Warren Buffett on the Lottery of Birth

One of the reasons J.D. asked me to join his merry band of GRS writers was so that I could add the occasional investing lesson to the line-up. Today, I’m going to hand that duty off very quickly to someone else, and then get to a life lesson from a great investor.


Today’s lesson comes from fund manager and former Motley Fool writer Whitney Tilson, whose Tilson Focus Fund (TILFX) has the best one-year return in Lipper’s multicap core category, according to Barron’s. In a recent interview on GuruFocus, Tilson said he began his investing career by reading all of Warren Buffett’s letters. If that sounds like good advice to you, every Berkshire Hathaway annual report since 1977 — which include Buffett’s letters — can be found at the Berkshire website. (If you have a yen to hear Buffett sing as well as read his words, check out his cameo in this GEICO video.)


The luck of the draw
But if you’d like some other kind of wisdom from Buffett, here’s a scenario that he often describes in speeches and interviews. (We’ve now moved into the “life lesson” part of this show.)

 It’s 24 hours before your birth, and a genie appears to you. He tells you that you can set the rules for the world you’re about to enter — economic, social, political — the whole enchilada. Sounds great, right? What’s the catch?


Before you enter the world, you will pick one ball from a barrel of 6.8 billion (the number of people on the planet). That ball will determine your gender, race, nationality, natural abilities, and health — whether you are born rich or poor, sick or able-bodied, brilliant or below average, American or Zimbabwean. (more…)

Go to top