“The one easy way to become worth 50% more than you are now at least is to hone your communication skills — both written and verbal. If you can’t communicate, it’s like winking at a girl in the dark — nothing happens.“
That was Warren Buffett’s advice for students just graduating from universities. A striking thing about it is that it’s not about investing in the stock market, but about investing in yourself.
Mr Buffett himself took a public speaking course to help him over his terror of it, and he’s gone on to become one of the world’s best communicators — and wealthiest people. Anyone who reads his Berkshire Hathaway annual letter to shareholders will instantly see what a leaden lump the majority of company directors are by comparison when it comes to communicating with shareholders.
Being able to communicate well will help you with most aspects of your life, including investing, as improving your own communications can help you better understand the communications of others. And learning lessons at a young age is the best time for improving your retirement.
“There is nothing called overnight success, or shortcut to money, the longer you wait, the more you make.“
Leading on from graduate students, when I started my first job I was urged to join some co-workers in penny share investments. I wasn’t convinced by their claim that penny shares were a route to overnight riches, and it was obvious to me that they had no more understanding of stock market investing than I did at the time.
I declined, and when I left that company several years later, the penny share crowd were still there, still not millionaires, and for some reason had long given up even talking about penny shares.
I suspect they’d been turned off investing in shares for life due to their early poor strategy, as was another friend some years later who lost money buying unit trusts on his first attempt.
Buy quality shares and hold them for the long term — it’s not new advice, but it always bears repeating.
“We never look back. We just figure there is so much to look forward to that there is no sense thinking of what we might have done. It just doesn’t make any difference. You can only live life forward.“
Moving on from early mistakes, it’s vital not to be put off by them. But it happens so often, and if you never expect to make a mistake then you just don’t have a realistic outlook on life.
Warren Buffett has made plenty of mistakes during his investing career, and he freely admits to them. But he stresses there’s nothing wrong with that — providing you learn from them and don’t repeat the same ones.
I’ve made many investing mistakes too, but maybe I’ve been lucky in that my early forays into shares were reasonably successful, and so I was never disillusioned by early failures. I expect it’s a lot harder to pick yourself up again if your first investments go wrong, and tougher to trust yourself to do better next time.
But the future is the only thing you can change, and that’s best done by learning from the past.
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Alan Oscroft has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.