Thinking Citizen Blog — The Death of Charlie Munger (1924–2023) — “He was the architect. I was the general contractor” (Warren Buffett)

John Muresianu
6 min readDec 5, 2023

Thinking Citizen Blog — Tuesday is Economics, Finance, and Business Day

Today’s Topic: The Death of Charlie Munger (1924–2023) — “He was the architect. I was the general contractor” (Warren Buffett)

For Munger, poker provides the perfect analogy for investing: fold quick when the odds are against you, bet big when you have a big edge.

How did Buffett find his life investment partner? According to Buffett: “He was rolling on the floor laughing at his own jokes, and I thought, “That is my kind of guy. I do the same thing.”

Want to do yourself a favor? Go to Amazon and buy Charlie Munger’s “Poor Charlie’s Almanack.” Display it prominently wherever you live. Read a few pages a week for the next year (and beyond). You’ll thank me later. Trust me.

Today, a few quotes from Mr. Munger. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

“THE MENTAL LATTICEWORK IN YOUR HEAD,” THE QUANTIFICATION OF A MAGIC WORD: FOCUS

1. ”You have to learn all the big ideas in the key disciplines in a way that they’re in a mental latticework in your head and you automatically use them for the rest of your life.”

2. “If you do that, I solemnly promise you that one day you’ll be walking down the street and you’ll look to your right and left and you’ll think “my heavenly days, I’m now one of the few competent people in my whole age cohort.”

3. “If you don’t do it, many of the brightest of you will live in the middle ranks or in the shallows.”

NB: “Our investment style has been given a name — focus investing — which implies ten holdings, not one hundred or four hundred. The idea that it is hard to find good investments, so concentrate in a few, seems to me to be an obvious idea. But 98% of the investment world does not think this way. It’s been good for us.”

WHY ACCOUNTANTS FAIL, WHY THE MATHEMATICAL GENIUSES FAIL

1. “You can’t give the average Wall Street CEO really lenient standards of accounting and expect the figures to be good. The accountant is like the referee in soccer. The accountant has to be the adult that prevents the mayhem. Accountants don’t want to be the adults because it causes liability, it causes responsibility, it causes difficulty … they failed us terribly.”

2. “How do these super-smart people with all these degrees and higher mathematics end up doing these dumb things? I think it’s explainable by the old proverb that to the man with a hammer every problem looks pretty much like a nail. They’ve learned these techniques and they just twist the problem so it fits the solution — which is not the way to do it.”

3. “Neither Warren nor I have ever used any fancy math in business — and neither did Ben Graham who taught Warren. Everything I have ever done in business could be done with the simplest algebra and geometry and addition and multiplication and so forth. I never used calculus for any practical work in my whole damn life — and I was a perfect whiz at it when they taught it to me.”

“A BOOK WITH A COUPLE OF LEGS STICKING OUT” — don’t be a patsy at the poker table of life, become a learning machine!

1. “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.”

2. “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.”

3. “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.”

NB: “I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines.”

CHARACTER, KEY TO SUCCESS, CLEANING HOUSE. FINDING A GOOD SPOUSE

1. “It takes character to sit with all that cash and to do nothing.”

2. “What are the secret of success? -one word answer :”rational”

3. “Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.”

NB: “How to find a good spouse? the best single way is to deserve a good spouse.”

LEARNING FROM THE BEST, REPUTATION AND INTEGRITY, THE TROLLEY OF ENVY, ANTS AND SUGAR

1. “I believe in the discipline of mastering the best that other people have ever figured out. I don’t believe in just sitting down and trying to dream it all up yourself. Nobody’s that smart.”

2. “Remember that reputation and integrity are your most valuable assets — and can be lost in a heartbeat.”

3. “Envy is a really stupid sin because it’s the only one you could never possibly have any fun at. There’s a lot of pain and no fun. Why would you want to get on that trolley?”

NB: “The iron rule of nature is: you get what you reward for. If you want ants to come, you put sugar on the floor.”

FINAL WORD — Munger’s spin on the Socratic injunction to “Know Yourself”

“What I would say is the single most important thing, if you want to avoid all the stupid errors, is knowing where you’re competent and where you aren’t. And that’s very hard to do because the human mind naturally tries to make you think you’re way smarter than you are.”

Charlie Munger — Wikipedia

Charles T. Munger Quotes (Author of Poor Charlie’s Almanack)

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Charlie_Munger

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/28/business/charles-t-munger-dead.html?campaign_id=190&emc=edit_ufn_20231128&instance_id=108815&nl=from-the-times®i_id=62922413&segment_id=151195&te=1&user_id=e276b300cc0be817fd24b0e2a128d05c

Charles T. Munger, Warren Buffett’s One-of-a-Kind №2, Dies at 99

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My spin — then periodically review, re-rank, and exchange your list with those you love. I call this the “Orion Exchange” because seven is about as many as any human can digest at a time. Game?

ATTACHMENTS BELOW:

#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, (11/17/20)

#3 Israel-Palestine Handout

NB: Palestine Orion (Decision) — let’s exchange Orions, let’s find Rumi’s field (“Beyond all ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. Meet me there” Rumi, 13 century Persian Sufi mystic)

THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED THEMATICALLY INTO FOURTEEN BOOK-LENGTH PDFs:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

YOUR TURN — Please share:

a.) the coolest thing you learned this week related to business, economics, finance.

b.) the coolest thing you learned in your life related to business, economics, finance.

c.) anything at all related to business, economics, finance.

d.) anything at all

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.