Poor Charlie's Almanack is not really an autobiography, but rather an insight into the mind of the legendary investor, best known as Warren Buffett’s long-time friend and investment partner. The title is drawn from Ben Franklin’s similarly titled Poor Richard’s Almanack, whom Mr. Munger references liberally. Like Franklin, Charlie has made himself into a grandmaster of preparation, patience, discipline, and objectivity.
The quotes, talks, and speeches presented here are rooted in the old-fashioned Midwestern values for which Charlie has become known: lifelong learning, intellectual curiosity, sobriety, avoidance of envy and resentment, reliability, learning from the mistakes of others, perseverance, objectivity, willingness to test one’s own beliefs, and many more.
The early pages cover Munger’s family history, his framework for investing, and even some warm testaments from family, friends and colleagues. The next section, assembled by leading investor Whitney Tilson, is well edited and benefits from Tilson’s massaging of quotations made over time into logical sub-headings. The bulk of the text though is, as the subtitle suggests, the wit and wisdom of Mr. Munger as conveyed through various speeches in the last couple decade or so before 2006. The book concludes with a longer text weaving together Mr. Munger’s ideas, and finally an interesting and appropriately esoteric reading list. This book is a rare combination of insight, wit, and achievement, strung together with very capable editing and a interesting and visually appealing layout.
"People calculate too much and think too little," Munger says. "Part of [having uncommon sense] is being able to tune out folly, as opposed to recognizing wisdom. If you bat away many things, you don't clutter yourself."
Munger suggests that much of success in life isn't about having great strokes of genius; rather, it's about avoiding folly. We need to avoid addiction, avoid envy and resentment, avoid toxic and dishonest people, avoid making disastrous mistakes.
But it's not enough to avoid disaster. Recognizing wisdom is important, too. Munger points out that anyone capable of reading critically can drill into the content of their library for usable ideas. We have the priceless benefit of other people's experience, conveniently compiled into books, so why should we learn all of life's hard lessons ourselves?
As Munger says, "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."
Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. It is the first lesson that out to be learned and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.
If all you succeed in doing in life is getting rich by buying little pieces of paper, it’s a failed life. Life is more than being shrewd in wealth accumulation. A lot of success in life and business comes from knowing what you want to avoid: early death, a bad marriage, etc.