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2008: If Buffett and Munger started over again, what profession would they choose and why?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi. I’m Richard Rentrop from Bonn, Germany.
At the moment I attend high school and would like your wisdom on how to approach the question of what to do with the rest of my life. So — (Laughter)
WARREN BUFFETT: We prefer things a little more difficult than that if you’re got a — (Laughter)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So, Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger, if you were about to start all over again, what profession would you choose and why?
WARREN BUFFETT: Well, I would choose what I do because, A, I have fun at it. I’m reasonably good at it. You know, I meet a lot of interesting people through it. No heavy lifting. You know, it — it’s — it fits me.
It doesn’t — but that — that’s not advice for you. I mean, you have to find out what really — what’s your passion in life?
You know, it’s a terrible mistake to kind of sleepwalk through your life, because unless Shirley MacLaine is right, you know, it’s the only one you’re going to have.
And the — so I’ve — I was very lucky in that I found my passion early. I mean, I — that’s not easy. You know, that takes some luck.
It just so happened my dad was in a business at a very small office and he had a bunch of books down there. And when I would go down there on Saturday or after school, I would start reading those books, and it turned me on.
And this was before Playboy actually existed. (Laughter)
And so, you know, that was just plain lucky, you know. If he’d been a minister, I’m not so sure I would have been quite so enthused about visiting the office. (Laughter)
But that’s the way to go. And I can’t prescribe that for you. But I can tell you that if you’re going through the motions in life, you’re doing something — now, obviously, if you need the job you have and you can’t make a change and your kids have to eat and all of that, you deal with realities like that.
But when you’re in a position to make choices, you know, I always tell the kids that come visit me, I tell them, “Go to work for an organization you admire or an individual you admire.”
That means many of them become self-employed, but they — (Laughter)
The idea — you know, you can’t get a bad result. I went to work for Ben Graham when I was 24. I only worked for him for less than two years, but I jumped out of bed every day in the morning.
I was excited about what I was going to do. I was learning things. I was with a man I admired. I never asked my salary when I took that job. I moved to New York City and found out what my salary was when I got the check.
So just be sure you — and be sure and get the right spouse. That’s enormously important.
You know, as Charlie says, the problem, you know, is that we talk about that fellow that spent 20 years looking for the perfect woman, and then he found her, and unfortunately she was looking for the perfect man. So you may have a problem in that respect. (Laughter)
But it’s enormously important who you marry. I mean, it’s a huge, huge, huge decision.
And, you know, if you’re lucky in a couple things like that, you’re going to have a happy life.
And you’re going to behave better as you go along. I mean, it’s a lot easier to behave well when things are going your way and you are enjoying your work and you like the — you’re thinking about things every day that are the kind of things that you like to think about.
And Charlie has a lot better advice than I have about it. Go to it.
CHARLIE MUNGER: Well, of course, you’ll do better if you develop a passion for something in which you have a considerable aptitude. I think if Warren had gone into the ballet — (laughter) - nobody would have ever heard of him.
WARREN BUFFETT: Oh, I think they’d have heard of me, just in a different way, Charlie. (Laughter)
Well, the chances are, if you find something that turns you on, you probably do have some talent for it. I mean, it — I never — I don’t think I could have gotten turned on by ballet. (Laughs)