Biography about your self
B I O G R A P H Y A B O U T M Y S E L F
Hello! My name is enknownymous and I live in an unknown city and my hobies are playing, watching, and reading. My goal is to be a surgeon because I want to help people that are sick, pregnant, and other issues.
I have many friends that are smart and active! and I would like to be like them. My friends describe me as strong, smart, always serious, intelligent, good at games, good at indoor and outdoor activities. My life is just simple. I'm a fan of Bruce lee. Why?, because he is strong, he can handle all bad guys, he has the fastest punch and kicks, he defeated a karate master and taekwando masters, he is very very good at nunchuck and he is powerful.
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As an activist, community organizer, and executive, Tarana Burke has made quite an impact. Known as the founder of the ‘me too’ Movement, Burke’s hashtag has been used more than 19 million times on Twitter alone. Since then, Burke has been widely recognized for her work, and was named Person of the Year by TIME Magazine in 2017.
Tarana Burke was born on September 12, 1973 in The Bronx, New York. From a young age, Burke developed a passion for activism and community organizing. In the late 1980s, she joined an organization focused on youth development called 21 st Century. Starting as a teenager, Burke led campaigns and launched initiatives around issues like housing inequality, racial discrimination, and economic injustice. Fueled by her passion for activism, she decided to attend Alabama State University, a Historically Black University (HBCU), to further develop her organizing skills. Burke’s advocacy and leadership continued throughout her college career. After graduating, she moved to Selma, Alabama to work for 21 st Century. While working with this organization, Burke encountered many young women of color that were survivors of sexual violence and abuse. Also a survivor of sexual abuse, Burke identified with these young women and her efforts shifted towards supporting them. She began to find ways to provide resources, support and safe spaces for young women of color to share their stories.
In 1996, Burke was working as the director of a youth camp when she encountered a young woman that would have a profound effect on her. After holding an all-girl bonding session at the camp, a young woman asked to speak with Burke privately about experiencing sexual abuse. Although Burke was unable to respond thoroughly in the moment, this encounter would become the foundation for the ‘me too’ Movement she created a decade later. She continued to focus on young women of color and co-founded an African-centered Rites of Passage program for girls called Jendayi Aza. This program evolved into her non-profit JustBe, Inc. which was founded in 2007. This organization was created to empower and encourage young Black girls through unique programming and workshops. JustBe, Inc. had a tremendous impact on the community, and the program was adopted by every public school in Selma, Alabama. Shortly after, the ‘me too’ Movement was born. Created as a way for young women of color to share their stories, Burke began using the phrase ‘me too’ to promote the idea of “empowerment through empathy.” Her campaign was not only designed to facilitate healing, but she also wanted to train survivors to work in communities of color.
While developing ‘me too,’ Burke continued to work in the non-profit sector. She served as Managing Director of a Black arts organization in Philadelphia called Art Sanctuary. She was also the Executive Director of the Black Belt Cultural Arts Center, where she created community programs designed for underserved youth. In Selma, Alabama, Burke worked as a curatorial consultant and special projects director at the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute. While at this museum she helped to organize the annual Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee to commemorate the Selma Voting Rights Struggle. Burke’s work earned her a consulting position on Ava DuVernay’s award-winning film, Selma in 2014. A few years later, Burke’s work returned to the spotlight. During the 2017 Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal, Burke’s hashtag #metoo went viral. People all over the world began posting the phrase on their social media accounts to align with the movement.
Following this surge of support, Burke became a global leader and helped to get a larger conversation started around sexual violence. According to the Pew Research Center, in just one year the #metoo hashtag was used more than 19 million times on Twitter alone. In 2017, TIME Magazine named Burke and other “Silence Breakers” as Person of the Year. The very next year, she attended the 75 th Annual Golden Globe Awards as a guest of actress Michelle Williams. Burke has been internationally celebrated for her work and has been invited to speak across the country. In 2019, she earned the Sydney Peace Prize in Sydney, Australia. Burke currently serves as the Senior Director of Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn, NY. She is also frequently asked to provide social commentary and has been published in Teen Vogue , Colorlines , Mic , BK Nation , Glamour , Ebony , Essence , The Source, and The Root , among others. Burke currently resides in New York City with her daughter.
