From a financial perspective, you could say that Warren Buffett manages his time better than 99.99% of all people on this planet. With a net worth of more than $84 billion, he knows a thing or two about prioritizing, staying focused and maximizing productivity in order to reach (and far exceed) your personal and business goals.
But, besides being one of the richest people on earth, Warren Buffett is also a very wise and inspirational individual from which we can learn an enormous amount, regardless of our industry and occupation. Whether you’re a writer, student or entrepreneur, Warren’s life-changing lessons will help you become much more productive, focussed and successful.
Personally, I consider Warren Buffett to be one of my most influential role models. Not only did I learn the ropes of investing through his essays and videos, but he also inspired me to dive deeper into the world of personal development, which eventually resulted in the fact that I now have my own personal development business. Thanks, Warren!
Lesson 1: Match Your Ambition With Your Actions
“Predicting rain doesn’t count. Building arks does.” — Warren Buffett
It doesn’t matter how much you talk about your goals. It doesn’t matter how many inspirational Instagram posts you make about how hard you’re hustling. What actually matters is putting in the work, consistently. You need to start building arks instead of talking about how it’s going to rain. That’s what will get you the results you desire.
Nowadays, I hear so many people talking about starting a business and becoming highly successful even though they hardly take any action, still watch Netflix 5 hours per day and occasionally repost some Gary Vee content on their Instagram account (no offence to you Gary).
Focus on actually doing the work and putting in the time and effort instead of talking so much about your ambitions. Always match your ambitions with your actions.
Lesson 2: You Become Who You Surround Yourself With
“It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behaviour is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.” — Warren Buffett
The quickest way to raise your level of performance and get the results you desire is by upgrading your surroundings. We as human beings are social creatures and therefore we soak up all the energy, information and experiences from our surroundings like a sponge. Whether we realize it or not, we tend to look at our friends and family for social proof to see what kind of behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable.
In other words, if you hang out with ambitious people who are killing it, chances are that you’ll adopt the same behaviour. Consciously or unconsciously, their behaviour will start to rub off on you
However, on the contrary, if you hang out with people who are unambitious, lazy and unwilling to level up in life, they will negatively influence you and pull you towards the same direction (whether you realize it or not).
Therefore, if you want to achieve certain ambitious goals, live a more productive life and become more successful, you need to surround yourself with a-players that inspire you.
Lesson 3: Complexity Is The Enemy, Simplicity Is Your Friend
“There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.” — Warren Buffett
Whether we’re talking about investing in stocks, building a business or forming a relationship with a loved one, we as humans tend to overcomplicate everything.
Yet, if there’s one thing I learned in my 24 years on this planet, it’s that almost everything in life becomes better when you keep it as simple as possible.
For example, my stock market investments became more profitable (and less time consuming) when I made my investing strategy as simple and straightforward as possible..
My businesses became more profitable (and less stressful) when I started to focus exclusively on just a few revenue-generating activities instead of trying to do 54 things at once..
And my university grades improved significantly when I learned how to prioritize my studying instead of trying to learn every single thing from a book…
“The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective.” — Warren Buffett
In other words, simplicity is almost always much more effective (and efficient) than complexity. Therefore, I aim to keep things as simple as possible in all areas of my life.
Lesson 4: Learn When To Change Course Strategically
“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” — Warren Buffett
Whether it’s a relationship, a company that you’re working for or your own business, you have to learn when to change course strategically if things aren’t working out. If you don’t, you’ll only spend your valuable time and energy on something that is never going to work out.
Listen, I’m all about persistence and not giving up..
In fact, I think the reason why many businesses and people fail is simply that they give up too early. For example, it took me 18 months before I earned my very first dollar with my first online business. If I would’ve given up before that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So yes, perseverance and refusing to give up are incredibly valuable character traits for success.
However, leaving a chronically leaking boat doesn’t mean that you give up entirely, as long as you change vessels.. It’s merely a change of direction that is based on a strategic decision.
Maybe your business idea wasn’t as good as you thought, so go ahead and work on another idea..
Maybe a relationship was never meant to be, so go ahead and find one that allows for deeper connection..
Maybe the company you’re working for is toxic, so go ahead and find a company that better suits you..
Your time and energy are limited, so change vessels when you feel like you’re on a chronically leaking boat.
Lesson 5: Learn From Mentors
“The best thing I did was to choose the right heroes.” — Warren Buffett
By picking a few mentors (whether in-person or through books and courses) and standing on their shoulders, you can see further than you’ve ever done and gain new insights & perspectives that would cost years to gain on your own.
