Education has for its object the formation of character.
This is the first part of a series that will focus on the character flaws of celebrated and successful individuals. Some of these men and women were successful in getting beyond these flaws; others fought the battle till they died. These flaws whatever they were did not stop them from being successful and in some cases the desire to be rid of these flaws may have influenced their successes years later. By beaming the searchlight on these behavioral issues I hope to bring attention to the humanity of these individuals who seem to us like the gods of mount Olympus. I have no intention of denigrating or demeaning their achievements but to humanize these “gods” and celebrate the fact that they too like so many of us waded through the murky waters of teenage issues and character evolution to become who they are today.
He is known as the “Oracle of Omaha” or the “Wizard of Omaha” or the “Sage of Omaha”, he became the owner of a 40-acre farm while a sophomore in high school and had an employee that was working the farm for him (he bought the farm from profits from his various businesses), at the time he finished college he had almost $10,000 in savings, he became a millionaire at the age of 32 and eventually a billionaire a couple of years later. He is an American financier acclaimed to be the greatest investor of all time, he was listed as part of Time magazines 100 most influential people in the world in 2007 and was listed by Forbes magazine as the richest man in the world in 2008, in 2006 he committed 85% of his wealth valued to be 42billion USD at the time to five foundations with the largest portion going to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation: making it the largest act of charitable giving in US history.
He is Warren Buffett; astute investor, frugal manager husband of one wife and father of three children who has lived in the same house for more than 50years.
Warren Edward Buffett was born to a stockbroker father and a home maker mother. He was the second of three children and was the only boy. His father’s job as a stockbroker greatly influenced how he will eventually turn out. As a boy he was regarded as a mathematical prodigy having no problem in calculating large columns of figures in his head. It is said that he still shows off this ability to his friends once in a while. His school grades were excellent and he exhibited early a knack for investment and financial management. He made his first investment at age 11 when he bought 3 shares of Cities services which he later sold at a profit and by the time he was 13 he was running his first business delivering newspapers and selling magazine subscriptions.
When he was about twelve years old his father won a seat in the U.S House of Representatives and the family had to move from their home in Omaha, Nebraska to Virginia, Washington so that his father will be close to his new post as a Congressman.
According to, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, an extensively researched book written on him, the move to Washington was bumpy and he fell in with a bad crowd. The hitherto golden boy started unraveling.
He began to miss classes and this became evident in the plummeting of his grades. He took up shoplifting as a hobby, stealing things that were not useful to him. With his new set of friends they will go to a sports store and steal golf balls. At some point in this unraveling he ran away from home.
Things came to a head when his father noticed the obscene amount of golf balls in his sons closet and gave him an ultimatum to either straighten out or lose his thriving business of newspaper delivery and magazine subscription sales.
He listened and made changes in his life that will see him become focused on his goals in life to the detriment of other aspects of his life.
His newspaper delivery and magazine subscription business made enough profit for him to buy a 40 acre farm in Nebraska while a sophomore in a Washington D.C high school. He would eventually graduate from college at the age of 20 with about $10,000 in savings from his businesses.
Today he is 85years old and a multibillionaire worth about 70.1 billion USD
The take away from this is that no one is perfect — not even people who have crafted a perfect public image. Buffett’s secret shoplifting adventures just go to show that a troublemaking eighth grader might just end up being one of the world’s brightest businessmen of all time.
And people can change. Buffett undoubtedly learned from his shoplifting experiences. Much later, and with gray hair, he told a class of undergrad students how important it is to hire honest people
Warren Buffet acclaimed investor and proclaimed “Oracle of Omaha” was not perfect, but never stopped working out the chinks in his armor. He kept polishing his character so he could be better. Today we celebrate him as a success ,an Olympian “god” , and forget that he was once a man like us, we forget the lesser battles he fought with himself both the ones he won and others that he lost. These battles made him a god among men.
I can rise above my defects in character and so can you. My tomorrow can only be what I make of it today.