- Anderson, Monica, and Skye Toor. “How Social Media Users Have Discussed Sexual Harassment since #MeToo Went Viral.” Pew Research Center. October 11, 2018. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/11/how-social-media-users-have-discussed-sexual-harassment-since-metoo-went-viral/.
- Criss, Doug. “The Media's Version of #MeToo Is Unrecognizable to the Movement's Founder, Tarana Burke.” CNN, Cable News Network. November 30, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/30/us/tarana-burke-ted-talk-trnd/index.html.
- Me Too Movement. “The Inception.” January 1, 2018. https://metoomvmt.org/ .
- Time Magazine. “Tarana Burke Says 'Pain' of Minority Women Never Prioritized'.” April 23, 2019. https://time.com/5574163/tarana-burke-metoo-time-100-summit/.
- TED. “Tarana Burke: Civil Rights Activist.” Accessed February 5, 2020. https://www.ted.com/speakers/tarana_burke?language=en.
- Zacharek, Stephanie, Eliana Dockterman, and Haley Sweetland Edwards. “TIME Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers.” Time Magazine. 2017. https://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-2017-silence-breakers/.
MLA – Alexander, Kerri Lee. “Tarana Burke.” National Women’s History Museum, 2020. Date accessed.
Chicago – Alexander, Kerri Lee. “Tarana Burke” National Women’s History Museum. 2020. www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/tarana-burke.
- NPR. “Tarana Burke: How Can We Build A World Where People Don't Have To Say ‘Me Too’?” NPR/TED Radio Hour. February 1, 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/02/01/689483577/tarana-burke-how-can-we-build-a-world-where-people-dont-have-to-say-me-too.
- Me too Movement: https://metoomvmt.org/
- Girls for Gender Equity: https://www.ggenyc.org/
- NWHM Website: https://www.womenshistory.org/tarana-burke
Abigail Smith Adams
Related background, women, education, sports, and title ix, frances ellen watkins harper, janet yellen: the progress of women and minorities in the field of economics, elinor “lin” ostrom, nobel prize economist.
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Early life and mayor of Davao City
The duterte presidency.
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Rodrigo Duterte , also called Digong , (born March 28, 1945, Maasin, Philippines), Filipino politician who was president of the Philippines from 2016 to 2022.
Duterte’s father served as governor of the province of Davao, and his mother was a community activist who had a prominent role in the “people power” movement that deposed the authoritarian president Ferdinand Marcos and restored democratic rule to the Philippines. Duterte earned a political science degree (1968) from Lyceum of the Philippines University in Manila and a law degree (1972) from San Beda College. In 1977 he joined the Davao City prosecutor’s office, where he remained until he was appointed (1986) vice mayor of that city.
Duterte was elected mayor in 1988, and he was reelected to that post twice over the subsequent decade. Because of term-limit restrictions, he was barred from seeking reelection in 1998, but he successfully ran for a seat representing Davao in the Philippines House of Representatives. Upon the completion of that term in 2001, he returned to Davao City and was once more elected mayor. Because the term-limit restriction again came into force in 2010, he was elected vice mayor, and his daughter Sara served as mayor. In 2013 Duterte returned to the mayor’s office, this time with his son Paolo (“Pulong”) serving as vice mayor.
During his more than two decades as mayor of Davao City, the controversial politician transformed the city from a haven of lawlessness into one of the safest areas in Southeast Asia . Duterte’s harsh crime-fighting tactics earned him the nicknames “the Punisher” and “Duterte Harry” (in reference to the film character Dirty Harry, the ruthlessly effective police inspector portrayed by actor Clint Eastwood ), but critics such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch claimed that Duterte was responsible for more than 1,000 extrajudicial killings. Rather than denying such allegations, he embraced them. The death squads that had carried out the killings operated with an impunity that implied official sanction, and Duterte openly praised both their methods and their apparent results. In that way he cultivated the image of a coarse pistol-toting vigilante in the months leading up to the presidential election. His antiestablishment message took hold among a Filipino public weary of official corruption, and his brash over-the-top rhetoric led to comparisons of him to U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump .
