Charlie Munger: "Every mischance in life was an opportunity to learn something. | USC 2007【Ep.172】

Charlie Munger: "Every mischance in life was an opportunity to learn something. | USC 2007【Ep.172】



CHARLIE MUNGER: Another thing, of course, is life will have terrible blows, horrible blows, unfair blows. Doesn’t matter. And some people recover and others don’t. And there I think the attitude of Epictetus is the best. He thought that every mischance in life was an opportunity to behave well. Every mischance in life was an opportunity to learn something and your duty was not to be submerged in self-pity, but to utilize the terrible blow in a constructive fashion. That is a very good idea.

And you may remember the epitaph which Epictetus left for himself: “Here lies Epictetus, a slave, maimed in body, the ultimate in poverty, and favored of the gods.”

Well, that’s the way Epictetus is now remembered. He said big consequences. And he was favorite of the Gods! He was favored because he became wise, and he became manly. Very good idea.

I got a final little idea because I’m all for prudence as well as opportunism. My grandfather was the only federal judge in his city for nearly forty years and I really admired him. I’m his namesake. And I’m Confucian enough that, even now, I sit here and I’m saying, “Well, Judge Munger would be pleased to see me here.”

So I'm Confucian enough, all these years after my grandfather is dead, to carry the torch for my grandfather's values. And, grandfather Munger was a federal judge at a time when there were no pensions for widows of federal judges. So if he didn't save from his income, my grandmother would have been in penury. And being the kind of man he was he underspent his income all his life and left her in comfortable circumstances.

Along the way, in the thirties, my uncle's bank failed and couldn't reopen. And my grandfather saved the bank by taking over a third of his assets — good assets — and putting them into the bank and taking the horrible assets in exchange. And, of course, it did save the bank.

While my grandfather took a loss, he got most of his money back eventually. But I've always remembered the example. And so when I got to college and I came across Houseman, I remember the little poem from Houseman, and that went something like this:

“The thoughts of others

Were light and fleeting,

Of lovers' meeting

Or luck or fame.

Mine were of trouble,

And mine were steady;

So I was ready

When trouble came.”

You can say, “Who wants to go through life anticipating trouble?” Well, I did! All my life, I've gone through life anticipating trouble. And here I am, well along on my eighty-fourth year, and like Epictetus, I've had a favored life. It didn't make me unhappy to anticipate trouble all the time and be ready to perform adequately if trouble came. It didn't hurt me at all. In fact, it helped me. So I quick claim to you Houseman and Judge Munger.



[YAPSS Takeaway]


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