Meghan

  • S0BeUrself says:

    “Lower your expectation and you’ll succeed…”

    I swear I got this advice in high school, in regards to landing a girlfriend, haha. Never thought it would apply to writing. Great post!

  • I’m so glad it sounds like you all have found some value in what Warren had to say! I know I did.

    @ Joe: Thanks so much. I hope it serves as a useful reference going forward.

    @ Andrew: You are right. I am sure you have heard this from Charlie before. They both make it a point of mentioning just about every time they speak. Both Warren and Charlie were at the meeting and each echoed the points above. Pretty neat rule by which to live.

    @ Jean: Agreed! If I tried to follow others’ paths, I certainly would not be where I am right now.

    @ Daryl: Thanks so much. As far as I am concerned, you can never have enough. I am constantly reading and learning about all this stuff. So simple but always neat to hear someone’s new spin on it.

    @ Meghan: I’m so glad it shows. I am having a blast!

    @ SoBeUrself: Ha ha! Great connection. It’s pretty funny you mention that because one of Warren’s top pieces of lifetime advice is to “Marry up”. Be sure your mate is on a standard above your own. I certainly took his advice with my fiancee (still wondering how I got her to say yes ;). But the funny thing is that if you are marrying up then that must mean the other side is marrying down… Guess that means they should especially be following the point about expectations!

  • Dario says:

    Good Blog!
    Very well implemented the lessons of life to our daily internet

  • Doug Armey says:

    Scott:

    Great piece. Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger both have amazing things to say that relate obviously to investing but also to living more successfully.

    My favorite Buffett quote can apply to blogging also: “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.”

    We see a topic or area in blogging that is all the rage and we think, “That’s what I’ll blog about.” Yet by the time we get to it it is already saturated with A-list bloggers so we get lost in the crowd.

    Instead go after what you are excited about. Launch out in some new directions. It can be scary because nobody else is doing it. But if it truly meets peoples needs it will be successful.

    Thanks

    • Scott Dinsmore says:

      As a rule of thumb, if it’s scary then you’re doing something right! It’s very difficult to find bad fear these days, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship. Keeps you on your toes too.

      I love that Warren quote. Can be applied to so many walks of life.

      I really appreciate your comment and your interest Doug!

      Scott

  • Sandra Lee says:

    A beautiful piece. #5 jumps out at me: be exceptional. This is an excellent reminder. Thanks!

    • Scott Dinsmore says:

      And the best part about it is that you are in complete control. No excuses!

      -Scott

  • Hilary says:

    Hi Scott -I like number 7 .. struggling through something now – but I’m learning so much .. so when I get to ‘do’ something with my blog – I’ll be stronger and more able to deal with its development.

    This is an amazing post – and so sensible, yet brings so much underlying passion .. there’s so much there & we should be grateful we can read and learn from such great advice and thoughts.

    Thanks – really good to read today & hold in mind for the future .. Hilary

    • Scott Dinsmore says:

      The passion that comes from Warren and his followers is amazing. In person it’s contagious! It’s never fun to be struggling with something but as soon as you find how it can serve you, you immediately have the power to use the experience to create something great. I hope his words and this post continue to help getting you through the trials that life serves up Hilary. I really appreciate your support as well and thanks for reading.

      May we all continue to take advantage of this free education while it lasts!

      Scott

  • Fantastic article, Scott! And great advice. I especially like #10. As I begin to think more about what I can sell via my blog, I want to make sure those products are ones I believe in and always benefit the customer–useful and fairly-priced. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Thank you Ami. I just wish I could claim this advice as my own! It’s still hard to believe that advice from Warren is available to anyone who’s keen to devour it.

      Very good thinking regarding what to sell on your blog. From what I’ve learned, this is one of the last steps, not the first. Give, give, give and what you get back one day will likely be effortless and your customers will love buying it.

      Here’s to being inspired!

      Scott

  • Excellent article Scott with a number of gems.

    I particularly like #2 and how there will always be opportunities for talent, no matter how tough the times are.

    As for #1, it shows how important it is to create and maintain a sterling reputation, especially in this day and age of social media, where something negative about you can spread rapidly.

    As you say Scott, wealth can always be recreated, but reputation takes a lifetime to build and often only a moment to destroy.

    Great work – and for next year let us know how we too can meet Warren Buffett:-)

    • Thanks Arvind! I think #2 applies especially well for blogging too. When you combine talent with helping others then it truly is unstoppable. And in a recession or tough time, helping others is the best way to win on all levels. Tony Robbins always says that in a time of crisis focus all your energy on how you can help others. It will change your state, perspective and outcome in an instant.

      As for #1, you obviously know that one quite well with the following you have been getting. Excellent work!

