Charlie Munger: How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World? | University of Michigan 2010【C:C.M Ep.194】

Charlie Munger: How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World? | University of Michigan 2010【C:C.M Ep.194】



BECKY QUICK: The idea that you are not near Wall Street, Berkshire's offices are not near Wallet Street. Does that make a difference? Is it easier to operate on your own manner if you're not as near your competitors?


CHARLIE MUNGER: Well, we like to think that being Middle Western boys, we had a better culture, but that may be a conceit. I do think if you get in a crazy place with a lot of competition and a lot of perverse incentives, it's hard to keep your own sanity.

My father used to tell a story on himself which was a very good story that I never forgotten. He was a graduate of the Harvard Law School and practicing law in Nebraska, and he went up to shoot pheasants in South Dakota.

Everybody he was with was signing up as a South Dakota resident to save $5 on the hunting license. The crowd, everybody was doing it, and it was $5 – a lot of money back then – and he almost signed the damn thing. [Inaudible] my God, this is some kind of perjury and I'm practicing lawyer and he stopped himself but he came close.

So when the culture starts to go wrong, we're all susceptible to be dragged along. And therefore, it's a very good habit in life to develop what Kipling, you know, "to keep your head when all about you are losing theirs."

It's not – I've been doing it all my life, everybody's wrong, but Charlie, it's caused me some trouble. (Laughs) But it's also created a lot of huge advantage and it's not that bad averaged out.

And the trouble you avoid – think of the people that went along with Enron and committed suicide and got disgraced and it just – I think this whole business of, if you avoid it yourself, you try and seek out the right places to work, you're very unlikely to go south.

And what's important in life you work in the University of Michigan hospital, you know, that's likely to work. You don't have to go all the way to the slums of India helping Mother Teresa, you know, you had a more convenient place right here where there's not a lot of crazy temptation.

But if you go to a place where everybody is stark raving mad and pushing and crazy and – It's very hard to not get sucked along as my father was almost sucked along and signing a some kind of perjured application for a hunting license in South Dakota. We can all drip into that stuff, but we don't watch it.

I think I have seen two college presidents in my life go down from too much laxity in the expense accounts. I've seen quite a few ministers go down from various miscreancy and we're all subject to this stuff, It's easy to drift in the wrong direction.

And I have a rule in life, which is adopted from going down a river big whirlpools. And there's a big whirlpool, you don't want to come within 20 feet and just make sure you can barely miss it, you want to go around by 500 yards or something.

And so I think this stuff where the culture is crazy you don't have to enter. And if you find you've accidentally entered, you can leave!

You know, and even better than that, if you're shrewd, you can see where the culture is not going to tempt you. Or you're working with people you admire and the values are sound and it's fun to do, and by and large, you can wear your own way into that place.

And I will give you a tip as to how to do that. And first decent matter, I brought in as a piece of lawyer as a legal work as a young lawyer was for a guy who'd been fired by a bunch of venture capitalists and I got him rehired and we bought the company, and it was a huge success. (Laughter)

And I never heard from them, you know, they were glad to do it, but they were busy. And so, one day I said, well I'm being too damn shy. I just about to enter the freeway in Pasadena and I made a u-turn, I went back and I walked down and I said, "Well, I really like working for you guys and just the kind of people I like to be associated with and I like to work for." And sure enough, they had another big problem that I can solve.

But if you figure out the people you really want to be with and work for and you tell them so and why. It's likely to cause a favorable result. Anyway –


BECKY QUICK: Do we have other questions as well?



[YAPSS Takeaway]


Back to blog