The first rule of success: never lie to yourself
Charlie Munger is a billionaire, a business partner and a trusted confidant of Warren Buffett. Mr Munger has an unassailable track record as an investor — he’s personally worth $2.7 billion (2022), according to Forbes.
Mr Munger doesn’t often give interviews or public speeches, but his ideas are almost always insightful and thought-provoking when he does.
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One of his best insights comes from a speech he gave almost 20 years ago in 1996 titled “The Psychology of Human Misjudgment .” It’s packed with aphorisms that take you back to your high school English classes: “Think like a common man but think uncommonly.”
Or this:” “Curiosity, enhanced by the best of modern education (which is by definition a minority part in many places), much helps man to prevent or reduce bad consequences arising from other psychological tendencies. The curious are also provided with much fun and wisdom long after formal education has ended.”
Munger’s success can be attributed to many things: his patience, frugality, refusal to shy away from risk, etc. But one particular quote by Mungeer has stuck with me in my quest to pursue my best life: follow your natural drift.
Natural drift is a subtle force that nudges you from one direction to another, away from what’s expected of you, towards an opportunity or risk you are excited about that makes you come alive. It’s a gentle nudge in the right and authentic direction.
The natural world is filled with examples of how individuals, species, and ecosystems can find their own paths and thrive. Every bird you see has its own unique markings, feathers, song, and behaviour that make it stand out from the flock. You’ll also see plenty of birds that aren’t thriving or struggling to survive. What’s the difference?
The birds that thrive have found their natural drift and align their actions with it. They are not held back by social norms, peer pressure, or fear. Instead, they have an innate sense of who they are and what they need to do to live a rich life. They follow their own course in life — their natural drift — and they trust that as long as they take action in alignment with it, everything else will fall into place behind them.
In life, natural drift is moving away from what’s comfortable and safe, towards sometimes riskier opportunities with greater potential for growth and success.
“I have never succeeded very much in anything in which I was not very interested,” says Munger. “If you can’t somehow find yourself very interested in something, I don’t think you’ll succeed very much, even if you’re fairly smart,” he argues.
In investing and life, we’re often confronted with difficult decisions. In those moments, it’s tempting to pause and think through the pros and cons of every potential option. But in reality, our natural inclination is usually pretty obvious.
When forced to choose one path over another, our instincts usually point us in the right direction, but most people rarely pursue their true north. We learn more, achieve more, create more and earn more when we relentlessly follow what interests us. “Curiosity is the engine of achievement,” says Ken Robinson.
The first rule of success: never lie to yourself
“I always obeyed the drift of my nature. And if other people didn’t like it, well I didn’t need to be adored by everybody,” says the billionaire. The key to getting more out of life or living your best life is pursuing what excites you and interests you.
“My natural drift, which was toward learning all the big ideas in all the big disciplines, so I wouldn’t be the perfect damn fool the professor described. And because the really big ideas carry about 95% of the freight, it wasn’t at all hard for me to pick up about 95% of what I needed from all the disciplines and to include use of this knowledge as a standard part of my mental routines,” Charlie writes in Poor Charlie’s Almanack.
There will always be forces working against your natural drift: fear of change, lack of self-awareness, self-limiting beliefs and habits that get in the way of moving forward. When these forces stand in the way of your natural tendency to evolve as a human being, they become barriers to growth.
For a more exciting life, put your curiosities to work. Pursue your interests. Make them your way of life. Build careers around them. It’s the best way to become a better version of yourself.
“Once you have the ideas, of course, you must continuously practice their use. Like a concert pianist, if you don’t practice you can’t perform well. So I went through life constantly practicing a multi-disciplinary approach,” says wise Charlie.
We, as humans, have an innate desire to be happy or find meaning. To achieve that level of fulfilment or satisfaction without restrictions, we must align our values and deep purpose with our actions.
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The only trajectory for a better life is the one that allows you to fully find yourself, create yourself and pursue a meaningful career without reservation. When we fail to follow our natural drift, misery is inevitable.
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Contributed by Thomas OPPONG
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