Charlie Munger is best known as an investing guru, a close friend of Warren Buffett, and vice chairman of the multinational holding company Berskshire Hathaway.
He’s what we call a “self-made man”, having dropped out of high school before becoming a lawyer and achieving huge fortune and success.
Munger is often quoted for his insight regarding investing and business, but his down-to-earth, no-nonsense attitude often lends advice that goes beyond the board room.
You might be surprised to find that Charlie can help you succeed at a lot of things in life. Check out these famous Charlie Munger quotes to see why.
11 Inspiring Charlie Munger Quotes
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Translation: Charlie is saying that knowledge feeds success, and that neither has a limit, so don’t rest on your laurels.
When we stop learning, or we don’t actively pursue knowledge, we cannot expect to grow, succeed, or climb the ladder to success. For every goal that we reach, we set another.
It is unwise to think that all of our goals could be reached without learning anything new.
If you’re unhappy in your job and want a promotion, you cannot expect your past successes to be enough to push you over the finish line. You need to show your boss what you’ve learned and why you’re better than you were yesterday, or last year.
If you want to buy your first home, but don’t know how to save money for a down payment, sitting on your couch and wishing to win the lottery is not going to get it done. Seeking out ways to earn extra money and learning about special savings plans will get you closer to your goal.
Translation: Charlie is saying to keep your eyes and ears open, and know when to seize the day.
Many of us spend our days with our heads down (looking at our phones) or up in the clouds, and we miss the opportunities that are right there in front of us.
Being present, or in the moment, can open doors that may lead somewhere new and exciting. Paying attention to opportunities that a situation brings–like a blind date, or being the lead on a big project at work–can put you in a position for success.
You might find the love of your life. You might get a promotion at work.
When we accept the status quo and don’t prepare for a potential shake up, we’ll can miss the opportunity altogether.
Translation: Charlie is saying that you have to provide an incentive for people to do what you want them to do.
Most people don’t do something for nothing, no matter how good-hearted they are.
If you are a parent, you know that one way to get children and teens to do what you want (or eat what you want) is to bribe them with something they want.
Even if you are in a position in which you hold the power, you still have to give in order to receive. Employers need to provide top salary and benefits if they want to hire top talent in their field.
Or if you’re arguing with your spouse and want he or she to open up to you, you have to give them a reason to trust that you won’t get mad at them.
Translation: Charlie is saying that you don’t have to re-create the wheel to achieve success. Find something that works, and do it well.
Sure, new ideas can lead to great success, and often great riches. But so can old ideas. Or simple ideas.
The reason that there is a pizza shop on every corner is because it’s obvious that many people love pizza, and pizza is cheaper and easier to make than the food you find at a 5-star restaurant.
You can spend your time trying to come up with the next great idea, or you can learn how to do something that has a proven track record of success and start doing it.
There’s no shame in doing the same thing that everyone else does, if you do it successfully. Don’t let opportunities pass you by just because they don’t seem new or trendy enough.
Translation: Charlie is saying to explain your reasons or rationale if you want people to get on board with your ideas (this is one of my favorite Charlie Munger quotes).
People aren’t mind readers, and their minds aren’t easily changed.
Whether you’re at a family dinner or a meeting at work, being the loudest voice in the room isn’t going to get people to take your side. You have to help them to understand the problem the way you do, then you won’t have to work so hard to change their minds.
Repeatedly telling your kids to do their homework just sounds like nagging. Explaining to your kids that homework is important to their success in school, that it will make them smarter, and that you had to do homework when you were a kid, too; that is more convincing.
Translation: Charlie is saying not to over-complicate things; to go back to basics.
Anyone over the age of 50 will tell you that back when they were young, they got by just fine without smartphones. Fifty years ago, people learned how to fix their own cars, grew their own food in gardens, and looked things up in books.
Most of the problems or tasks of modern everyday life are still that easy to solve. Overlooking simple, obvious solutions can stress you out, and drain your wallet.
If you want to lose weight, you don’t have to pay for a high-priced personal trainer whom you have to see five times per week. Instead, eat smaller portions and grab your kids for a walk every evening.