Duterte’s position on the contested Spratly Islands —arguably the Philippines’ most-pressing foreign policy issue—caused consternation among the country’s allies. He wavered unpredictably between a negotiated settlement with China and a claim that he would ride a jet ski to one of the disputed islands and plant a Filipino flag on it. On May 9 nearly 80 percent of eligible voters turned out for the election, and Duterte captured nearly as many votes as his two closest competitors combined. Within days of his landslide victory, Duterte vowed to reintroduce the death penalty —abolished in the Philippines in 2006—in concert with his promise to “fatten all the fish” in Manila Bay with the bodies of criminals. In a televised address in June, he endorsed vigilantism by members of the public, stating that he would personally reward anyone who shot and killed a drug dealer.
On June 30, 2016, Duterte was inaugurated as president of the Philippines . In his first six months in office, more than 6,000 people were killed in Duterte’s “war on drugs.” A fraction of those deaths occurred during police operations. The overwhelming majority were extrajudicial killings by death squads. Metro Manila’s funeral parlours were strained beyond capacity, and hundreds of unidentified or unclaimed bodies were interred in mass burials. Human rights organizations and Roman Catholic officials spoke out against the bloodshed, but Duterte responded by accusing the church of corruption and the sexual abuse of children.
When Western governments expressed concern over the rampant vigilantism, Duterte said that the West could offer the Philippines only “double talk,” and he sought to strengthen ties with Russia and China. The United States had suspended the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines as a result of the human rights abuses, and in May 2017 Duterte met with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin to discuss the prospect of an arms deal. While Duterte was in Moscow, a series of deadly clashes erupted in Marawi between Filipino troops and Islamist fighters linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL; also called ISIS). Duterte cut short his trip and declared a state of martial law covering the entire island of Mindanao . Although government forces retook Marawi and quashed the rebellion, the declaration was renewed through the end of 2019, making it the longest period of martial law in the Philippines since the Marcos era.
In February 2018 the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a preliminary investigation into the more than 12,000 deaths that had occurred during Duterte’s “war on drugs.” The following month Duterte responded by announcing his intention to withdraw the Philippines from the ICC; that withdrawal became official in March 2019. In September 2021 the ICC authorized a full investigation into Duterte’s actions, but the probe was suspended two months later when officials in Manila asserted that they were conducting their own inquiries into the extrajudicial killings.
International and domestic human rights organizations continued to remain sharply critical of Duterte, but he dismissed them, going so far as to instruct police to shoot activists if they were “obstructing justice.” Press freedoms were also curtailed , and Maria Ressa , cofounder of a news website that had documented the worst excesses of Duterte’s antidrug campaign, was arrested numerous times on questionable charges. In a pointed rebuke of Duterte and his policies, in 2021 Ressa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov ) for using “freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence, and growing authoritarianism in her native country.”
Duterte remained widely popular with the Filipino public, however, and voters in May 2019 delivered a resounding endorsement of the president’s agenda by backing a slate of pro-Duterte candidates. Duterte maintained his hold on the House of Representatives, and, by taking control of the Senate, he removed what was the only effective check remaining on his administration. Although constitutionally limited to a single presidential term, Duterte flirted with methods of remaining in power. In September 2021 his party nominated him as its candidate for vice president, but he unexpectedly withdrew from that race the following month. After a short-lived bid for a Senate seat, Duterte then announced that he planned to retire from politics after overseeing the peaceful transfer of power to his successor. By the time Filipinos went to the polls in May 2022, Duterte had endorsed his daughter, Sara Duterte, in her ultimately successful bid for the vice presidency, but he had remained surprisingly aloof of the presidential race. That contest was won by Ferdinand ( “Bongbong”) Marcos, Jr. , son of the authoritarian leader who was ousted in 1986.
