Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger on friendship

From 2002 Berkshire Hathaway’s Annual Meeting:

Question: Hello, Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger. I am 12 years old. […] My question is not about money. It’s about friendship. How do you remain friends and business partners for so long? And what advice do you have for young people like me in selecting true friends and future business partners? Thank you.

Buffett: Well, when Charlie and I met in 1959 we were introduced by the Davis family, and they predicted that within 30 minutes we would either not be able to stand each other or we would get along terrifically.

And that was a fairly insightful analysis, actually, by the Davises, because you had two personalities that both had some tendencies toward dominance in certain situations.

But we hit it off. We have disagreed, but we have never had an argument that I can remember at all in 43 years.

And yet we both have strong opinions and they aren’t the same strong opinions at times.

But the truth is we’ve had an enormous amount of fun together, we continue to have an enormous amount of fun, and nothing will change that, basically.

It may have worked better because he’s in California and I’m in Omaha, I don’t know.

I’ll let Charlie comment on it.

Munger: Well, that’s a wonderful question you’ve asked, because Warren and I both know some very successful businessmen who have not one true friend on earth. And rightly so.

Buffett: That’s true.

Munger: And that is no way to live a life. And if by asking that question, you’re asking: how do I get the right friends? You are really onto the right question.

And when you get with the right friends, if you’ve worked hard at becoming the right sort of fellow, I think you’ll recognize what you have and then all you have to do is hang on.

Buffett: The real question is: what do you like in other people? I mean, what do you want from a friend?

And if you’ll think about it, there are certain qualities that you admire in other people, that you find likeable, and that cause you to want to be around certain people.

And then look at those qualities and say to yourself, “Which of these is it physically or mentally impossible for me to have?” And the answer will be none.

I mean, it’s only reasonable that if certain things that attract you to other people that, if you possess those, they will attract other people to you.

And secondarily, if you find certain things repulsive in other people — whether they brag or they’re dishonest or whatever it may be — if that turns you off, it’s going to turn other people off if you possess those qualities.

And those are choices. You know, very few of those things are in your DNA. They are choices.

And they are also habits. I mean, if you have habits that attract people early on, you’ll have them later on. And if you have habits that repel people, you’re not going to cure it when you’re 60 or 70.

Buffett: It’s not a complicated equation. And, as I remember, Benjamin Franklin did something like that one time. Didn’t he list the qualities he admired, and then just set out to acquire them?

Munger: Absolutely. He went at it the way you’ve gone after acquiring money.

Buffett: They’re not mutually exclusive.

Munger: No [they are not].

Their advice in a nutshell:

  1. Figure out the qualities that you like in other people. They are the kind of friends you want
  2. Be the person that has the very same qualities that you admire in other people. Why? Because having those qualities will likely attract like-minded and like-behaved people to you — the friends you are looking for!
  3. Once you have them, simply hang on

They also threw in the conversation some other interesting observations about themselves, and human nature in general:

In Towards Greatness
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