Warren Buffett's definition of success

I love studying successful people.  I watch their body language in interviews, dissect their responses to complex questions, read their autobiographies and pour over commentaries about them so that I can copy some of their techniques and be successful too.

I have just read a transcript of an interview with Warren Buffett at the IMD Business School in Lausanne.

Warren Buffett is such a fascinating person because he is so clever, so rich, so wise and yet so very humble.

He was asked what is the definition of success.  His response hits the nail on the head -

I would say success… I’ll tell a story first.

There’s a woman in Omaha.  She’s in her eighties.  She’s a polish-jew, she’s a wonderful person.  She’s a friend of mine.   She told me, “Warren, when I look at someone, I am slow to make friends, because at the back of my mind, the question always exists – would they hire me?

Now I would say this, if you get to be sixty or seventy, my own age, and if you have a lot of people who would hire you, you are a success.

And if you don’t have anyone who’ll hire you, no matter how rich you are;  no matter how many honorary degrees you’ve been given;  no matter what hospitals you are being named after you – you are a failure.

And it’s another way of saying that many people love you.  I have never seen anyone who has loved dozens of people, who is not a success when they get older.

I have seen a number of people who have all the ‘trappings of success’ by the world’s measurement.  They are rich and have their names on the newspaper and they isn’t a person on earth who loves them.  They can’t be a success.

If you have a lot of people who love you when you are sixty or seventy, then you are a very successful person.


3 Responses to “Warren Buffett's definition of success”

  1. john October 27, 2008 at 4:55 pm #

    I think Warren Buffet is an amazing person but this is not one of his finest moments. I had to read it several times and I am still not sure that I understand what he is saying. I also do not relate everything to employment and hiring etc. and therefore this is a bit one dimensional for me.
    How about a simpler answer ” anyone that leaves the world a better place than when they came into it” is a successful person”. It’s bit more wholesome.

  2. Julie October 29, 2008 at 12:12 pm #

    Hi John

    On second thought, I actually agree with you! I prefer your definition …

    Thanks for reading the blog and keep those comments coming!


  3. Antony October 14, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    Sorry to correct you, but originally Warren Buffet’s friend said “would they hide me”. She was a polish Jew and escaped from Auschwitz.

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