Carson Perspective: Berkshire Hathaway leaders say most ideas go in too-hard pile
May 5, 2013
OMAHA, Neb. — Northern Nevadan Bill Glaser picked up many a pearl of wisdom over the years by attending annual meetings of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Comments from Berkshire Hathaway leadership are worth contemplating by any investor — or any person alive, for that matter — but few seem quite so pertinent as the positive quotes attacking problems with a nod to the negative.
There is a world of wisdom wrapped in few words, burnished gems because brevity is the soul of clarity.
"Know what you don't know," Warren Buffett told Bill and Cheryl Glaser, plus a few thousand others, in Omaha's Ak-Sar-Ben Coliseum 15 years ago at the first Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting attended by the couple now calling the Carson City area home. Ak-Sar-Ben could hold 10,000; this weekend's CenturyLink Center attracted tens of thousands.
The admonition to know your blind spots is in Glaser's book "Wealth Building Secrets from Warren Buffett Annual Shareholders Meetings."
It covers the Glasers' trips to Omaha, where Bill grew up, to visit his brother and attend the annual meetings.
By the way, Ak-Sar-Ben — for the uninitiated — is Nebraska spelled backward. Don't ask why. Maybe it's spelled backward for the same reason folks joke that the large "N" gracing the football stadium, 50 miles away in Lincoln, stands for "Nowledge."
"Nah" is the verdict from locals who resent implications they are backward hicks concerned almost wholly with corn, cattle and Big Red football.
Billionaire Buffett and his sidekick, company Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, give the lie to this assessment that rubes come from the Cornhusker State. Both come from Omaha, though Munger moved later to Los Angeles.
Glaser, a product of Nebraska's most populous city as well, was educated there and in Lincoln 50 miles west. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering before striking out for western climes.
He met Cheryl later in San Diego. They came to northern Douglas County a few years ago, and Glaser worked a while at the Nevada Department of Transportation before retiring.
The couple is enthusiastic about the trips back to Nebraska, which don't come every year but have a dozen times since they first bought stock in the late 1990s.
There is nothing negative about it for them, though there always are those positive pearls with negative twists that Bill picks up on.
"We try not to do anything difficult" is a good one on simplicity.
"I am proud to say we have no mission statement," said Munger in a burst away from his usual silence.
"Nothing to add" is an oft-repeated line by Charlie after Warren dissects an audience question with a lengthy answer.
"The secret to life is weak competition" is a thought-provoker from Buffett.
Another gem from the octogenarian pair, who buy solid companies or shares of the same rather than viewing themselves as stockholders: "Most ideas go in the too-hard pile."
John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.