Charlie Munger – a tribute
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A tribute to legendary investor Charlie Munger, following his death on 28 November 2023.
Every year, Charlie Munger shared his wisdom alongside his long-time investment partner, Warren Buffett, at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual general meeting. Every year I listened intently. It’s no exaggeration to say that without these meetings, I wouldn’t be half the investor I am today. I may not even be investing at all.
A remarkable ability to capture the essence
Buffett aside, Charlie Munger has taught me more about investing than all other investors combined. No other person on the planet, not even his business partner, had his ability to boil down business and investment principles to their core essence. Munger was a man of few words, but every one dripped with insight. He could pack more wisdom into a single sentence than some people get across in a lifetime.
Munger was hugely intelligent, but so are a lot of people. It wasn’t his intellect that set him apart. It was his common sense and rationality. Munger paid zero attention to conventional wisdom and was the dictionary definition of independent. He excelled at pouncing on investment opportunities, when everyone else was running for the hills. And he played a huge role in Buffett’s metamorphosis from an investor in cheap ‘cigar butts’ to embracing great businesses, like See’s Candies and Coca-Cola.
But arguably, it isn’t his investment prowess that Charlie Munger will be most remembered for. It’s his understanding of human psychology. His magnum opus talk, ‘The Psychology of Human Misjudgment’, provides great insights on why we behave the way we do. In my opinion, no one understood the common flaws and biases in human behaviour and judgement better than Charlie Munger. No one internalised these principles to greater effect. And no one did more to share this wisdom with others.
Mastering the obvious
Many people seek success by trying to grasp the esoteric rather than master the obvious. Munger was the opposite. Key to Munger’s success was his ability to invert problems: finding what didn’t work – and then avoiding that like the plague. In Munger’s own words – “It's remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent."
I will never see another investor like Charlie Munger. His patience, common sense, self-awareness and judgement were remarkable in isolation, never mind in combination. And they were married with a dry wit that meant people actually listened – and enjoyed doing so.
His wisdom will live on for generations.
Photo credit: Nick Webb, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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