Home » Writing » Autobiography vs. Biography vs. Memoir
What is a Biography?
A biography, also called a bio, is a non-fiction piece of work giving an objective account of a person’s life. The main difference between a biography vs. an autobiography is that the author of a biography is not the subject. A biography could be someone still living today, or it could be the subject of a person who lived years ago.
Biographies include details of key events that shaped the subject’s life, and information about their birthplace, education, work, and relationships. Biographers use a number of research sources, including interviews, letters, diaries, photographs, essays, reference books, and newspapers. While a biography is usually in the written form, it can be produced in other formats such as music composition or film.
If the target person of the biography is not alive, then the storytelling requires an immense amount of research. Interviews might be required to collect information from historical experts, people who knew the person (e.g., friends and family), or reading other older accounts from other people who wrote about the person in previous years. In biographies where the person is still alive, the writer can conduct several interviews with the target person to gain insight on their life.
The goal of a biography is to take the reader through the life story of the person, including their childhood into adolescence and teenage years, and then their early adult life into the rest of their years. The biography tells a story of how the person learned life’s lessons and the ways the person navigated the world. It should give the reader a clear picture of the person’s personality, traits, and their interaction in the world.
Biographies can also be focused on groups of people and not just one person. For example, a biography can be a historical account of a group of people from hundreds of years ago. This group could have the main person who was a part of the group, and the author writes about the group to tell a story of how they shaped the world.
Fictional biographies mix some true historical accounts with events to help improve the story. Think of fictional biographies as movies that display a warning that the story is made of real characters, but some events are fictional to add to the storyline and entertainment value. A lot of research still goes into a fictional biography, but the author has more room to create a storyline instead of sticking to factual events.
Examples of famous biographies include:
- His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
- Einstein: The Life and Times by Ronald William Clark
- Princess Diana – A Biography of The Princess of Wales by Drew L. Crichton
What is an Autobiography?
An autobiography is the story of a person’s life written by that person. Because the author is also the main character of the story, autobiographies are written in the first person. Usually, an autobiography is written by the person who is the subject of the book, but sometimes the autobiography is written by another person. Because an autobiography is usually a life story for the author, the theme can be anything from religious to a personal account to pass on to children.
The purpose of an autobiography is to portray the life experiences and achievements of the author. Therefore, most autobiographies are typically written later in the subject’s life. It’s written from the point of view of the author, so it typically uses first person accounts to describe the story.
An autobiography often begins during early childhood and chronologically details key events throughout the author’s life. Autobiographies usually include information about where a person was born and brought up, their education, career, life experiences, the challenges they faced, and their key achievements.
On rare occasions, an autobiography is created from a person’s diary or memoirs. When diaries are used, the author must organize them to create a chronological and cohesive story. The story might have flashbacks or flashforwards to describe a specific event, but the main storyline should follow chronological order from the author’s early life to their current events.
One of the main differences between an autobiography vs. a biography is that autobiographies tend to be more subjective. That’s because they are written by the subject, and present the facts based on their own memories of a specific situation, which can be biased. The story covers the author’s opinions on specific subjects and provides an account of their feelings as they navigate certain situations. These stories are also very personal because it’s a personal account of the author’s life rather than a biography where a third party writes about a specific person.
Examples of famous autobiographies include:
- The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson
What is a Memoir?
Memoir comes from the French word mémoire , meaning memory or reminiscence. Similar to an autobiography, a memoir is the story of a person’s life written by that person. These life stories are often from diary entries either from a first-person account or from a close family member or friend with access to personal diaries.
The difference between a memoir vs. an autobiography is that a memoir focuses on reflection and establishing an emotional connection, rather than simply presenting the facts about their life. The author uses their personal knowledge to tell an intimate and emotional story about the private or public happenings in their life. The author could be the person in the story, or it can be written by a close family member or friend who knew the subject person intimately. The topic is intentionally focused and does not include biographical or chronological aspects of the author’s life unless they are meaningful and relevant to the story.
