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The occasional good decision

Perhaps the greatest lesson from Warren Buffet’s most recent letter to Berkshire shareholders is that, to be wildly successful, you only have to be right sometimes:

In 58 years of Berkshire management, most of my capital-allocation decisions have been no better than so-so. In some cases, also, bad moves by me have been rescued by very large doses of luck.

Our satisfactory results have been the product of about a dozen truly good decisions – that would be about one every five years – and a sometimes-forgotten advantage that favors long-term investors such as Berkshire.

The lesson for investors: 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 as well.

So-so decisions. Periodic moments of brilliance. And a long-term patient outlook. These are, I think, important things to keep in mind. It’s okay to make mistakes; you just have to keep going.


  1. Myron Nebozuk

    Years ago, at a lecture, Phillipe Starck said essentially the same thing. He was talking about the design process of his famous lemon squeezer (the object that looks like a challenger to Mr. Incredible). Starck asked the audience how many design decisions were needed to design this object. Five? Ten? Fifty? More like a thousand, if we include the conversations he had with the fabricators. Starck then stated that “most of the design decisions face in the same direction. Some do not. A few design decisions actively work against the design. I hope that you don’t see any of those”. He’s right; this juicer exudes purity, integrity and joy. Only later, much later, one bad design decision emerges. It is the decision to craft this juicer out of aluminum, a material that reacts with citric acid to accelerate the onset of Alzheimer’s IF you drink the juice.


  2. Chris Dulaba

    Sounds very similar to real estate development. Sometimes a project is so-so, other times it’s not great and other times you hit it out of the park.


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