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Collection: Charlie Munger - #231 'How I Solved Difficult Problems In Life'



The topic I'd like to talk about briefly is common sense.


Which is uncommon.


Yes, see. (Laughter)

And what people mean when they say a man has common sense is uncommon sense and usually they don't mean that the man has a narrow little activities he's good at like knitting sweaters and he sticks to that.

What they mean is a man that can operate over a pretty broad range of human territory without making any big boners. And that is a very important thing to be good at. And the question is, how you get it?

I was very lucky in my own life because every place I looked at the pinnacle, there was a guy that was better than I was. And one of my father's best friends was a great surgeon with a vast mechanical ability. And I knew what this man did with his mechanical abilities and inventing all these spreaders and things he used to do his operation, but I would never be as good as he was.

And everywhere I looked there was somebody like that and that was all this folly out there and I suddenly realized like by just avoid all the folly, you know, maybe I can get the advantage without having to be really good at anything. And I kept – (Laughter) – doing that all my life and it worked so well that I enjoy sharing it with people like you.

It really works to tackle much of life by inversion, where you just twist the thing around backwards and answer it that way.

I have a problem to my children – and once when I had all of them together, I said, well there's an activity in America, it was a one-on-one tournament and the national champion became the national champion on two separate occasions, 65 years apart, name the activity?

And seven of my children did not remotely do it. The eighth is a PhD physicist and he did it very quickly and what he did was he just turned it around. He says it cannot be athletic and he realized that no 85 year-old was ever going to win an athletic thing with the neurological and other deteriorations – that's so evident tonight on the stage – (Laughter)

And so I said, well, it could have be chess – he's a chess player – and he realized that no 85 year-old was ever going to be the U.S. chess champion, and he knows what a chess tournament is like. But that led him to checkers, a game that you can almost master with enough experience and of course that was the correct answer, it took him about 15 seconds.

All kinds of problems like that that looks so difficult, when you turn them around, they are quickly solved. And so this process that I've gone through life doing of identifying folly and trying to avoid it has worked wonderfully for me.



[YAPSS Takeaway]

I'm no genius, I just inverse.

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