Berkshire Hathaway 2003 Annual Meeting Audience Question # 12

How Warren and Charlie define success

Warren Buffett:

Number 1?

Audience Member:

Hello, Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger. My name is Justin Fung. I am 13 years old, from California. This is my third consecutive year in attendance.

First of all, I would like to wish you the best of health so we can continue to come to Omaha for many years to come.

Warren Buffett:

Thank you.

Audience Member:

Thank you for answering my question on friendship last year. My question this year is, how do you define success and happiness? Are they related? And how would one achieve that? Thank you.

Warren Buffett:

Well, I tell college students that when you get to be my age, you will be successful if the people that you would hope to have love you, do love you.

I mean, you… if… Charlie and I know a few people that have got a lot of money, and they get testimonial dinners, and they get their names on buildings, and the truth is, nobody loves them.

And you know, not their family, not the people who name the buildings after them. You know, it’s sad.

And it’s… unfortunately, you know, it’s something you can’t buy. I mean, Charlie and I have talked a lot of times, if we could just buy a million dollars’ worth of love, you know, I mean? It would be so much more satisfactory than to try and be lovable.

But it doesn’t work that way, you know?

The only way to be loved is to be lovable. It’s… and I hate to tell you that at 13, and… but the nice thing about it, of course, is that, you know, you always get back more than you give.

I don’t know whether it was Oscar Hammerstein or who said, you know, “A bell’s not a bell till you ring it, a song’s not a song till you sing it. Love in the heart isn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.” And basically you’ll always get back more than you give away.

And if you don’t give any, you don’t get any. It’s very simple.

I don’t know anybody my age that is loved by a lot of people… we had a dinner the other night, Don Keough was there… everybody loves Don Keough, you know, and for good reason.

And there is nobody I know that has… that commands the love of people around them, people they work with, their family, and their neighbors— that is other than a success or feels other than a success.

I don’t know how the people feel that… where they know that nobody loves them, but I can’t believe they feel very good.

So it’s very simple. You can’t get rid of love. If you try to give it out, you get it back more than you’ve given. And it’s the best thing.

Charlie, what do you speak for?

Charlie Munger:

Well, you don’t want to be like the motion picture executive in California, and they said the funeral was so large because everybody wanted to make sure he was dead.

And there’s a similar story about the minister saying at the funeral, “Won’t anybody stand up and say a good word for the deceased?” And there was this long silence, and finally one guy stood up and he said, “Well,” he said, “his brother was worse.”

Warren Buffett:

Look, I would say this. Look around at, you know, people older than you are, look around at, you know, your older relatives or whatever, and you will not see a… an unhappy person who is loved by those around them.

I mean it… and it’s… most people in this room are going to do very well financially. Most of the college students I talk to are going to do well financially.

And some of them are going to have very few friends… real friends… as they get older, and others, people won’t be able to do enough for.

And I see it around me all the time. So that’s our advice for the day on that.

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Q&A with Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger: A Compilation of All Shareholder Questions and Answers from The Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meetings

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