As a child, Buffett always had an entrepreneurial spirit within him. When Buffett was in elementary school, he would sell packs of gum to his classmates, and when he gained enough profits from that, Buffett began selling Coca Cola cans. From this business, Buffett earned enough money to purchase his first stock in Cities Service Preferred at the mere age of 11.
This stock ended up falling almost 29% in its first few months in Buffett's possession. However, Buffett remained patient and watched it rebound as he sold it for a 5% profit. This was foreshadowing of great things to come for the man known as the greatest investor of all time.
At the age of 19, Buffett read the infamous book Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. This opened Buffett's eyes significantly to the world of investing as he proclaimed this book "the best book on investing ever written." After learning that Graham taught at Columbia Business School, Buffett enrolled at that institution to study for his graduate degree under Graham. The founder of Home Depot, Ken Langone, also had a life changing experience in college which he shares in his book I Love Capitalism!: An American Story.
Buffett and Graham developed a great relationship, and Graham became Buffett's mentor. Under Graham, Buffett started finding great success in investing. However, plainly stating that Buffett found great success is an understatement. Throughout his tenure in college, Buffett made over $100,000, which would be worth approximately 1 million dollars today. For more on creating a business on your own read the book The Million Dollar One Person Business.
After college, Buffett worked on Wall Street as an investment salesman for a few years before starting a partnership with a few friends and family. Buffett would utilize Graham's strategies of value investing to buy and sell his investments. By the end of his tenure, he had opened up 7 partnerships, which he later merged into one called Partnership Limited. From this, he had already made himself a millionaire at the age of 30. Another young success is Michael Masterson who tells his story and strategies in his book Ready Fire Aim.
During his time at Partnership Limited, Buffett bought an aggressive amount of stock in a textile company called Berkshire Hathaway, motivated to own the company and change the management. Buffett did just that, and he discovered that the dying textile industry was not an ideal place for this company. Instead, Buffett transformed the business into a holding company. If pivoting, innovating or expanding a business is of interest, you’ll want to read The Innovator’s Dilemma.
This turned out to be the best move for Buffett and the business. As it began investing in small stocks, it grew steadily as a profitable holding company. Now, with Buffett's leadership, Berkshire Hathaway is the number 1 holding company in the world. Ironically, however, is the fact Buffett states that investing in Berkshire Hathaway was "the dumbest stock I ever bought."
Even the best fail. Buffett admits his wrongdoings without shame or embarrassment because he knows these failures helped him adapt his strategies to adhere to his personal strengths. This is something that Jocko Willink fully supports and talks about in great length in his book Extreme Ownership.
Buffett has lost billions of dollars for himself and his investors in wrong investments. His worst to date was an investment in a shoe company called Dexter's Shoe Company, where Buffett saw a profitable upside. However, as it turns out, Dexter's cheap imported foreign shoes turned out to be a disaster for Buffett and its shareholders as it lost Buffett almost 3.5 billion dollars. The book Antifragile is all about using failures to build better. That is what Warren Buffett through and through.
Buffett has since established firmly his popular phrase: “Rule number 1: never lose money. Rule number 2: never forget rule number 1.” This point is discussed in great detail in the amazingly entertaining rollercoaster book What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars.
Buffett’s life is a lesson in itself. He is a model that we should all strive to imitate. Throughout his life, Buffett would establish a goal, and then he would work tirelessly to accomplish that goal. As supported by Napoleon Hill in his book Think & Grow Rich.
Buffett’s life is inspirational in so many ways, and he is still inspiring people like me today. His principles of staying focused, efficient, and persistent should remain with you throughout your life’s highs and lows. Ultimately, the lessons in this book can be applied to any area of interest in life because they apply to more than just investing, they apply to life as well.
Buffett beginning his investing track record so early is comparable to Bill Gates beginning his computer activities at a young age. Both men are what Malcolm Galdwell wrote about in his book Outliers. Malcolm helps define how success happens.