You’ll save cash and get more time with your kids (and fresh air, to boot.)
Failing to act because you think that you don’t have the right tools is just an excuse. Taking action by using what you have available to you is a true sign of success.
Translation: Charlie is saying to stop trying to be like everyone else and do what you’re good at.
Trying to be someone you’re not goes against your very nature.
Challenging yourself to do something new is one thing; doing something because everyone else is doing it is another.
It’s exhausting and continually reminds you of your shortcomings. These aren’t the traits of a winner.
The lesson in this Charlie Munger quote holds true at work, home, with your kids, and with your friends and family.
Trying to look, act, or appear in a way that society says is acceptable is just playing make-believe. Avoid conformity for conformity’s sake.
Do what you’re good at, what you like, what sparks your interest. Do it as well as you can, and know when you’re at your limit.
This is when you feel energized and happy.
This is when you’re winning.
Translation: Charlie is saying that talent will only get you so far. It is just as important to do hard work and to be someone others can rely on.
This one has the old story of the tortoise and the hare written all over it. The hare was fast. He was also cocky. He didn’t take the race against the tortoise seriously. He made pit stops and went at a slow pace.
He lost the race, and the respect of anyone who reads the story.
People want to have friends, family, coworkers, and clients that they can count on.
If you’re a fun person to be around but you always bail on your friends, they will eventually stop calling you. They’ll call some other fun guy who shows up when he says he will.
The same is true for employers. They reward the reliable employee who goes the extra mile, even if he or she is not the best at a certain task.
Being the smartest or most capable person at the table won’t automatically make you the best person for the job.
Translation: Charlie is saying to keep an open mind and don’t get stuck in one way of thinking.
These days, it is easy to see how extreme ways of thinking are wreaking havoc on our world.
Some individuals and groups are so deeply entrenched in their views on politics, religion, and race that they are unwilling to consider other points of view.
When you’re unwilling to listen, hear, and consider the other side, you miss opportunities to learn and grow.
If you never learn anything new, you’ll be stuck coming up with the same thoughts and ideas, which won’t take you very far.
Try to read or watch news that takes an opposing viewpoint. Have a conversation with someone with whom you usually disagree.
Translation: Charlie is saying to surround yourself with trustworthy people, or expect to get bitten.
Although this quote speaks specifically to hiring employees, it has just as much place in everyday life.
When it comes to choosing friends and romantic partners, pick people you can trust. Don’t assume that you can change someone, or that they will change for you.
Adults and children alike want to see the best in people. Unfortunately, not everyone deserves our trust.
If someone hasn’t made an effort to earn your trust, reconsider your relationship with them. Assume that the people in your life will also expect you to earn their trust, and act accordingly.
Translation: Charlie is saying to avoid indulging in negative feelings towards others for the things they have. It won’t do you any good.
A lot of people spend a lot of time and energy thinking negatively about what their friends and colleagues have:
- A bigger house than me.
- A newer car than me.
- A happy family that I don't have.
- A successful career that I haven't acheived
When you spend time thinking about what someone else has, you waste time that could be spent thinking about what you do have—or what you could accomplish.
Envy leads to bitterness, and can take you down a rabbit hole of constant negative thinking. Even worse, it won’t get you the bigger house or happy family.
Only you can do that. By focusing on yourself, your dreams, your abilities, and your opportunities.
There's No One Quite Like Charlie
Once you’ve read some of these Charlie Munger quotes, it is easy to understand why he is so often looked to for advice and guidance beyond investing and personal finance.
Charlie knows that his success comes from more than just business savvy and some good luck. It also comes from having a level head, being conscientious, and taking initiative.
Of these 11 quotes, I really enjoy the sentiment behind the one about solving problems with his “$40 adding machine and dog-eared compound interest table.”
It reminds me that no problem is too big or too complicated, and that making excuses won’t solve anything.
It reminds me that “thinking outside the box” sometimes means going back to basics.
For more worldly wisdom from Charlie, check out my extensive Charlie Munger Reading List.