11 brilliant quotes from Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's right-hand man

Charlie Munger, left, with Warren Buffett. Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images / File

Charlie Munger dropped out of college, served as a meteorologist in the US Army Air Corps, and graduated from Harvard Law.

And then he met Warren Buffett, and the rest is history.

As vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Munger is Buffett’s right-hand man. He has an estimated net worth of $US1.51 billion.

Like Buffett, Munger is incredibly sharp in his wit and investing wisdom. You might even argue that his words are more blunt and unfiltered than Buffett’s.

We compiled a list of Munger’s most insightful quotes about investing, business, and life.

Invest in a business that any fool can run.

King Lear and The Fool. (But who is the real fool?)

'Invest in a business any fool can run, because someday a fool will. If it won't stand a little mismanagement, it's not much of a business. We're not looking for mismanagement, even if we can withstand it.'

Source: Berkshire Hathaway 2009 meeting via Buffett FAQ

Overestimating your intelligence could be a major pitfall.

'If you think your IQ is 160 but it's 150, you're a disaster. It's much better to have a 130 IQ and think it's 120.'

Source: Berkshire Hathaway 2009 meeting via The Daily Beast

Smart people do dumb things.

The Flight of Icarus.

'We recognised early on that very smart people do very dumb things, and we wanted to know why and who, so we could avoid them.'

Source: Berkshire Hathaway 2007 meeting via Buffett FAQ

If you're lazy and unreliable, it doesn't even matter what you're good at.

'What do you want to avoid? Such an easy answer: sloth and unreliability. If you're unreliable, it doesn't matter what your virtues are. You're going to crater immediately. Doing what you have faithfully engaged to do should be an automatic part of your conduct. You want to avoid sloth and unreliability.'

Source: Charlie Munger's USC Law Commencement Speech, May 2007

Keep it simple.

Hollis Johnson

'Well, opportunity cost is a huge filter in life. If you've got two suitors who are eager to have you, but one is way better than the other, you're going to choose that one rather than the other. That's the way we filter stock buying opportunities. Our ideas are so simple. People keep asking us for mysteries, but all we have are the most elementary ideas.'

Source: Berkshire Hathaway 1997 meeting via Buffett FAQ

Self-pity doesn't solve anything.

Oli Scarff/Getty Images

'Generally speaking, envy, resentment, revenge and self-pity are disastrous modes of thought. Self-pity gets fairly close to paranoia, and paranoia is one of the very hardest things to reverse. You do not want to drift into self-pity. ... Self-pity will not improve the situation.'

Source: Charlie Munger's USC Law Commencement Speech, May 2007

There are lots of smart people. But there are few that can think about things that have never been thought about before.

Nikolai Lobachevsky

'It reminds me of the young guy who went up to Mozart and said, 'I'd like to write symphonies.' When Mozart said, 'You're too young,' the young man replied, 'But you were young when you started.' Mozart pointed out, 'Yes, but I wasn't asking anyone else for advice on how to do it.''

Source: Berkshire Hathaway 2006 meeting via Buffett FAQ

The greatest minds are in books, not classrooms.

Wikimedia Commons
Ben Franklin.

'I met the towering intellectuals in books, not in the classroom, which is natural. I can't remember when I first read Ben Franklin. I had Thomas Jefferson over my bed at seven or eight. My family was into all that stuff, getting ahead through discipline, knowledge, and self-control.'

Source: 'Damn Right!: Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger'

I got 99 problems, and optimistic accounting is all of them.

Photo: Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

Ninety-nine per cent 'of the troubles that threaten our civilisation come from too optimistic accounting. And yet these damn accountants with their desire for mathematical purity want to devote exactly as much attention to accounting that is too pessimistic as they do to accounting that is too optimistic -- which is crazy. (Ninety-nine per cent) of the problems come from being too optimistic. Therefore, we should have a system where the accounting is way more conservative.'

Source: University of Michigan discussion

If Mozart couldn't get away with it, then neither can you.

'Another thing that does one in, of course, is the self-serving bias to which we're all subject. You think the 'True Little Me' is entitled to do what it wants to do. And, for instance, why shouldn't the True Little Me overspend my income. There once was a man who became the most famous composer in the world but was utterly miserable most of the time, and one of the reasons was because he always overspent his income. That was Mozart. If Mozart can't get by with this kind of asinine conduct, I don't think you should try.'

Source: Charlie Munger's USC Law Commencement Speech, May 2007

In the future, someone will come along and do even better.

Warren Buffett. Photo: Getty Images
Benjamin Graham (left).

'Ben Graham was a truly formidable mind, and he also had a clarity in writing, and we talk over and over again about the power of a few simple ideas thoroughly assimilated, and that happened with Graham's ideas which came to me indirectly through Warren, but some also directly from Graham. The interesting thing for me is that Buffett the former protégé -- by the way Buffett was the best student Graham had in 30 years of teaching at Columbia -- became better than Graham. That's the natural outcome -- as Milton said, 'If I've seen a little farther than other men, it's by standing on the shoulders of giants.' So, Warren stood on Ben's shoulders, but he ended up seeing more than Ben. No doubt somebody will come along and do a lot better than we have.'

Source: Berkshire Hathaway 1997 meeting via Buffett FAQ

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