3 Recommendations from Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Me for 2019
The start of a new year is often a time of reflection and resolution.
Last year, asked about how he defines success in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), Bill Gates wrote, "Warren Buffett has always said the measure [of success] is whether the people close to you are happy and love you. It is also nice to feel like you made a difference — inventing something or raising kids or helping people in need."
If you’re aspiring to make the most out of 2019, here’s three things in the ever-important “conversations with self” category that we can learn from Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, two of today’s most successful businesspeople:
1. Know the value of time.
Recently, I saw a video clip of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates on Charlie Rose in which Buffett notes, “I mean, I can buy anything I want, but I can’t buy time.”
Time is humanity’s most valuable and powerful currency. After all, Buffett’s $80.8 billion and Gate’s $93.9 billion are worth just as much to Death as what’s in the rest of our pockets.
Keeping tabs on how much time we anticipate having left in the bank helps us determine how to spend it.
It seems 100 is an age many people aspire to reach, possibly because it’s 21 years greater than the average life expectancy in the US, as reported by the World Bank in 2016, or maybe it’s just because it’s such a nice and neat, round number.
If we do live to 100, each year is 1% of our life, and each season, three months long, is a quarter of a percent.
One month of our life would be 1/12 of a percent, so 0.083% of our time here.
Counting leap years, there’s just 36,524 days in 100 years.
Hours? We’d get 876,582.
Everyone seems to always be talking about a million dollars, but we don’t even get a million hours!
Let that sink in.
Every day, hour, minute and second is numbered, the first and only of its kind. Although life can feel like a marathon without a finish line, knowing these numbers contextualizes how much time we really have.
2. Take time for yourself to think, specifically 5 hours a week.
Turns out, Warren Buffett’s calendar is nearly empty. He and self-made millionaires and billionaires like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Jack Ma and Mark Cuban spend many hours each week just thinking.
Michael Simmons, founder of Empact, observed these highly successful people adhere to the “Five-Hour Rule”, devoting at least an hour a day (or five hours a week) to activities “that can be classified as deliberate practice or learning.” Deliberate practice can be reading, reflecting, or experimenting.
While we certainly are all busy people, if President Obama was able to find time each day while in the White House to read, certainly we can too.
You might just need to schedule the time.
In his blogpost How to Dream Big, Richard Branson’s first recommendation is, “Schedule time. Open your calendar and schedule time just to dream. Put it in your diary like you would a meeting. Far too many people get weighed down in doing, and never take the time to think and feel. Take five minutes, an hour, a day, or even a holiday. If you free up some time to think freely, you’ll be able to see the bigger picture much easier.”
3. Invest the hours doing what’s important to you.
There’s thinking and then there’s doing. With limited time, it’s essential to prioritize hobbies and career paths and then put in the hours required to excel.
As a kid I wanted to grow up and be a dolphin trainer, a lawyer, a spy, an Academy Award-winning actress, an astronaut as well as a pilot, and the president, and presumed that after all of that I’d retire early in my 40s.
Turns out, countless interests and finite time don’t add up. With finite time comes finite opportunities to practice, learn, grow, and ultimately master.
To gain mastery at anything, you need to dedicate a substantial number of high-quality hours doing it. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell observes from research by Psychologist Anders Ericsson that many experts spend 10,000 hours on average mastering their craft.
While that hourly figure is not the same for every skill, depends on the quality of practice put in and initial ability, using the 10,000 hours rule, it’d take 90 minutes a day for 20 years to achieve mastery in something. With a standard, American business week of full-time devotion, let’s say 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for 50 weeks of the year, it’d take 5 years to master any one thing.
When I ran cross country in high school, my coach, former Olympic runner Gwynneth Coogan, would say, “This is the only time you’ll do this work out, so give it your all.” This advice applies to everything we do, which is why I’m committed to investing my all in whatever it is I do this year.
To you and your goals, have a happy, loving and prosperous 2019, sincerely Warren, Bill and me.