“I was working just for the experience of working.” – Charlie Munger
Charlie Munger believes in the principle of working for experience, not money, especially early in your career. This perspective reflects his long-term perspective on his personal and professional development.
Munger suggests that knowledge and skills gained through hands-on experience are worth more than immediate financial gain, especially in the beginning. This experience will give you deeper insight into your industry, processes and professions, which can be more beneficial in the long run.
Working for the experience enables individuals to:
- learn valuable skills: Working to gain experience allows individuals to acquire and develop important skills that will benefit them throughout their careers.
- Communication network: allows individuals to meet and connect with industry professionals, potentially leading to future opportunities.
- understand the industry: Gain a first-hand understanding of the industry that is critical to your future success.
- Make informed decisions: A deeper understanding of the industry and its roles enables individuals to make more informed decisions about their career path.
- long term growth: The initial financial reward may be small, but the skills and experience gained can significantly increase long-term career growth.
This does not mean that people should work for free or underestimate their work, but rather that early in their careers, they should be given valuable opportunities rather than opportunities for immediate maximum financial return. That means you might consider prioritizing opportunities that can provide a learning experience. Much like investments Munger often talks about, the benefits of this early learning can grow over time.
Buffett and Munger’s work motivations
This is a conversation at a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting, in which Buffett and Munger discuss the time they worked together at Buffett’s grandfather’s grocery store.
Warren Buffett said: “But I still prefer to work for myself. And of course, both Charlie and I worked for my grandfather. No. What made you want to work there? I think Charlie worked there in 1940.”
Charlie Munger interjected. “I was working just to get the experience of working. It was like working as a lark in a grocery store.”
“Twelve hours a day?” Mr. Buffett asked.
“Yes,” Munger replied.
“A lark?” Mr. Buffett asked again.
“Yes, like a lark, yes,” Munger declared
“Do you think it’s a good time investment?” asked Buffett.
“Looking back. Well, I had never done it before and I wanted to have a little bit of that experience, but I wasn’t going to do it for very long,” Munger explained.
“That’s not why I worked,” Buffett replied.
Learning is the most important career choice
As an advocate of lifelong learning, Charlie Munger has often emphasized the importance of lifelong learning in career development. His Munger philosophy emphasizes that the accumulation of knowledge and skills not only enriches one’s personal life, but greatly enhances professional growth.
Here’s why Munger believes learning is paramount in career choices:
- Adapting to change: The world is constantly evolving, and so are industries and professions. Lifelong learning helps individuals navigate these changes, adapt to new technologies, and stay ahead of industry trends. This increases professional relevance and prevents obsolescence.
- build a knowledge grid: Munger often refers to the importance of building a “mental model lattice”, a diverse set of ideas from multiple disciplines that interact and provide a more holistic understanding of the world. . This lattice structure helps decision-making and problem-solving in different scenarios, enabling individuals to be more effective in their roles.
- continuous improvement: Munger believes that no matter how much you’ve already achieved, it’s important to keep improving. Continuous learning is the key to continuous improvement and evolution, both personally and professionally.
- combined effect: Just like the power of compound interest in finance, learning has a similar compounding effect. The more you learn, the more you know and the more you learn. Knowledge builds itself and can grow exponentially over time.
- better decision making: The knowledge and understanding gained through continuous learning enables better decision making. More informed decisions lead to better outcomes in both work and personal life.
In Munger’s view, a commitment to lifelong learning can provide a significant competitive advantage in a career and is one of the best investments a person can make.
Munger’s Career Advice
“Three rules for a career: 1) don’t sell what you don’t buy for yourself. 2) don’t work for people you don’t respect. 3) only work with people you enjoy.” – Charlie Munger.
Charlie Munger’s career advice can be seen as reflecting his own values and principles that have guided him through a successful career. Let’s take a closer look at each rule.
- Don’t sell what you wouldn’t buy yourself. This principle is rooted in honesty and reliability. Munger advises that if you don’t endorse a product or service enough to use it yourself, you shouldn’t get involved in selling it. It is also about respecting our customers and valuing their trust. If a product or service isn’t good enough for you, it’s not good enough for them either.
- Don’t work for people you don’t respect or admire. Munger believes that the people you interact with, especially those you work with, have a profound effect on you. They shape your values, work ethic, and perception of the world. Working for someone you respect and admire allows you to learn from their knowledge, wisdom and experience, and ensures alignment with the principles and practices of your organization.
- Only work with people you enjoy: According to Munger, spending time with people you enjoy makes life and work more fulfilling and productive. We create a positive and dynamic work environment that fosters collaboration, creativity and mutual respect. This advice will lead to a more fulfilling career and increased overall life satisfaction.
All three rules emphasize the importance of integrity, respect and fun in your career. They provide guidance on not only building successful careers, but building fulfilling careers.
- The value of being self-employed: Preferring to work independently gives you a sense of fulfillment and gives you control over your work.
- Learn from experience: Work for the value of experience and the insights it provides, not for immediate financial gain.
- Need for early experience: Working in different fields early in your career can provide valuable lessons, even if it seems mundane and daunting.
- The Importance of Interests: Intrinsic interest in a job or field is critical to sustained commitment and growth.
- Prioritize learning over immediate rewards: Early in your career, you may need to prioritize learning opportunities over immediate financial rewards.
- Reflect on past choices: Reflecting on past work experiences can provide valuable insight into future career decisions.
- Integrity in Business Values: Never sell products or services that you do not personally recommend or use.
- Seek Leadership You Respect: Choose to work for a leader you admire and who shares your values.
- Foster Positive Relationships: We aim to foster a dynamic and harmonious work environment, surrounded by colleagues who are genuinely fun to be with.
Having a successful and fulfilling career is often about more than just financial rewards. It requires focusing on having meaningful experiences, being aware of what motivates us, and consciously evaluating how we invest our time. A commitment to lifelong learning and an openness to new experiences are key factors that foster professional growth. Ultimately, the richest careers are those that match our personal aspirations and offer more than just financial rewards. They provide valuable lessons, experiences and personal satisfaction that extend beyond the workplace and into our wider lives.
To have a successful and satisfying career, trust, admiration, and joy must always be the guiding principles in your professional relationships. Maintain integrity by promoting services and products that you trust and personally want to use. Working under mentors and leaders you respect and share your values allows you to grow professionally in a stimulating and ethically aligned environment. Establishing and maintaining enjoyable co-worker relationships can greatly improve your overall work experience. Incorporating these principles into your professional journey not only promotes career growth, but also ensures fulfillment and satisfaction in your work life.