Memoirs come in several types, all of which are written as an emotional account of the target person. They usually tell a story of a person who went through great struggles or faced challenges in a unique way. They can also cover confessionals where the memoir tells the story of the author’s account that contradicts another’s account.
This genre of writing is often stories covering famous people’s lives, such as celebrities. In many memoir projects, the celebrity or person of interest needs help with organization, writing the story, and fleshing out ideas from the person’s diaries. It might take several interviews before the story can be fully outlined and written, so it’s not uncommon for a memoir project to last several months.
Memoirs do not usually require as much research as biographies and autobiographies, because you have the personal accounts in diary entries and documents with the person’s thoughts. It might require several interviews, however, before the diary entries can be organized to give an accurate account on the person’s thoughts and emotions. The story does not necessarily need to be in chronological order compared to an autobiography, but it might be to tell a better story.
Examples of famous memoirs include:
- Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant
Autobiography vs. Biography vs. Memoir Comparison Chart
Check out some of our blogs to learn more about memoirs:
- What is a memoir?
- 5 tips for writing a memoir
- Your memoir is your legacy
Ready to get started on your own memoir, autobiography, or biography? Download our free desktop book-making software, BookWright .
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What I Learned from Warren Buffett
A book on Buffett spurs Gates to reflect on their friendship.
W arren Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist, Roger Lowenstein (New York: Random House, 1995).
Roger Lowenstein begins his new biography of Warren Buffett with a disclaimer. He reveals that he is a longtime investor in Berkshire Hathaway, the company that under Buffett’s guidance has seen its share price rise in 33 years from $ 7.60 to approximately $ 30,000.
In reviewing Lowenstein’s book, I must begin with a disclaimer, too. I can’t be neutral or dispassionate about Warren Buffett, because we’re close friends. We recently vacationed together in China with our wives. I think his jokes are all funny. I think his dietary practices—lots of burgers and Cokes—are excellent. In short, I’m a fan.
It’s easy to be a fan of Warren’s, and doubtless many readers of Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist will join the growing ranks. Lowenstein’s book is a straightforward account of Buffett’s remarkable life. It doesn’t fully convey what a fun, humble, charming guy Warren is, but his uniqueness comes across. No one is likely to come away from it saying, “Oh, I’m like that guy.”
The broad outlines of Warren’s career are well known, and the book offers enjoyable detail. Lowenstein traces Warren’s life from his birth in Omaha, Nebraska in 1930 to his first stock purchase at age 11, and from his study of the securities profession under Columbia University’s legendary Benjamin Graham to his founding of the Buffett Partnership at age 25. The author describes Buffett’s secretiveness about the stocks he picked for the partnership, and his contrasting openness about his guiding principle, which is to buy stocks at bargain-basement prices and hold them patiently. As Warren once explained in a letter to his partners, “This is the cornerstone of our investment philosophy: Never count on making a good sale. Have the purchase price be so attractive that even a mediocre sale gives good results.”
Lowenstein describes how Warren took control of Berkshire Hathaway and cash-cowed its dying textile business in order to purchase stock in other companies. The book traces how Berkshire evolved into a holding company and how its investment philosophy evolved as Warren learned to look beyond financial data and recognize the economic potential of unique franchises like dominant newspapers. Today Berkshire owns companies such as See’s Candy Shops, the Buffalo News, and World Book International, as well as major positions in companies such as American Express, Capital Cities/ABC (now Disney), Coca-Cola, Gannett, Gillette, and the Washington Post Company. It also is a major insurer that includes GEICO Corporation in its holdings.
Readers are likely to come away from the book’s description of Buffett’s life and investment objectives feeling better educated about investing and business, but whether those lessons will translate into great investment results is less than certain. Warren’s gift is being able to think ahead of the crowd, and it requires more than taking Warren’s aphorisms to heart to accomplish that—although Warren is full of aphorisms well worth taking to heart.
