Warren Buffett says this is what he’d do to live a happier life—if he
could live all over again
Published Sat, Aug 10 2019 9:01 AM EDTUpdated Sat, Aug 10 2019 9:48 AM EDT Marcel Schwantes, Contributor
If you’re like most people, you probably have a long list of things
you’d do differently if you had a second shot at life.
But Warren Buffett? Not so much.
In 1998, at a lecture he gave at the University of Florida’s School of Business, an MBA student asked Buffett: “What would you do to live a
happier life — if you could live all over again? ”
“This will sound disgusting,” the Berkshire Hathaway CEO joked, “but the only thing would be to select a gene pool where people lived to 120 or something where I came from.”
While Buffett’s answer might sound simple at first, the rest of his
response revealed that his personal philosophy about happiness has very
little to do with longevity.
In fact, if he was given the option to go back and live life “all over again,” he probably wouldn’t take it.
Buffett is best suited for the society he’s in now
The Oracle of Omaha took great care in laying out a scenario to
illustrate how “extraordinarily lucky” he already feels today.
He told the audience to imagine a barrel with roughly 5.8 billions of
balls — one for everybody in the world. Each ball will determine
important factors (e.g., your birthplace, IQ level, gender, ethnicity,
skills, parents) in your “new life.”
“If you could put your ball back into the barrel, and they took out 100
balls at random — and you had to from pick one of those, would you put
your ball back in?” he asked.
In addition to not knowing which ball you’ll get, there’s another catch: “Of those 100 balls, five of them will be American. So if you want to be
in this country, you’ll only have five balls to choose from,” Buffett explained. “Half of them will be women and half men. Half of them will
be below average in intelligence and half above average in intelligence.”
He asked the students again: Do you still want to risk taking a second
shot at life?
“Most of you won’t want to put your ball back,” he said. “So what you’re
really saying is, ’I’m the luckiest 1% of the world right now, sitting
in this room — the top 1% of the world.”
And that’s exactly how Buffett feels. “I’m lucky to be born where I was because it was 50 to one in the United States when I was born. I’ve been lucky to be wired in a way that, in a market economy, pays off like
crazy for me,” he said.
You don’t need ‘luck’ to be happy
Buffett acknowledged that not everyone is as lucky as he is because it
all depends on the system that one is born into.
”[Bill] Gates says that if I’d been born three million years ago, I would’ve been some animal’s lunch. He says, ‘You can’t run very fast, you can’t climb trees, you can’t do anything. You’d just be chewed up
the first day,’” said Buffett.
He closed the lecture by encouraging everyone to think about happiness
from a more practical standpoint: None of us can live life all over
again, but we can increase our overall happiness by choosing to make
changes in our career, goals, finances, health and relationships.
“The way to do it is to play out the game and do something you enjoy all
your life,” he said. “Be associated with people you like. I only work
with people I like. If I could make $100 million dollars with a guy who
causes my stomach to churn, I’d say no.”
He continued: “I urge you to work in jobs you love. You’re out of your
mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it’ll look good on your resume.”
Do what you love. It sounds easy when you’re one of the world’s richest people, but to be fair, Buffett was already doing what he loves long
before he became successful.
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