Rich in dollars, what about everything else?

I recently finished reading Alice Schroeder’s extraordinarily well written and researched biography of Warren Buffett.  It is called “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life.” There is plenty of business in the book, but I was more interested in the man.  Although anyone who knows anything about Buffett couldn’t be surprised, I was repelled by his personality and approach to life. Several characteristics especially stood out for me: His obsession with making money, the resulting  inattention to his family, his philandering, and his fascination with fame and wealth–not only his own but that of others such as Bill Gates. I also was impressed with two anecdotes recounted early in the volume. One concerned his door-to-door sales as a five- or six-year-old of five-cent packs of chewing gum.  When one woman tried to purchase a single piece for a penny, Warren — we’re now on first-name basis after I finished the 707 pages of text — reasoned that he then would have to make four more sales for the remainder than for the single sale of a whole pack.  So he declined and walked away.

Yep, that’s him too.

The second anecdote (of many that I could cite) involves his entrepreneurship even while in high school (or perhaps earlier — I don’t quite recall).  He had taken on a newspaper route in a clubby community of Washington, D.C. near Massachusetts Avenue, adding routes and then other deliverers.  He thereby had a delivery business that made him more money than many adults of the day. According to Schroeder, Warren ultimately figured that it was much easier to have money do the work for him in life than to labor for money.  It’s a nice idea, but it ignores that hard work is hard work whether physical or intellectual. I’d love to be rich, too, but I don’t see how the sacrifices he and his family made were worth the price. To me, the cliché about stopping to smell the roses applies.  That’s why I’m more persuaded than ever to act accordingly while reminding myself of one of the key reasons that I gave up my real estate business in the Washington, D.C. area to return “home” to New York City and start all over again. That is, as much as I enjoy working, I need to spend more time with long-time friends and partake of all that the Big Apple has to offer. Thus did I give up — really, give up? — Saturday afternoon to spend time looking at art in Chelsea.

For renewing my perspective on the priorities in my own life, I have to thank Alice Schroeder and her subject.

Whether you need a fresh perspective and whatever you think of Warren Buffett, I cannot recommend “The Snowball” too highly. Subscribe by Email

Malcolm Carter Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker Senior Vice President Charles Rutenberg Realty 127 E. 56th Street New York, NY 10022 M: 347-886-0248 F: 347-438-3201 Malcolm@ServiceYouCanTrust.com Web site

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