‘Find your passion,’ Buffett encourages young workers

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett advises students to find their passions. One of his, aside from sniffing out undervalued stocks, is table tennis. Here he smashes the ball, as Microsoft founder and Berkshire director Bill Gates looks on in Omaha. The May 5 match was part of the festivities tied to the Berkshire shareholders meeting.

Nati Harnik

Investor Warren Buffett encouraged young workers to find jobs that they are passionate about, as he offered career advice online last week on a variety of topics.

Buffett regularly takes time out of his schedule every year to meet with groups of students from about 40 colleges to answer their questions on life and business. Tuesday’s online forum gave him the chance to offer advice to a broader audience.

Buffett likes to compare what he does as chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway to painting a masterpiece on canvas, and because he loves what he does, it doesn’t feel like work. “I love painting on my canvas, and you’re lucky in life if you can find your passion.”

The 82-year-old billionaire was fortunate to figure out he wanted to be an investor early on by reading some of the books around his dad’s securities brokerage. Now he’s able to enjoy a daily routine of searching for deals at Berkshire that involves five to six hours of reading, talking to a few of his friends and playing bridge online.

Buffett said he rarely does anything he doesn’t enjoy, and he’s handed off nearly all the day-to-day tasks of running a company with 285,000 employees to other people.

“I have delegated like nobody has ever delegated with a company this size,” he said.

Berkshire owns more than 80 subsidiaries, including railroad, clothing, furniture and jewelry firms. Its insurance and utility businesses typically account for more than half of the company’s net income. The Omaha-based company also has major investments in iconic firms like Coca-Cola, American Express, Wells Fargo and IBM.

Berkshire’s Class A shares, which account for most of Buffett’s fortune, continues to be the most-expensive U.S. stock. It was trading Friday at $167,690 per share.

But money is not the only way to measure success, said Buffett, who continues to live in the same home in Omaha he bought in 1958. Buffett said he probably could easily live on $100,000 a year, except that he then wouldn’t be able to afford the private jet travel he loves.

Two weekends ago, Buffett spent more than five hours answering questions before a crowd of some 30,000 at Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting, and entertaining groups of shareholders at steak dinners and other events.

On Tuesday, Buffett spent about an hour responding to questions sent to the Levo League website, which helps young professionals early in their careers to find mentors and job opportunities. “It’s really important in life to have the right heroes,” Buffett said.

Buffett said being able to study under Benjamin Graham at Columbia University, and two years working for Graham’s investment firm, solidified his understanding of the investment techniques he used to amass a fortune. But Buffett said the influence of his father and his first wife also was crucial in his success because they taught him about life.

Buffett encouraged young people to try to associate with and work for people they admire.