      Good suggestion for next year’s post: How to Meet Warren. Let me go back to the drawing board on that one for a while ;).

      Thanks!
      Scott

  • Warren Buffet has been elevated to a modern role model in money making. Sure he’s got a lot of bucks but what if he had a few billion less? Would his teachings be any less in their value? His approach more run-of-the-mill?

    I think he’s over used in money circles but he’s a true asset in his self-development skills. He works hard, is diligent, stays the course and, amazingly within the financial field, employs gut instinct to guide his fortune finding. As Scott flagged he stands for good reputations, increases wealth only by fair means and has learnt from “dumb” mistakes. He’s human!.

    So I think his real worth is less about money but the standards, morals and means he uses to make it. What he gets out is what he, as a person, has more than put in.

    Highly insightful article Scott. Made me think. Made me look at myself. The type of post that’s valuable. My warm thanks.

    • So glad you found something to take home in this one John. I think your are spot on with your response. It’s old news that Warren knows how to deploy capital in a low-risk, higher long-term return type of way. Enough said there.

      Sadly all the hype around his investing, causes many non investors to never listen when he speaks, even though the great majority of the things that come out of his mouth are life lessons. Things that can change us all for the better. As you quickly learn in his Bio, The Snowball, one of Warren’s biggest dreams, aside from collecting dollar bills, was to teach as many people as he could. To have something worthwhile to say and a large audience to listen. I’d say he is living that dream even more than his investing dream. At the end of the day, that is the best thing one can do for society–teach those coming along how to live a more purposeful and fulfilling life. He hosts over 40 business school student groups a year for lunch and Q/A to do just this. And there is often little investing talk. One of his most amazing talks is the one he gave to a group of Florida MBA students. It was amazing. It’s available on Google Video and You Tube. I keep it on my iPhone. Timeless life advice.

      Enjoy!
      Scott

  • 12 great lessons Scott! I really like #11: “They list every way imaginable in which they could fail at a particular task and then take massive effort to avoid those failures.” What a great idea… something I’m going to start doing when making decisions. Thanks!

    • Thanks so much Aaron. The “failure inversion” as Warren and Charlie call it, is incredibly powerful. It takes an intentional shift in thinking, which is why most people skip over it and think it’s all about success. Invert. Always invert.

      Can’t wait to hear your results.

      Scott

  • Shivraj says:

    Thanks Scott for sharing these amazing lessons from Warren !
    Ofcourse, its obvious these lessons come from a person who has lived his life to the fullest with frugal lifestyle and unimaginable vision .

    Hats off to you, Warren !

    • You’re very welcome Shivraj. The point you make about being frugal is one of the most amazing things Buffett has stuck to. I think it has a lot to do with him being where he is.

      Scott

  • Farnoosh says:

    We love what we do as bloggers and go to bed wiser than when you wake up because life is about learning. I loved it. Buffet is of course a well-known figure of his time but what I am amazed about is his very frugal lifestyle. I should learn and follow these lessons to a T. Thank you for sharing your fabulous day’s lessons with Warren Buffet with all of us.

    • The most amazing part about his frugal lifestyle is that’s exactly how he wants it to be! It is so important to be careful what expenses and extravagances we all get used to in life because they add up and before you know it, you need some huge salary just to keep up with your cost of living. This can lead to doing something you are not passionate about and that doesn’t leverage your unique strengths simply because money is your top criteria for a job.

      Before I buy a new toy or think about adding another layer of expense to my life (even if it’s just a $10 a month membership or something like that) I always try to think about how much value this is really going to create and is it going to be worth the slightly less free lifestyle I will likely be living as a result. This is one of the main reasons people do not pursue their passions and do things like travel. It’s tragic.

      Keep your life’s requirements and expenses as simple as possible, and the compounded freedom will be amazing!

      Scott

  • bunny says:

    HI Leo,
    This is the first time i have got a chance to comment. I started reading zen habits(not regularly though, nd i dont like myself much for tht)6-8 months ago. Today i got to know about writetodone. I rarely write comments on blogs(thts a different thing that i read very few blogs). You cant even Imagine How Good i felt after reaching this page when i first saw that the latest post is about Warren Buffet. I Love him for his honesty, integrity and obviously for his busisness acumen. just finished reading a book on his life”The Snowball”. I just wish if he could be around for another 100 years (if thats a bit more then i wish atleast reaches his goal of outliving Mrs. B). About u, i like u coz you are just another guy. and i like ur ways. Like you i like Malcolm Gladwell’s writings(havent read blink yet, its lying on my book shelf). I love reading to the core, even if i have the worst vocabulary you would ever come across. And believe me i was literally elated wen u mentioned Tony’s name in the post. Another Role model for me who made it all out of nothing. If ever i do anything in life his book “Awaken the Giant within” will play a big role. Though i restrain myself before spending too much on books. I have seen debt and its daunting ! ! so i try to save as much as possible. At times it becomes a negative drain of energy for me as i try to be too clinging to my money. Maybe am cribbing but here in India, We have to save to survive, specially if our father gives us a debt of 100 thousand dollars when you just about 16-18 years of age. Its not completely finished but m trying my best.