For example, Warren likes to say that there are no called strikes in investing. Strikes occur only when you swing and miss. When you’re at bat, you shouldn’t concern yourself with every pitch, nor should you regret good pitches that you don’t swing at. In other words, you don’t have to have an opinion about every stock or other investment opportunity, nor should you feel bad if a stock you didn’t pick goes up dramatically. Warren says that in your lifetime you should swing at only a couple dozen pitches, and he advises doing careful homework so that the few swings you do take are hits.
For example, Warren likes to say that there are no called strikes in investing. Strikes occur only when you swing and miss.
Warren follows his own advice: When he invests in a company, he likes to read all of its annual reports going back as far as he can. He looks at how the company has progressed and what its strategy is. He investigates thoroughly and acts deliberately—and infrequently. Once he has purchased a company or shares in a company, he is loath to sell.
His penchant for long-term investments is reflected in another of his aphorisms: “You should invest in a business that even a fool can run, because someday a fool will.”
He doesn’t believe in businesses that rely for their success on every employee being excellent. Nor does he believe that great people help all that much when the fundamentals of a business are bad. He says that when good management is brought into a fundamentally bad business, it’s the reputation of the business that remains intact.
Warren likes to say that a good business is like a castle and you’ve got to think every day, Is the management growing the size of the moat? Or is the moat shrinking? Great businesses are not all that common, and finding them is hard. Unusual factors combine to create the moats that shelter certain companies from some of the rigors of competition. Warren is superb at recognizing these franchises.
Warren installs strong managers in the companies Berkshire owns and tends to leave them pretty much alone. His basic proposition to managers is that to the degree that a company spins off cash, which good businesses do, the managers can trust Warren to invest it wisely. He doesn’t encourage managers to diversify. Managers are expected to concentrate on the businesses they know well so that Warren is free to concentrate on what he does well: investing.
My own reaction upon meeting Warren took me by surprise. Whenever somebody says to me, “Meet so-and-so; he’s the smartest guy ever” or “You’ve got to meet my friend so-and-so; he’s the best at such and such,” my defenses go up. Most people are quick to conclude that someone or something they encounter personally is exceptional. This is just human nature. Everybody wants to know someone or something superlative. As a result, people overestimate the merit of that to which they’ve been exposed. So the fact that people called Warren Buffett unique didn’t impress me much.
In fact, I was extremely skeptical when my mother suggested I take a day away from work to meet him on July 5, 1991. What were he and I supposed to talk about, P/E ratios? I mean, spend all day with a guy who just picks stocks? Especially when there’s lots of work to do? Are you kidding?
I said to my mom, “I’m working on July fifth. We’re really busy. I am sorry.”
She said, “Kay Graham will be there.”
Now, that caught my attention. I had never met Graham, but I was impressed with how well she had run the Washington Post Company and by her newspaper’s role in political history. As it happened, Kay and Warren had been great friends for years, and one of Warren’s shrewdest investments was in Post stock. Kay, Warren, and a couple of prominent journalists happened to be in the Seattle area together, and owing to an unusual circumstance they all squeezed into a little car that morning for a long drive to my family’s weekend home, which is a couple of hours outside the city. Some of the people in the car were as skeptical as I was. “We’re going to spend the whole day at these people’s house?” someone in the cramped car asked. “What are we going to do all day?”
My mom was really hard core that I come. “I’ll stay a couple of hours, and then I’m going back,” I told her.
When I arrived, Warren and I began talking about how the newspaper business was being changed by the arrival of retailers who did less advertising. Then he started asking me about IBM: “If you were building IBM from scratch, how would it look different? What are the growth businesses for IBM? What has changed for them?”
He asked good questions and told educational stories. There’s nothing I like so much as learning, and I had never met anyone who thought about business in such a clear way. On that first day, he introduced me to an intriguing analytic exercise that he does. He’ll choose a year—say, 1970—and examine the ten highest market-capitalization companies from around then. Then he’ll go forward to 1990 and look at how those companies fared. His enthusiasm for the exercise was contagious. I stayed the whole day, and before he drove off with his friends, I even agreed to fly out to Nebraska to watch a football game with him.
