The Snowball

I consider myself pretty financially savvy.  I keep a family budget.  I teach my children about finances.  I am the bookkeeper for Goat Milk Stuff and work with our accountant on how to best minimize our tax burden.  I avoid debt and (with the exception of a construction loan for GMS) live debt-free.  I have an emergency fund.  I live below my means.  I have retirement savings.

Over the years I have read tons and tons of books on money management and wealth building.  I take something away from each of them.  But I’ve always felt the area that I was weakest in was investing.  I understand the basics of investing – stocks vs bonds vs mutual funds.  But the nitty gritty of investing – not so much.  Whenever I feel lacking in a certain area, in addition to reading online, I search for books.  Online is good at giving you a good overview, but nothing is as detailed as reading an entire book on the subject.

I ordered several, but the one that drew my attention the most, was (of course) the biggest one – a biography on Warren Buffet. It’s called The Snowball. Warren Buffett and the Business of Life* by Alice Schroeder.

Snowball Warren Buffett Biography

I just finished it last night and I loved it.  It took me a little while to get into it but I was hooked once I was about a third of the way in.  It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but was even better.

I’m assuming you’ve all heard of Warren Buffett, but if not, the “Oracle of Omaha” is one of the richest men on the planet and arguably the most successful investor ever.  He is a brilliant man who devoted his life to making money.  While in many ways, his relationship with his family suffered for his single-mindedness, in his later years he improved on his family ties and is donating the bulk of his fortune to charity.

According to the book, in 2003 Buffett was asked “what had been his greatest success and greatest failure.” His response was this:

Basically, when you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.

I know people who have a lot of money, and they get testimonial dinners and they get hospital wings named after them.  But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them.  If you get to my age in life and nobody thinks well of you, I don’t care how big your bank account is, your life is a disaster.

That’s the ultimate test of how you have lived your life.  The trouble with love is that you can’t buy it.  You can buy sex.  You can buy testimonial dinners.  You can buy pamphlets that say how wonderful you are.  But the only way to get love is to be lovable.  It’s very irritating if you have a lot of money.  You’d like to think you could write a check: I’ll buy a million dollars’ worth of love.  But it doesn’t work that way.  The more you give love away, the more you get. (page 620-621)

How amazing is that statement.  From a man who has (and still does at age 87) spend much of his time growing his business, I found those words wonderful.

As a wife, homeschooling mom, farmer, gardener, homemaker, and business woman, there are so many different tasks I could spend my day focusing on.  If I wanted, I could work all day, every day, and still not accomplish everything I want to accomplish.

But this is a huge reminder that the most important way to measure success isn’t by your net worth, but “by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you”.  Think of movie stars or rock stars or reality stars or royalty that are “adored” by thousands or even millions.  Is it nice to be adored?  Probably.  But it doesn’t really count.

What counts is how many of the people that are truly important to you love you back.  And so as I processed that lesson (which had nothing at all to do with investing), I took away four main points.

1. Identify the people you want to have love you. It may seem obvious who these people are, but it also may not be.  Who is truly important to you in your life?  Spouse? Children? Parents? Friends? Your boss? Your employees?  Your coworkers?

2. Evaluate the list of those people.  How big is your list?  Too big?  Not big enough?  We only have a finite amount of time to accomplish the tasks we set for ourselves.  Are there people on your list you are trying to make love you at the expense of people who should really be there?

3. Reach out to those people. Repeatedly.  You don’t need to ‘smother’ the people on your list.  (Unless of course that is what they need from you.)  But you need to give them the time and attention that they need and deserve.

4. Give more love away.  I think this is one of my favorite pieces of advice in the book.  It’s so simple and yet so difficult at the same time.

I’ve challenged myself to give more love away each and every day.  It’s actually not that hard to do if you just give it a little bit of thought. But you do have to be strategic about it.  Remember the love languages concept?  It’s important to not just give more love away, but to give it in a way that is meaningful to those you are trying to love.  (If you’re not familiar with the love language concept, check out my love language podcast episodes or the original book The 5 Love Languages* by Gary Chapman.)

One of the most important things you can do in life is to take that list of the people that you want to have love you from step 1.  Now identify their love language.  How does each person on your list receive love?  If you really desire to increase the number of people you want to have love you who actually do love you, you have to speak their love language.

My eldest daughter just got married.  I am beyond happy for her and even though she still works here and only lives a few miles away, I miss her tremendously.  I know my daughter well.  Her dominant love language is “words of affirmation”.  And so now that she is out of my home, I am working doubly hard to speak words of affirmation to her to show her how much I love her and how important she is to me.  Yes, doing things for her means a lot (and comes a lot easier to me).  But acts of service don’t means as much to her as the power of words.

I thought that when I started reading The Snowball* I was going to learn about investing.  And I did.  I learned a lot about how Warren Buffett achieved the success he’s achieved.  But what’s more astounding is that one of the greatest teachings from the greatest investor who ever lived is this:  Investing in relationships is the most important investment we can make.

What are you investing in?




*Amazon Affiliate Link to the book that is mentioned.


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