Aphorisms by Warren Buffett

The other day I found a signed copy of Thoughts of Chairman Buffett by Warren Buffett at one of the used bookstalls underneath Waterloo Bridge in London. In the introduction, I learned that if I had invested $10,000 with Mr. Buffett in 1956 my money would have grown to $80,000,000 today. That would be just about enough, I think.

Buffett got an early start in business. As a teenager, he wrote a horse racing tip sheet, and by the time he left high school, in 1947, he had saved $5,000. His mentor in investing was Benjamin Graham, author of the classic The Intelligent Investor. Buffett built his investment business on the principles of that book, the basics of which are: invest only in companies you understand, and invest for the long term. He once averred that the stock market did not exist; “It is there only as a reference to see if anybody is offering to do anything foolish.” When asked once when he planned to retire, he replied: “About five to ten years after I die.” Some of the thoughts of the inestimable chairman:

Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls-Royce to get advice from those who take the subway.

We’ve done better by avoiding dragons rather than by slaying them.

A great investment opportunity occurs when a marvelous business encounters a onetime huge but solvable problem.

The fact that people will be full of greed, fear, or folly is predictable. The sequence is not predictable.

It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.