Acquiring the Warren Buffett Way
by Warren Buffett
Understanding intrinsic value is as important for managers as it is for investors. When managers are making capital allocation decisions—including decisions to repurchase shares—it’s vital that they act in ways that increase per-share intrinsic value and avoid moves that decrease it. This principle may seem obvious, but we constantly see it violated. And, when misallocations occur, shareholders are hurt.
For example, in contemplating business mergers and acquisitions, many managers tend to focus on whether the transaction is immediately dilutive or antidilutive to earnings per share (or, at financial institutions, to per-share book value). An emphasis of this sort carries great dangers… Imagine that a 25-year-old first-year M.B.A. student is considering merging his future interests with those of a 25-year-old day laborer. The M.B.A. student, a nonearner, would find that a “share-for-share” merger of his equity interest in himself with that of the day laborer would enhance his near-term earnings—in a big way! But what could be sillier for the student than a deal of this kind?
In corporate institutions, it’s equally silly for the would-be purchaser to focus on current earnings when the prospective acquiree has either different prospects, a different mix of operating and nonoperating assets, or a different capital structure. At Berkshire, we have rejected many merger and purchase opportunities that would have boosted current and near-term earnings but reduced per-share intrinsic value. Our approach, rather, has been to follow Wayne Gretzky’s advice: “Go to where the puck is going to be, not to where it is.” As a result, our shareholders are now many billions of dollars richer than they would have been if we had used the standard catechism.
The sad fact is that most major acquisitions display an egregious imbalance: They are a bonanza for the shareholders of the acquiree; they increase the income and status of the acquirer’s management; and they are a honey-pot for the investment bankers and other professionals on both sides. But, alas, they usually reduce the wealth of the acquirer’s shareholders, often to a substantial extent. That happens because the acquirer typically gives up more intrinsic value than it receives. Do that enough, says John Medlin, the retired head of Wachovia Corporation, and “you are running a chain letter in reverse.”
Over time, the skill with which a company’s managers allocate capital has an enormous impact on the enterprise’s value. Almost by definition, a really good business generates far more money (at least after its early years) than it can use internally. The company could, of course, distribute the money to shareholders by way of dividends or share repurchases. But often the CEO asks a strategic planning staff, consultants, or investment bankers whether an acquisition or two might make sense. That’s like asking your interior decorator whether you need a $ 50,000 rug.
The acquisition problem is often compounded by a biological bias: Many CEOs attain their positions in part because they possess an abundance of animal spirits and ego. If an executive is heavily endowed with these qualities—which, it should be acknowledged, sometimes have their advantages—they won’t disappear when he reaches the top. When such a CEO is encouraged by his advisers to make deals, he responds much as would a teenage boy who is encouraged by his father to have a normal sex life. It’s not a push that he needs.
Some years back, a CEO friend of mine—in jest, it must be said—unintentionally described the pathology of many big deals. This friend, who ran a property-casualty insurer, was explaining to his directors why he wanted to acquire a certain life insurance company. After droning rather unpersuasively through the economics and strategic rationale for the acquisition, he abruptly abandoned the script. With an impish look, he simply said, “Aw, fellas, all the other kids have one.”
When you are with Warren, you can tell how much he loves his work. It comes across in many ways. When he explains stuff, it’s never “Hey, I’m smart about this and I’m going to impress you.” It’s more like “This is so interesting and it’s actually very simple. I’ll just explain it to you and you’ll realize how dumb it was that it took me a long time to figure it out.” And when he shares it with you, using his keen sense of humor to help make the point, it does seem simple.
Warren and I have the most fun when we’re taking the same data that everybody else has and coming up with new ways of looking at them that are both novel and, in a sense, obvious. Each of us tries to do this all the time for our respective companies, but it’s particularly enjoyable and stimulating to discuss these insights with each other.
We are quite candid and not at all adversarial. Our business interests don’t overlap much, although his printed World Book Encyclopedia competes with my electronic Microsoft Encarta. Warren stays away from technology companies because he likes investments in which he can predict winners a decade in advance—an almost impossible feat when it comes to technology. Unfortunately for Warren, the world of technology knows no boundaries. Over time, most business assets will be affected by technology’s broad reach—although Gillette, Coca-Cola, and See’s should be safe.
