Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Snowball

I’m reading a biography of Warren Buffett. The biography is The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder (Bantam press, September 2008). After seeing an end-cap display of supposed Warren Buffett biographies in Barnes and Nobles, which did not include this volume, I thought I should weigh in. The blogosphere needs me, I though. Well, that, and nothing happened today.
Buffett selected Schroeder as his biographer and gave her unprecedented access to his papers, people, and time. Schroeder, former managing director at Morgan Stanley, is able to weave together detailed stories of acquisitions, mergers, and business makeovers with personal accounts of Buffett’s obsessive behavior, complete neglect of his family, and close personal and business friendships. I’m only 500 pages into the over 900 page book, but I already feel as if I have known a friend of Warren Buffett for years.
Let me say this about Buffett: as with every other genius I have had the pleasure of learning about or living with, obsession, dedication, and impossible focus appear to be requirements for true greatness. Without them, a person is simply smart, intuitive, lucky, successful, or learned. Buffett’s single mindedness with business allowed him to form incredibly deep working relationships, a fundamental understanding of gauging the health of a business, and imaginative ways to grow his own share of the wealth he created for his partners, family, and friends. Even when framed in a life of world travel and a child-rearing, Buffett’s dedication to his money obsession is perfect.
Even when asked about his estranged wife today, he didn’t fully seem to grasp how he had lost her. Back in the 70’s, he didn’t understand that her move to San Francisco was estrangement (and that she had chosen and installed her replacement to care for him).
Over all, when I dump this heavy book down on my grandfather’s bedside table, I can’t help but think I’m just not pulling me own weight. Sure, Buffett is a genius and driven and unbalanced; but the first step is so simple: start a business. When it fails (or succeeds), do it again. In my case, I think I’ll pay a lot more attention to my partner, though.
Now, where did I put that idea machine?

1 comment:

-m said...

I have ideas!! Just no time or money. I suppose Buffett has a recommendation for that, right?