Thursday, October 2, 2008

More Wisdom From the Oracle of Omaha

I went to the NEX today in the hopes of finding Linda Robinson's new book on General Petraeus and the surge. I didn't find it, but I did happen to stumble on two others I couldn't resist -- the new Woodward (hey, I've got issues with it but 2006 to 2008 Iraq is a great story), and a mammoth-sized new Warren Buffett biography by Alice Schroeder, who Mr. Buffett has basically directed to write the comprehensive tome on his life that he never will.

I'm only into the first chapter so far, but I know it's going to be a treat and as a huge Buffett fan I can already say I recommend it.

What I couldn't understand at first, though, was the title -- "The Snowball." Was it a nickname I hadn't picked up from other writings on the man? As I was actually about the throw away the dust jacket (I always do) I caught a glimpse of the back cover, which read:

"Life is like a snowball.
The important thing
is finding wet snow
and a really long hill."
-- Warren Buffett

Of course. So very Buffett, and so very apt, considering his proven investment strategy and his favorite holding period of "forever."

But I think this quote has far more widespread application potential. I've been in my current job for six months, and I'm JUST now starting to notice how a lot of plodding, a few wrong turns, some course corrections, and a lot more late nights and plodding are starting to bring good results. Those good results have in turn led to more good results, which have actually become easier to attain.

The only downside, I'd say, is that I'm *only* going to be doing this for another year-and-a-half or so (and thus spring will come for this particular snowball), although the bright side is that I'll be in this general business for at least another dozen-plus years -- whether as a reservist, state, local, or federal employee, DoD contractor, or some combination of all of the above.

So a new professional snowball can form, and all this work now ought to somehow feed into it.

Personally, the Buffett quote REALLY rang a resonant note, because from the first entry on, the most solid-running theme of this entire blog is the idea that if you really want to *matter* somewhere -- if you want to in some way have a meaningful impact on the community you live in, you've got to do some staying put (and of course that can be entirely separate from your professional community, where technology makes that less and less so).

In that sense, it doesn't really matter whether it's Queens, Arlington, Norwich, Los Angeles, London, or even, yes, Lowell that you call home.

By establishing yourself and basically "putting yourself out there" (quote marks just to emphasize that's going to mean something different to everyone) you start the process of the snowball's formation. Your own ability and character will determine the wetness of the snow, and your staying power will determine the size of the hill.

It's really that simple.

I can't ever pretend to speak for (or even to!) Warren Buffett, but I can only surmise that the world's richest hamburger-and-Cherry Coke fan might agree.

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