One area in which we do joust now and then is mathematics. Once Warren presented me with four unusual dice, each with a unique combination of numbers (from 0 to 12) on its sides. He proposed that we each choose one of the dice, discard the third and fourth, and wager on who would roll the highest number most often. He graciously offered to let me choose my die first.
“Okay,” Warren said, “because you get to pick first, what kind of odds will you give me?”
I knew something was up. “Let me look at those dice,” I said.
After studying the numbers on their faces for a moment, I said, “This is a losing proposition. You choose first.”
Once he chose a die, it took me a couple of minutes to figure out which of the three remaining dice to choose in response. Because of the careful selection of the numbers on each die, they were nontransitive. Each of the four dice could be beaten by one of the others: die A would tend to beat die B, die B would tend to beat die C, die C would tend to beat die D, and die D would tend to beat die A. This meant that there was no winning first choice of a die, only a winning second choice. It was counterintuitive, like a lot of things in the business world.
Warren is great with numbers, and I love math, too. But being good with numbers doesn’t necessarily correlate with being a good investor. Warren doesn’t outperform other investors because he computes odds better. That’s not it at all. Warren never makes an investment where the difference between doing it and not doing it relies on the second digit of computation. He doesn’t invest—take a swing of the bat—unless the opportunity appears unbelievably good.
One habit of Warren’s that I admire is that he keeps his schedule free of meetings. He’s good at saying no to things. He knows what he likes to do—and what he does, he does unbelievably well. He likes to sit in his office and read and think. There are a few things he’ll do beyond that, but not many. One point that Lowenstein makes that is absolutely true is that Warren is a creature of habit. He grew up in Omaha, and he wants to stay in Omaha. He has gotten to know a certain set of people, and he’d like to spend time with those people. He’s not a person who seeks out exotic new things. Warren, who just turned 65, still lives in the Omaha house he bought for himself at age 27.
His affinity for routine extends to his investment practices, too. Warren sticks to companies that he is comfortable with. He doesn’t do much investing outside the United States. There are a few companies that he has decided are great long-term investments. And despite the self-evident mathematics that there must be a price that fully anticipates all the good work that those companies will do in the future, he just won’t sell their stock no matter what the price is. I think his reluctance to sell is more philosophical than optimization driven, but who am I to second-guess the world’s most successful investor? Warren’s reluctance to sell fits in with his other tendencies.
Warren and I share certain values. He and I both feel lucky that we were born into an era in which our skills have turned out to be so remunerative. Had we been born at a different time, our skills might not have had much value. Since we don’t plan on spending much of what we have accumulated, we can make sure our wealth benefits society. In a sense, we’re both working for charity. In any case, our heirs will get only a small portion of what we accumulate, because we both believe that passing on huge wealth to children isn’t in their or society’s interest. Warren likes to say that he wants to give his children enough money for them to do anything but not enough for them to do nothing. I thought about this before I met Warren, and hearing him articulate it crystallized my feelings.
Lowenstein is a good collector of facts, and Buffett is competently written. Warren has told me that the book is in most respects accurate. He says he is going to write his own book someday, but given how much he loves to work and how hard it is to write a book (based on my personal experience), I think it will be a number of years before he does it. When it comes out, I am sure it will be one of the most valuable business books ever.
Already, Warren’s letters to shareholders are among the best of business literature.
Already, Warren’s letters to shareholders in the Berkshire Hathaway annual reports are among the best of business literature. Much of Lowenstein’s analysis comes from those letters, as it should. If, after reading Buffett, you’re intrigued by the man and his methods, I strongly commend the annual reports to you—even ones from 10 or 15 years ago. They are available in many libraries.
Other books have been written about Warren Buffett and his investment strategy, but until Warren writes his own book, this is the one to read.
- BG Bill Gates is chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Washington.
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