This weekend I read Warren Buffett’s 2014 overview letter to his shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Turning the final page I knew that I would never see my life, passions, relationships, and businesses the same.
You can find a copy of it here.
Buffett is known for these letters and I’ve read them before, but there was something about this one that struck a chord deep inside of me. Was it his 84 year old flame of passion that felt as bright and warm as ever? Or was it his simplistic approach to life, relationships, and business that spoke to me? Maybe the student was finally ready and the teacher appeared…
In the last 50 years, Buffett’s simple, non-compromising approach to business, investments, and people has taken the per-share book value of Berkshire Hathaway from $19 to $146,186, a rate of 19.4% compounded annually…an overall gain of 1,826,163%.
I underlined the following lines from his letter…
- “Our ambitions have no finish lines.”
- “Our participation in any joint activities, whether as financing or equity partner, will be limited to friendly transactions.”
- “Berkshire now owns 9 1/2 companies that would be listed on the Fortune 500 were they independent (Heinz is the 1/2). That leaves 490 1/2 fish in the sea. Our lines are out.”
- We much prefer owning a non-controlling but substantial portion of a wonderful company to owning 100% of a so-so business. It’s better to have a partial interest in the Hope Diamond than to own all of a rhinestone.
- When CEOs tout EBITDA as a valuation guide, wire them up for a polygraph test.
Don’t these make you smile?
And yet you never hear a greedy tone in the symphony discussed that the fourth wealthiest man in the world has directed for 50 years. He ends his letter praising the 24 men and women that he works with everyday and says, “I truly do feel like tap dancing to work everyday.” Yes, even Buffett gets the idea of gathering musicians and their instruments and letting their collective music play.
He plans on giving away 99% of his earthly wealth when he and his essence take this show over the rainbow. Buffett once said, “Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks (Berkshire Hathaway stock certificates) on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others.” Here’s his letter making that commitment and here’s his friends that have also confessed that meaning > money.
Crazy-beautiful things happen when you give simplicity, goodness, patience, kindness, self-control, and conviction the pen to author your days.