Charlie Munger on How He Became a Modern-Day Guru | Final Interview with CNBC 2023 【C:C.M 322】

Charlie Munger on How He Became a Modern-Day Guru | Final Interview with CNBC 2023 【C:C.M 322】


BECKY QUICK: Hey Charlie, first of all, I just want to thank you for inviting us to your home today and for hosting us here. We appreciate it.

CHARLIE MUNGER: Well, I hope it'll be interesting. It's certainly a peculiar example of one life. It's interesting that a man who started out to be a lawyer ended up with an identity that's more like a guru's than a lawyer's.

BECKY QUICK: I called you a lawyer once. And I think that was the most irritated you've ever been with me. Because that was how you started things, but you really have studied every field out there and tried to—




BECKY QUICK:—to take things from different studies and different models in life. Did you go about doing that intentionally?


CHARLIE MUNGER: Of course. I could see the power of it.


BECKY QUICK: When did you figure it out?


CHARLIE MUNGER: Well, it came naturally to me. And I was what I would call naturally arrogant. And I wasn’t that good a mind. You know? I was in the top 1%, but not no prodigy. So I never would’ve succeeded in a field that required a mind to be that of a prodigy. But it was a much better mind than ordinary people had. And I recognized that quite early. And I just played the hand I was dealt in order to get as much advantage as I could.


BECKY QUICK: When did you recognize that? Were you a child still?


CHARLIE MUNGER: Very young. I used – when I was taking courses in grade school, I was often revising the textbook in the course in my head to make it more correct. Because I realized the professor was doing it wrong. (Laughs)


BECKY QUICK: What kind of things would you recognize that they were doing wrong?


CHARLIE MUNGER: They had some crazy idea. For instance, my Latin teacher was maladjusted, but one who was a devoted follower of Sigmund Freud. And I recognized that Sigmund Freud was a horse's ass when I first read him when I was in high school. And, of course, it was an odd little boy whose Latin teacher is teaching him Freud. But that was – she was peculiar and so was I. And, of course, when I read – I bought the complete writings of Sigmund Freud from the area library. It was one big book. And I went through it very laboriously. And I realized he was a goddamn lunatic. (Laughs) And so I decided I wasn’t gonna learn that from my Latin teacher. And that's the way I did. That's what I went through all my life, trying to turn every teacher into my Latin teacher. She is a poor fellow. I hadn't quite learned to understand it right yet. Now, I didn't always succeed. I had some very unusual teachers. The best teacher I had in my life was Lon Fuller. Well, he was the best contracts teacher in any law school. And contracts is the best subject in every law school, at least I think it is. Because it integrates so beautifully with the new doctrine of an economics that came along with Adam Smith and all those people. And of course I could see the integration and so could this Lon Fuller, who was a damn contract teacher. Now he'd been the leading contract teacher in some other law school, as what got him to Harvard by transfer, which was rare in those days.


And also, I could see in the Harvard Law School something very interesting. When I went to the Harvard Law School, it was in the immediate aftermath of a long, long range in which 15 professors handled 1,500 graduate students. This is unheard of. Nobody had ever done anything like that. It just morphed into that system and it did it early. And, of course, when you have a system like that, it really helps to have a few big ideas that are strolling through the system that are useful and some professor that sees it. And that's what Lon Fuller did. He really saw the old dam. He integrated law and economics is what he did to some extent. And the reason he did is he wanted to know why do we have these kind of contracts that so obviously make modern civilization work. And he never, he didn't explain exactly why, but I can sort of explain why to myself after hearing Lon Fuller. Well that's an ideal teacher.


BECKY QUICK: You had this idea of mental models before you got to him though.


CHARLIE MUNGER: Yes. And I just naturally came to it. And but it was very much Lon Fuller-esque thing. I was just awestruck by Lon Fuller. I have never been awestruck by any other teacher in my whole life, including some gifted mathematicians and physicists who did some remarkable things. But Fuller really, really had an impact — he really changed my life. He almost made me a law professor. I considered being a law professor. And I knew I'd be pretty good at it.


BECKY QUICK: Did you keep in touch with him for a long time after law school?


CHARLIE MUNGER: I never kept in touch with him. He was so remote a figure to me. It was like Moses or something going down to the mountaintop. And I was pleased he was there for ordinary. And he'd put it all in a book I didn't need on Fuller. (Laughs) That's the way I handled almost all my teachers. I didn't need them.




[YAPSS Takeaway]

It's okay if you're not a genius. Just do your best with what you have and try to make the most of it. If you can't find a great teacher, maybe books can help you.

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