Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Learn from mistakes

We bought it because it was an attractive security. But it was not in an attractive industry. I did the same thing in Salomon. I bought an attractive security in a business I wouldn't have bought the equity in. So you could say that is one form of mistake. Buying something because you like the terms, but you don't like the business that well. I have done that in the past and will probably do that again. The bigger mistakes are the ones of omission ...... I will say this, it is better to learn from other people's mistakes as much as possible. But we don't spend any time looking back at Berkshire. I have a partner, Charlie Munger; we have been pals for forty years¡ªnever had an argument. We disagree on things a lot but we don't have arguments about it.

We never look back. We just figure there is so much to look forward to that there is no sense thinking of what we might have done. It just doesn't make any difference. You can only live life forward. You can learn something perhaps from the mistakes, but the big thing to do is to stick with the businesses you understand. So if there is a generic mistake outside your circle of competence like buying something that somebody tips you on or something of the sort. In an area you know nothing about, you should learn something from that which is to stay with what you can figure out yourself. You really want your decision making to be by looking in the mirror. Saying to yourself, "I am buying 100 shares of General Motors at $55 because¡­¡­.." It is your responsibility if you are buying it. There's gotta be a reason and if you can't state the reason, you shouldn't buy it. If it is because someone told you about it at a cocktail party, not good enough. It can't be because of the volume or a reason like the chart looks good. It has to be a reason to buy the business. That we stick to pretty carefully. That is one of the things Ben Graham taught me.

Excerpt from "Buffett Talk to MBA Students at Florida University 1998."

  • Learn from every mistake - your own mistakes and others'; but preferrably much more from others than from yours
  • Look forward to what to do next time when the same situation appears after learning from mistakes
  • Disagree but don't argue


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