If you’re trying to write a bestselling book, build a successful business, lose weight or become the next Warren Buffett, don’t try to figure it all out on your own. Rather, pick up a few books and courses (or talk to a mentor in-person) and shortcut the learning process. It might just save you years of struggle and hard work — and a lot of money and frustration too.
Keep in mind that your mentor doesn’t always have to be the most successful person in your industry. Sometimes it’s a much better idea to learn from someone who is just a few steps ahead of you, as they can still relate very well to your personal situation and therefore give well-suited advice.
As I’m a big soccer fan, let’s take the example of becoming a better soccer player.. I’m 100% convinced that it’s not the best idea to learn it from Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi (the best players in the world), simply because they’ll have a very hard time relating to your situation and skill level. They have tons of nuances that they don’t even realize they have. Rather, you’ll be better off learning it from someone who is just a few skill levels above you. This way, you’ll quickly elevate to their level and pick your next mentor from that point onwards.
Lesson 6: Be In Love With The Process
“We enjoy the process far more than the proceeds.” — Warren Buffett
If you’re too attached to the outcome and not in love with the process, it’ll be so much harder to overcome challenges & obstacles and persevere when times get tough.
When you enjoy the process (aka, the work) it’s easier to stay focused, disciplined and determined — no matter the outcomes that you’re getting. This is incredibly important if you want to consistently be highly productive and eventually reach any form of success.
The only reason why I was able to continue to work on my first business without earning a single dollar for the first 18 months was that I absolutely loved working on my own projects and building my own business. If I disliked ‘the process’ I would’ve never been able to work for so long without seeing any results.
Learn to fall in love with the process and the proceeds will follow.
Lesson 7: Relentlessly Eliminate The Non-Essentials
“You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.” — Warren Buffett
One of the reasons why Warren Buffett is so incredibly productive and (therefore) successful is because he relentlessly eliminates the non-essentials. He is well-known for saying no to a lot of projects and opportunities, in order to protect his focus on his most important projects. These few things, however, all significantly move the needle for his business and personal life, contrary to most of the things he says no to.
In other words, Warren Buffett’s success is largely determined by his ability to prioritize. For his prioritization process, he uses a 3-step strategy which is coined the term ‘Warren Buffett’s 5/25 Rule’.
Let’s go over a true story to see the 5/25 rule in action:
Mike Flint, who was Warren’s personal airplane pilot for more than 10 years, was talking about his career with Buffett. Then, Warren Buffet asked him to go through a 3-step process (Warren Buffett’s 5/25 Rule) that would significantly help him get clear on his priorities.
STEP 1: Buffett started by asking Flint to write down his top 25 career goals.
STEP 2: Buffett asked Flint to take a look at his list and circle his top 5 most important goals.
STEP 3: Then, Buffet asked Flint to write down his top 5 most important goals on the left side of a new sheet of paper, and call it list A. On the right side he had to write down the remaining 20 goals, which was called list B. From now on, Flint should focus only on list A and eliminate all actions and tasks that don’t significantly contribute to the goals of list A (even though they contribute to his goals on list B).
Flint told Warren that he would start working on his top 5 goals immediately. And that’s when Buffett asked him a key question, “And what about the ones you didn’t circle?”
Flint replied, “Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”
Here is where Warren’s life-changing advice comes in, as he replied “No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
This elimination process is ruthless, as you have to eliminate tasks and activities that contribute to goals that you actually care about, even though they are not part of your 5 most important goals.
The thing is, we easily fall into the trap of working on our non-essential goals because (1) it makes us feel good and (2) it’s often easier to work on non-essential goals compared to our most important, most valuable goals. These goals are often more challenging and outside of our comfort zone, and therefore we tend to procrastinate on them more often.
However, if you truly want to achieve your top 5 goals, you need to relentlessly eliminate those tasks and activities that don’t significantly contribute to your top 5 goals. In fact, all your other goals are simply distractions that prevent you from achieving your most important goals.
Realize that you only have a limited amount of time and energy to achieve your goals each day. Yet, often, we spread ourselves thin by chasing too many goals at the same time instead of just focusing on the essentials. This is why many people get easily distracted, lack focus and fail to make consistent progress towards their most important goals.
Practice ruthless elimination in your work process — even though that means skipping certain things you care about — and focus on your few truly important goals. This is how you’ll raise your performance, maximize your productivity and massively increase your odds of success.
Now Do It
All of these 7 lessons from Warren Buffett will help you to achieve higher levels of success and significantly raise your performance. However, knowing and reading about it is not enough. Therefore, I highly encourage you to pick out at least 3 lessons (especially lesson #7) of this article and implement them in your own life as soon as possible!
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab