Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's long-time partner, died November 28, 2023 at the age of 99 just weeks shy of his 100th birthday.
Munger exemplifies a life well-lived. His professional journey includes real estate lawyer, investor, publisher, mental model creator, and philanthropist. His investment in deep lifelong learning is woven throughout his frequently shared insightful, wise, and witty quotes.
9 Inspiring Charlie Munger Quotes About Lifelong Learning, Reading, and Daily Thinking Time
1. Read Every Day
"In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time -- none, zero. You'd be amazed at how much Warren reads--and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I'm a book with a couple of legs sticking out."
I once heard a senior company leader smugly state, "I haven't read a book since high school." Scorning books and disparaging those who read in a company meeting speaks volumes about the person as well as the company culture.
Reading isn't a pastime reserved for nerdy introverts who have no social life. It's the pathway to discovery, growth, and connection.
Words matter. It's how we communicate effectively. There is a reason why silent movies became talkies, and YouTube videos include autogenerated captions.
2. Do the Hard Work
"It's not supposed to be easy. Anyone who finds it easy is stupid."
Maybe stupid. Maybe unskilled. The next time someone says, "That shouldn't take you long to do that. It's just ____ (fill in the blank)." ask them to describe the steps they would take to do it. We all know how that goes.
3. Be Patient
"Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Day by day, and at the end of the day-if you live long enough-like most people, you will get out of life what you deserve."
When we see others posting and boasting about their successes, it's easy to feel like we're falling behind. What we don't see are all of the steps – and missteps – that led to the big tada reveal.
Set aside 10 minutes at the end of every day to capture your small accomplishments.
4. Thinking Time Isn't Wasteful Time
"We both (Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett) insist on a lot of time being available almost every day to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. We read and think. So Warren and I do more reading and thinking and less doing than most people in business."
There's such an emphasis on productivity with its measurable outcomes. This is especially true when our deliverables are based on billable hours or some form of trading time for dollars equation. We need to give ourselves permission to value thinking time
, even when we can't assign an immediate metric to it.
Make notes. Draw pictures. When you see the dots connect, the path to unexplored results becomes clearer.
5. Eat Your Own Dog Food
"An example of a really responsible system is the system the Romans used when they built an arch. The guy who created the arch stood under it as the scaffolding was removed. It's like packing your own parachute."
Become your customer. Experience firsthand the product or service you've delivered to them. If it doesn't feel right to you, it probably doesn't to your customers either.
6. Adversity Happens to Everyone
"Generally speaking, envy, resentment, revenge, and self-pity are disastrous modes of thought...Life will have terrible blows, horrible blows, unfair blows, it doesn't matter. Some people recover and others don't."
Munger endured significant personal losses that many of us would struggle to get past. He lost his 9-year-old son to leukemia, his money to medical bills, and his wife to divorce.
We all have hardships in life. How we rise above them is up to us.
7. Avoid Mediocrity
"Mimicking the herd invites regression to the mean (merely average performance)."
In this noisy, always on, notice me connected world, it's easy to surrender to the malaise of mediocrity. As my parents said over (and over) when I was a kid, "Just because everyone else is doing it, that doesn't mean you can or should do it too."
Don't be a mediocre follower. Stop scrolling and lead with confidence.
8. Avoid the Know-Nothing Know It All
"The first rule is that you can't really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang 'em back. If the facts don't hang together on a latticework of theory, you don't have them in a usable form...You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You've got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head."
We all encounter these two types of people in business everyday:
Big Talker: I already know that because I heard something about it one time
Big Doer: I'm doing the real work every day and have more to learn
Don't waste your time with people who already know everything. It's unproductive, undervalues your expertise, and chips away at your confidence. Surround yourself with people who are willing to listen to, learn from, and act on the proven experience you have to share with them.
9. Aging Gratefully
"The best armour of old age is a well spent life preceding it."
And there you have it. The essence of a full life remembered through its quotable contributions.
More Insights From Charlie Munger
Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Essential Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger
Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Essential Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger, Expanded Third Edition
Charlie Munber: The Complete Investor (Columbia Business School Publishing)