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The hours I spent with Warren Buffett, Richard Branson and other legends

Peter Switzer
28 November 2020

Last Saturday I got to spend over an hour with Warren Buffett, which got me thinking about the value of hanging out with the right crowd. The Saturday before, I spent an hour with Richard Branson. How was I so lucky?

That’s simple — I chose to get lucky! You see, for about 12 Saturdays in a row, because we haven’t been able to visit our financial advice office and family in Melbourne since March 22, I’ve been recruited by wife to be the labourer on her gardening great ideas.

I should’ve worked out when she got me to find all the Monty Don gardening TV programmes on Foxtel that, one day, it would come back to enslave me in weekend ‘love’ jobs. And she kept reading all those Paul Bangay garden books! And while I like the physical consequences of pulling out trees, toting pots and shovelling manure — which produce a good night’s sleep — I still want a mental pay-off.

So to make my “12 weekends as a slave” experience even better, I’ve tuned into YouTube interviews, which gives another meaning to the product smartphones.

So of late, I’ve not only hung out with Warren and Sir Richard but have learnt from Steve Jobs, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Seth Godin, Jim Collins, Denzel Washington, Paul Tudor Jones, Ray Dalio and a whole lot of really smart/successful people who are happy to share their insights with me.

These people give you unforgettable pearls of wisdom that you can remember and then use as a beacon or a check to make you head in the right direction.

And if I wasn’t talked into the benefits of self-improvement from US motivational speakers and thinkers (Anthony Robbins and John Maxwell) when one of my gigs was the Small Business Editor for The Australian, which meant I had to hang out with the good company, I wouldn’t have got a great competitive advantage at building a business, a brand and my wealth.

I’ve used this old line before from the golfer Gary Player but it’s so apt, even if he got it from Arnie Palmer: “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.”

I’ve learnt to practice spending more and more time with successful people, even if it’s only virtual.

Here are some of the unforgettable sharings from these great outliers:

Buffett: “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.” (I learnt this years ago and it’s a real money-maker and it helped after March 23 and has resulted in my best half-year trading ever.)

Buffett recently on what to avoid: “Avoid buying a stock merely because you think it's going to increase in price. That's because even the best investors aren't able to predict how the market will perform. Remember you are buying part of the businesses.”

Branson: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Jobs: “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”

Schwarzenegger: “The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.”

Godin: “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”

Collins: “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice.”

Washington: “Do what you have to do, to do what you want to do.”

Tudor Jones: “The secret to being successful from a trading perspective is to have an indefatigable and an undying and unquenchable thirst for information and knowledge.”

Dalio: “If you're not failing, you're not pushing your limits, and if you're not pushing your limits, you're not maximizing your potential…”

Before he became famous as the author of Built to Last and Good to Great, Jim Collins was an aspiring business academic who had no connections in business. So accessing a mentor wasn’t easy. So he created a virtual board of advisers by reading the books of the greats of the business writing world and he imagined that they were talking to him. And by the way, many of these business biographies are written that way, such that when I read Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson, it felt like he was sharing his story of someone who was trying to build his business, with me.

I made notes all over that book and can still recall the insights, tips and strategies I got from that time I decided to spend with Richard.

And this is the point: Collins said above greatness or success is a matter of “choice”.

This Black Friday we gave a 50% discount on my Join the Rich Club book and I’m hoping the price cut to $12.50 will make the price lure low enough that those who might live the rest of their money life with no positive, mentoring influences will actually join the dots.

Dots? What dots? These I’ve provided for anyone who wants success or greatness in wealth-building, business growth, career advancement or simply being a better or fitter person. These dots will help you get better results:

  • Ask yourself what you really want.
  • Do a SWOT on yourself and if relevant on the business or career you want to make greater.
  • Use this to make a plan, that you write down and see every day.
  • Seek help to make it happen to make your strengths stronger and to KO your weaknesses and obstacles that will hurt your competitive advantage.
  • ACTION the plan.
  • Monitor objectively how you are going.
  • Keep committed to self-improvement and plan improvement.

Do all this and you’ll be greater and richer. And if you bring those who you love along for the exciting ride, you will, in all likelihood be happier!

I strongly recommend that you look forward with the eye on the prize but you have to look back to learn from mistakes and successes. And when you try to learn from others, you are looking back.

As Steve Jobs told us: “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

And you have to trust yourself to have the guts to make changes because as the old saying goes: “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”

One more I need to throw in, in case I’ve got you motivated. This is one of the best you should commit to memory and share with all the people you lead: “'Don't wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don't wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don't wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.”

How right am I about hanging out with and learning from the best?

This weekend as I sweat it out in our garden I’ll be thinking about the seeds for success we will continue to plant and what we will do make them grow like topsy.

I can’t wait! What will you be doing this weekend that will make you greater? Hopefully, as a start, you’ll be reading this!

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