    I plan to be a Writer/Investor long way to go i know but. I am clear about it. Only today i read Warren’s quote”investing is the best business of all…………..”its a long one in the book am currently reading on Warren. To my Sheer Delight The next Post is Titled “Godfather”, godfather was one of my first novels I have read all Puzo’s novels barring Sicilian.Feels so bad he is no more and cant write more such stuff. Again love him.

    Really like you for ur work. Power of less is still pending, havent bought it yet(you know i have to budget it all). still will love if you can recommned some good stuff to focus on the moment(I tried ekhart tole’s power of now but coudnt get much of it) even if your boss is threatning to fire you and you are the only earning person in the family.

    Sorry i ate a lot of space.
    Love ur work, Keep doing it forever.

    Soulsearching
    Bunny

    • Thanks so much for the thoughtful (and informative) response Bunny. Sounds like you have spent a lot of your time in the sames place I have–books, mentors, etc. All of it is so powerful. If you are surrounding yourself with the likes of Buffett and Tony Robbins, you should find whichever path you take quite rewarding. It sounds like your are doing exactly what you should be doing in India with your career and working off the debt. Excellent work.

      I could recommend all kinds of books for you. I read a ton and love helping others out with what to read. I recommend you spend some time on my site Reading For Your Success (www.readingforyoursuccess.com). I have written a lot of book reviews, summaries and recommendations for all things having to do with life and career success. I think the most powerful and life changing book I’ve come across is The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. It has changed my life so much for the better. Amazing. Good luck and please let me know how else I can help.

      Scott

      p.s. The Power of Now was also very influential for me. It was difficult to read but very worth it. I recommend you spend a little more time with it if you can. It’s a slow read but very powerful and so simple.

  • bunny says:

    Thanks for the reply Scott, n m sorry i thot the blog was being maintained by Leo (of Zenhabits.net). Anyways, its good that i found you, another friend who has same interests. Nd yes ! i love books but m looking for more ways to fucus on the stuff that is important to me in my life. In short, a lot of soulsearching is pending;) Will look forward to be in touch.

    Thanks n sorry once again
    Have Fun ! !
    Wishing u success (from India)
    Bunny

  • Bjorn says:

    I like this post. But the foremost reason I like it is that the author gets to know how Warren Buffet works and how his business principles can be applied to blogging.

    I’ve been a fan of Warren Buffet for six years now. There is so much about this man that many businessmen would want to emulate and I am one of those individuals.

    I like #10 and #12. #10 has a relation to my being an introvert in making and defining plans for product selling and my aggressiveness when I know that the product would really sell.

    #12 is something that I do everyday and every night before heading to bed.

    • Thanks Bjorn! That’s the amazing thing. Warren is a rock start investor but his lessons apply to every walk of life. That’s why I always encourage so many people outside of the investment space to spend time with his material. Such useful stuff.

      If you get #12 right then you really cannot go wrong…Congrats!

      Scott

  • Joe Scott says:

    It’s funny that all of these rules have the result “you’ll never lose!”

  • Thanks you Scott for this article by Warren Buffett. I had never even heard of him until today. I am Gospel Recording Artist and the part where he says, “..have your audience first and foremost in your mind and heart”, just took me away and my heart just melted. May this man of wisdom shine in this time.

    • So glad you visited Globee. There are so many amazing things to be learned from Warren! I frequently write about them and study them through his books and speeches. If you’d like any more material of his work, I have some great places to point you. Just let me know!

      Enjoy the music,
      Scott

  • LNicole says:

    Hi Scott,

    I read this post when it first came out (I even saved the newsletter it first appeared in). I cannot tell you how many times I’ve ‘googled’ it to reference it over and over again. It’s definitely one of my all time favourite posts.

  • It is not justice in saying as Article, but I would say it’s a Bible/Bhagwadgita,etc. It is really followable by everybody and simply do it.

    Prahlad Sankarabandi
    Mumbai, India

  • NABIHA SAIF says:

    very helpful article…. we came to know Mr.Buffett in a brighter way =)

  • kathleen kate says:

    i idolized him so much….his philosophy towards life gives me determination to pursue what i really want..living a simple life does not depend on money it on myself…

  • Randell says:

    I have read so many articles about the blogger lovers but this article is truly a good piece of writing, keep
    it up.
    Randell recently posted..RandellMy Profile

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