Here are the life principles that made Warren Buffett so successful in life, business, and happiness. He has explained them in his own words over the years.
Start building wealth as early as possible.
“Life is like a snowball, all you need is wet snow and a really long hill.” — Warren Buffett
“On me personally what has been the most important was to understand the value of time — and this is something that has come from observing him, learning his story and that time compounds. What you do when you are young (and as you use time over your life) can have an exponential effect so that if you are thoughtful about it, you can really have powerful results later, if you want to.” ― Alice Schroeder, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life 
“If you are investing in your education and you are learning, you should do that as early as you possibly can, because then it will have time to compound over the longest period. And that the things you do learn and invest in should be knowledge that is cumulative, so that the knowledge builds on itself. So instead of learning something that might become obsolete tomorrow, like some particular type of software [that no one even uses two years later], choose things that will make you smarter in 10 or 20 years. That lesson is something I use all the time now.” -Warren Buffett
“My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest.” — Warren Buffett
Never underestimate the power of compounding returns on investments and your own time used with consistent efforts. Compounding is one of the most powerful principles that will make you rich.
Learn about the principles of accounting.
“Accounting numbers, of course, are the language of business and as such are of enormous help to anyone evaluating the worth of a business and tracking its progress. Charlie and I would be lost without these numbers: they invariably are the starting point for us in evaluating our own businesses and those of others. Managers and owners need to remember, however, that accounting is but an aid to business thinking, never a substitute for it.” — Warren Buffett
“Accounting is the language of business, and you have to be as comfortable with that as you are with your own native language to really evaluate businesses. Accounting tells you a lot and it can be used in many ways to deceive. You saw it in Enron, for example. But you really have to understand what can be down with accounting when it gives you correct answers and when it gives you wrong answers.” — Warren Buffett
If you want to understand finance you must learn accounting to speak the language of business.
Study many stocks but only pick a few to invest in.
Buffett researches every stock he has any interest in but he only buys a very few, and only then when he gets a good price on a great company. Of those few that he does buy a very small amount of those picks have created the bulk of his lifetime returns. The lesson is to be very picky with what you finally buy and put capital to work with in the stock market.
There are some intangible things Buffett looks for that you can’t put in a stock screener.
- When buying a stock he sees it as buying a business and he wants to buy future consistent cash flows for a discounted price.
- He wants the company to have high quality management and a competitive edge that is not easy to reproduce.
- He wants a company with a business that has a high barrier to entry for new competitors.
- The ability of a company to both maintain and grow earnings and dividends without the help of debt.
- A company that has a type of monopoly with their technology, business model, or brand strength.
- Pricing strength that can keep up with inflation.
There are also some quantifiable fundamentals that you can put in a stock screener from Mary Buffett’s book Buffetology:
- Market Capitalization is >= $300 million US
- Current Operating Margin % is >= industry’s current median.
- Current Net Margin % is >= industry’s current median.
- 3 year earnings per share growth % from operations is >= 7 year per share growth % from operations.
- Latest filing return on equity % is > 12%.
- 7 year average return on equity % is > 12%.
- Long term debt < 5x earnings.
- Take the top 50 stocks with the highest 7 year earnings per sales growth % from operations.
This stock screen can help you find stocks that even Warren Buffett would buy and hold, hopefully forever, if their fundamentals don’t change.
Be careful with college debt.
Does Warren Buffett think business school is worth it?
“It depends on the person much more than it depends on the school. Some people are going to get a lot out of advanced education, and some people are going to get very little. I don’t even think it’s important that every person go to college at all. It’s a big commitment, to take the four years involved, the cost involved, maybe the loans involved, depending on what your interests are in life, I don’t think college is for everybody.” — Warren Buffett
The answer to whether you should go to college is the question: “What are your goals and why are you going?” It seems Buffett puts purpose before decisions and actions while looking at college as an investment you may or may not need for the future depending on your life goals.
Find your passion in life first, then the money will find you.
“Without passion, you don’t have energy. Without energy, you have nothing.” — Warren Buffett
“No CEO has it better; I truly do feel like tap dancing to work every day.” — Warren Buffett
Passion gives you the energy to accomplish your goals. If you want to win in any business you better love what you do more than your competitors or they will outwork you.
Seize opportunities aggressively when you have the chance.
“Opportunities come infrequently. When it rains gold, put out the bucket, not the thimble.” — Warren Buffett
“The main mistakes we’ve made—some of them big time are ones when we didn’t invest at all, even when we understood it was cheap; and starting in on an investment and not maximizing it. We’re more likely to make mistakes of omission, not commission.” — Warren Buffett
In life, when you’re given a favorable risk/reward ratio that’s skewed in your favor by a great degree take that bet with a large investment of capital when the probability of a win is high and the magnitude of the payoff is great.
You are your most valuable investment. Invest your time and energy wisely.
In his essay for “Getting There”, Buffett explains the importance of taking care of your mind and body.
“Let’s say that I offer to buy you the car of your dreams. You can pick out any car that you want, and then when you get out of class this afternoon, that car will be waiting for you at home.”
“As with most things in life, there’s just one catch: It’s the only car you’re ever going to get-in your entire life.”
“You’re probably going to read the owner’s manual four times before you drive it; you’re going to keep it in the garage, protect it at all times, change the oil twice as often as necessary,” says Buffett. “If there’s the least little bit of rust, you’re going to get that fixed immediately so it doesn’t spread — because you know it has to last you as long as you live.”
“The position you’re in with your car is exactly the position you’re in concerning your mind and body.”
“In other words, the way you treat your car should be no different than the way you treat your body.”
“You have only one mind and one body for the rest of your life,” Buffett says. “If you aren’t taking care of them when you’re young, it’s like that car out in hail leavingstorms and letting rust eat away at it. If you don’t take care of your mind and body now, by the time you’re 40 or 50, you’ll be like a car that can’t go anywhere.”
Invest time in maintaining your health and mind as they are your most important assets.
Surround yourself with winners.
“You want to associate with people who are the kind of person you’d like to be. You’ll move in that direction. And the most important person by far in that respect is your spouse. Mary the right person. I’m serious about that. It will make more difference in your life. It will change your aspirations, all kinds of things.” — Warren Buffett
“One of the best things you can do in life is to surround yourself with people who are better than you are.” If you’re around what he calls “high-grade people,” you’ll start acting more like them. Conversely, “If you hang around with people who behave worse than you, pretty soon you’ll start being pulled in that direction. That’s just the way it seems to work.” — Warren Buffett
If you want to see your future look at the group of people you spend the most time with by choice. Meet, befriend and hang out with people that you aspire to be like or you are on the same journey with. Don’t underestimate the power of influence your closest relationships have on your life trajectory whether good or bad.
Buffett explained his own life path clearly in these above principles.