Tag Archives: Circle of competence

The Snowball, Warren Buffett bio (book review)

Last Christmas, my brother gave me “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life“, by Alice Schroeder. He completely hit on the spot, though I only started reading it during last August holidays (Luca also started reading it to the point that she ended up buying her own Kindle version of it!).

The book is a thorough review of Buffett’s life, including relationships with family & friends and investment decisions. I had previously read other books about Buffett, but they were merely about his investment “strategy” so to say, nothing compared to this one. To complete the book, the author made over 250 interviews, so you can imagine the many insights contained in it.

There are many lessons or just ideas that can be taken from this book. Let me just point the few I can recall at the moment of writing this post:

  • The Inner Scorecard: the idea of acting and valuing yourself according to what you care about and not according to what others’ deem important.
  • The concept of margin of safety: from Benjamin Graham (recommended reading “The Intelligent Investor“).
  • Circle of competence: the idea of looking for simple business that have an enduring competitive advantage (technology companies are not that simple).
  • Cigar butts: companies which are worth more “death than alive” (looking for cheap price to book).
  • Snowball: the idea that compounding interest acts as a snowball falling down the hill, the sooner you start the larger the ball will be down the road (thinking about retirement here).
  • The story of the genie: or that you should invest in your own health as your body is the only one you are going to be given in this life.
  • The Ovarian lottery and the idea that philanthropy achieves more if exercised now and trying to maximize its impact.

Throughout the book you get to learn about many great entrepreneurial characters (e.g. Rose Blumkin, Bill Gates); about the workings of the board of directors of some companies (e.g. Coca Cola, Berkshire Hathaway); about some of the most impressive falls in corporate history (e.g. Solomon Brothers, Long Term Capital Management); about several depressions, recessions and crisis; and above all you learn about what were the thoughts and calculations behind some of Buffett’s investments decisions since the early 1940’s to date.

I definitely recommend this book (700+ pgs.).

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