Thoughts on the Berkshire Weekend

I took a lot of notes when I was with 40,000 of my closest friends at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting this weekend — heck, I even picked up a pair of commemorative Brooks running shoes and a bag full of Sees Candy (I resisted the urge to buy the Justin cowboy boots with the big Berkshire 50th Anniversary seal stamped on them, or the Warren and Charlie boxer shorts) — but really, most of what I walk away from the meeting with can be summed up in one sentence: Don’t watch your stocks go up and down every day.

I know this. You know this. Unless you’re trading in and out of your stocks every couple days and are a gambler and trader or short-term speculator, or you’re keeping an eye out for a sale so you can buy more, it doesn’t help to know how the market is pricing the companies you own each day — it helps to know that you’ve invested in a company where you have confidence they’ll continue to perform well, and that means you have to know it well and know that daily blips up and down by a couple percent when countries rattle sabers or competitors hire strippers mean next to nothing. But what do we all look at when we turn on our computers each day (most of us, at least)? We check our portfolio and “see how it’s doing” or if there’s any “news.”

Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s consigliere and confidant, mentioned again on Saturday how much he hates multitasking, and Warren and Charlie both say they spend a large part of each day reading without distractions. And though Warren has more fondness for computers than Charlie, and says he now uses search sometimes in addition to his primary computer habit of playing online bridge, he isn’t far from Munger in eschewing email and texting and facebook and whatever else distracts the rest of us from genuine opportunities for thinking.

That’s almost impossible for most of us, and it’s not just because most of us were born at least a few decades after Charlie Munger (who is now 91, almost exactly twice my age). I’m typing this on a laptop with email open, and a few applications running, and a few tabs going in the browser, and my jitterbug of a brain will probably force me to check ...

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