'2007 USC Law School Commencement Address' by Charlie Munger
An account of ideas and attitudes which have worked well throughout his life. Many of them are universal, can't fail ideas.
🥇 The Golden Rule
The safest way to try and get what you want is to try and deserve what you want. It’s such a simple idea. It’s the golden rule. You want to deliver to the world what you would buy if you were on the other end. People with this ethos win in life - not just money, but trust and respect.
❤️ Seek Admiration Based Love
There is no love that’s so right as admiration-based love. A love like that celebrated by Somerset Maugham and his book “Of Human Bondage”… that’s a sick kind of love, it’s a disease. And if you find yourself in a disease like that my advice to you is turn around and fix it. Eliminate it.
🧠 Wisdom Acquisition is a Moral Duty
It’s not something you do just to advance in life. Wisdom acquisition is a moral duty. It means that you’re hooked for lifetime learning, and without lifetime learning you people are not going to do very well. You are not going to get very far in life based on what you already know. You’re going to advance in life by what you’re going to learn after you leave here (college).
The skill that got Berkshire through one decade would not have sufficed to get it through the next decade. Warren Buffett being a learning machine makes Berkshire possible.
I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than when they got up and boy does that help—particularly when you have a long run ahead of you.
You can progress only when you learn the method of learning. Nothing has served me better in my long life than continuous learning. And if you take Warren Buffett and watched him with a time clock, I would say half of all the time he spends is sitting on his ass and reading.
💡 Learn the Big Ideas
Learn all the big ideas and all the big disciplines because they're all connected. You're a fool to look at one of them in isolation.
The really big ideas carry 95 percent of the freight, it wasn’t at all that hard for me to pick up all the big ideas and all the big disciplines and make them a standard part of my mental routines.
The ideas are no good if you don’t practice. You don’t practice, you lose it.
“A man who doesn’t know what happened before he was born goes through life like a child.” - Cicero
Learn the big ideas in such a way that they’re in a mental latticework in your head and you automatically use them for the rest of your life.
Problems frequently get easier and I would even say usually are easier to solve if you turn around in reverse. In other words, if you want to help India, the question you should ask is not, “How can I help India?” You think, “What’s doing the worst damage in India? What would automatically do the worst damage and how do I avoid it?”
❌ “What will really fail in life? What do you want to avoid?”
Sloth and unreliability.
If you’re unreliable, it doesn’t matter what your virtues are, you’re going to crater immediately. So doing what you have faithfully engaged to do should be an automatic part of your conduct. You want to avoid sloth and unreliability.
❌ Avoid Ideology to Avoid Ruining your Mind
Another thing I think should be avoided is extremely intense ideology because it cabbages up one’s mind.
If you're young, it’s easy to drift into loyalties. And when you announce that you’re a loyal member and you start shouting the orthodox ideology out, what you’re doing is pounding it in, pounding it in, and you’re gradually ruining your mind so you want to be very careful with this ideology. It’s a big danger.
But this business of not drifting into extreme ideology is a very very important thing in life if you want to have more correct knowledge and be wiser than other people. A heavy ideology is very likely to do you in.
🤫 Munger's Iron Prescription
“I’m not entitled to have an opinion on this subject unless I can state the arguments against my position better than the people do who are supporting it.”
Only when I reach that stage am I qualified to speak.
⚖ Self-Serving Bias
You think that your little me is entitled to do what it wants to do. That's dangerous.
Thinking that what’s good for you is good for the wider civilization and rationalizing all these ridiculous conclusions is a terribly inaccurate way to think.
Avoid the self-serving bias, but allow for it when dealing with everybody else. If you don't, you're a fool, and you'll get caught out.
Envy, resentment, revenge, and self-pity are disastrous modes of thought. Self-pity gets pretty close to paranoia and paranoia is one of the very hardest things to reverse. You do not want to drift into self-pity.
By avoiding it, you get a great advantage over everybody else, because self-pity is a standard condition and yet you can train yourself out of it.
❌ Perverse Incentives
You don’t want to be in a perverse incentive system that’s causing you to behave more and more foolishly or worse and worse. Incentives are too powerful a controller of human cognition and human behaviour.
💼 Choose Your Boss Wisely
You particularly want to avoid working directly under somebody you really don't admire and don't want to be like. It's very dangerous. Your outcome in life will be way more satisfactory and way better if you work under people you really admire. The alternative is not a good idea.
⌸ Objectivity Maintenance
Darwin paid special attention to disconfirming evidence, particularly to disconfirm something he believed and loved. Objectivity maintenance routines are totally required in life if you’re going to be a correct thinker.
Checklist routines avoid a lot of errors. You should have all this elementary wisdom and then you should go through and have a checklist in order to use it. There is no other procedure that will work as well.
⍯ Non-Egality Works Better
A lot of life is about putting a lot of practice into the hands of the people that have the most aptitude to learn and the most tendency to be learning machines. And if you want the very highest reaches of human civilization, that’s where you have to go.
You want to get the power into the right people.
🗣 Deep Knowledge vs Shallow Knowledge
I frequently tell the story of Max Planck, when he won the Nobel prize and went around Germany giving lectures on quantum mechanics. And the chauffeur gradually memorized the lecture and he said, “Would you mind, professor Planck, just because it's so boring staying in our routines, would you mind if I gave the lecture this time and you just sat in front with my chauffeur's hat?” And Planck said, “Sure.”
And the chauffeur got up and he gave this long lecture on quantum mechanics, after which a physics professor stood up in the rear and asked a perfectly ghastly question. And the chauffeur said, “Well, I'm surprised that in an advanced city like Munich I get such an elementary question. I'm going to ask my chauffeur to reply.”
Deep knowledge is the people who really know. They've paid the dues, they have the aptitude.
Then you have people who have learned to prattle the talk and they have a big head of hair. They may have fine timbre in the voice. They really make a hell of an impression. But in the end, they've got chauffeur knowledge.
You need to get responsibility into the hands of people with deep knowledge.
An intense interest in the subject is indispensable if you are really going to excel. I could force myself to be fairly good in a lot of things, but I couldn’t be really good at anything where I didn’t have an intense interest.
You need a lot of assiduity. That means “sit down in your ass until you do it.”
👀 Anticipate Trouble
Life will have terrible blows, horrible blows, unfair blows. It doesn’t matter.
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.
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.
🕸 Seek a Web of Trust
The highest form that civilization can reach is a seamless web of deserved trust.
If your proposed marriage contract has forty-seven pages, my suggestion is you not enter.