It’s easy to say you’ve lived a happy life if you’re a nearly 100-year-old billionaire.
But it wasn’t always like that.
When Charlie Munger was 31 years old, he lost his nine-year-old son Teddy to cancer. Munger had gotten divorced a year before his son was diagnosed.
Munger was alone, heartbroken, and financially broke. His ex-wife got the house, and he lived in a bachelor’s apartment and drove a wreck of a car. His friends say he walked the streets crying every night as he returned from the children’s ward at the hospital.
What could have ruined his life made him determined to prosper. This is what happened in the years after the death of his son:
- He got remarried at age 32 (and had four more children)
- He met Warren Buffett at age 35
- He was financially independent at age 38
This is incredibly impressive and bears witness to a strong personality and a wise soul. Munger is like an old owl, and he’s worth listening to.
What does he say about living a great life?
Here are his top seven rules for achieving a happy life:
1. Avoid Envy
“Someone will always be getting richer faster than you. This is no great tragedy,” he says.
His partner Warren Buffett adds that the world is not run by greed, but rather by envy.
In other words, envy will make you miserable, and it’ll also turn you into a lousy investor.
2. Avoid Resentment
If you want a miserable life, you just need to wallow in resentment. Write a list of all the things you regret and resent, and blame it on people around you. Look at the list every day, and you’ll have a guaranteed miserable life.
What’s the antidote?
Just do the opposite. Think of all the things you are grateful for, and the wonderful memories of people you love, and think about them everyday.
3. Don’t Overspend
Charlie Munger is no Scrooge.
Whereas Warren Buffett drives his old Cadillac to buy breakfast every day at McDonald’s in Omaha, Charlie Munger likes entertaining friends at his enormous Channel Cat catamaran somewhere on the Californian Coast (or in Florida).
Charlie Munger isn’t telling you to be stingy. He’s just saying, don’t spend more than you make (and since Munger makes a lot of money, he gets to spend a lot of money).
“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,” he said in a commencement speech in 2007.
4. Stay Cheerful Despite Adversity
Life is sometimes hard, and it’ll be hard for all of us at some point.
If you expect your life to follow a certain predetermined path, you’re in for a great disappointment.
But if you expect potholes, roadblocks and the occasional traffic accident, you are better equipped to deal with reality and to stay cheerful even when your life takes its own – surprising – turns.
“Life will have terrible blows in it, horrible blows, unfair blows. It doesn’t matter. And some people recover and others don’t,” Munger said, adding that you should try to learn something from each blow.
5. Surround Yourself with Reliable People
I’ve spent too much time trying to figure out why people do what they do.
“Why doesn’t my boss say good morning? Why isn’t my barista smiling today? Why doesn’t a colleague cough up his share of some gift expenses? Have I done something wrong to offend people?”
Well, the truth is you probably haven’t done anything. People just do what they always do. People react in patterns.
Be good at reading them and avoid any unhealthy patterns.
What’s a healthy pattern?
Reliability is key.
Reliability is about doing what you say you’ll do. It’s about being somewhat predictable and reasonable. Which brings us to the next point….
6. Do What Your Supposed to Do
Do what you’ve said you’ll do and keep your word.
Keep doing it. Do what you’re supposed to do every day.
Success is in the detail. It’s about consistency and keeping at it.
Like Munger says:
“If you’re unreliable, it doesn’t matter what your virtues are. You’re going to crater immediately. Doing what you’ve faithfully engaged to do should be an automatic part of your conduct. You want to avoid sloth and unreliability.”
7. Read, Study, and Learn
“I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up,” Munger says.
You should both learn from your past mistakes and learn from books and studies. Munger says to become as educated as you possibly can.
Read, study, learn.
Munger is known for a book or more every single day (and so is Buffett).
Like Munger says:
“You’re not going to get very far in life based on what you already know.”