The Value and Scarcity of Big Bets
Warren Buffett and the dozen decisions that defined him
The business world owes all its ideas on strategy to the military, but the military mind can learn a lot from the non-violent pinstripe-suiters. Like Warren Buffett.
He's one of the few folks in the world that doesn't really need an introduction. And he's recently released his annual letter, which includes a variety of subjects, including his year-in-review of performance, as well as some other thoughts.
This year's letter included a few observations that the strategy-interested must consider.
Buffett mentioned that his 58-year career netted eye-popping returns: 3,787,464%.
Then, he suggested the power behind these returns: "Our satisfactory results have been the products of about a dozen truly good decisions - that would be about one every five years." As he put it, "the weeds wither away in significance as the flowers bloom. Over time, it takes just a few winners to work wonders. And, yes, it helps to start early and live into your 90s."
Wall Street Journal writer Ben Cohen has also noted that Buffett tells investors to "imagine they are holding a punch card with 20 slots for the total number of investments they can make over their lifetimes. If you knew that you would be limited to 20 punches, you would maximize your chances of making each one count. You would be patient. You would be picky. You would only act on your strongest convictions."
Of course, according to Buffett, 20 punches may actually be a little too many.
There's a meta-lesson here for the wide variety of strategic scenarios readers may encounter. The number of truly significant decisions is likely smaller than you think.