A formula for success


They are such an interesting mix. I am referring to the celebrated Warren Buffet and his partner, billionaire Charlie Munger. At the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting, Munger says that success can hinge on the company you keep. Known to be a person who speaks straight and can be feisty at times, Munger doled out a mix of business and life advice alongside Buffett.

In the meeting, the two took a philosophical turn to ruminations on friendship and how to know when it may be time to cut ties with someone. Munger stressed that toxic people could hinder someone’s path to success. “The great lesson of life is get them the hell out of your life – and do it fast,” Munger said.

Notice my point about Munger talking straight and being feisty; he minces no words. He says: “It’s so simple to spend less than you earn, and invest shrewdly, and avoid toxic people and toxic activities, and try and keep learning all your life, and do a lot of deferred gratification.” “If you do all those things, you are almost certain to succeed. If you don’t, you’ll need a lot of luck.”

Warren Buffett echoed a similar sentiment. He said people need to recognize that others can manipulate them and avoid falling into that behavior. “I’ve never known anybody that was kind that died without friends,” Buffett said. “And I’ve known plenty of people with money that have died without friends.”

Their friendship may be an example of this. Buffett previously told CNBC in 2021 that early on in their careers, they strived to “associate with people we wanted to associate with, and if we associated with jerks, that was our problem, but we didn’t have to.” “What is great is if you can do what you want in life and associate with the people you want to associate with in life,” And then referring to Munger. “And we both have that spirit all the way through.”

While Munger made it apparent toxicity could stall someone’s success, this attitude can also harm a workplace environment. According to MIT Sloan School of Management research, a toxic work culture is the most significant factor that can drive an employee to quit. According to the research, poor pay and job insecurity can also drive away employees, but the study found these factors weren’t as influential as toxic work culture.

To foster a healthier workplace environment, company leaders and managers can play a crucial role in setting the tone of company culture and encouraging those attitudes to trickle down to the rest of the company. And if that toxic manager or employee doesn’t change, per Munger’s advice, it may be time to cut them loose.

But here is the rub. Many managers and leaders are unaware that they cause toxicity in the workplace. And in my many years of leadership training and development experiences all across different industries, I have never met a manager who wakes up in the morning and says, “Today is a great day, and I am so motivated to make someone’s work life miserable and infuse the place with a massive dose of toxicity.” They are so clueless. What happened is that after the training program, many have expressed gratitude and confessed that they had not been very encouraging leaders and had driven a lot of good people away.

Returning to Munger, he stresses that it’s essential to surround yourself with the right people. It would be best to associate yourself with those who share your values, goals, and aspirations. It’s essential to keep in mind that the people around you can have a significant impact on your mindset and your level of success. If you surround yourself with toxic people who drag you down, it can be challenging to achieve your goals. Toxic people can create a hostile environment that can be detrimental to your growth and success. A toxic work environment can harm the growth and success of a company, and it’s essential to take action to address it.

Leaders and managers play a crucial role in setting the tone of the company culture and encouraging positive attitudes. In essence, success can hinge on the company you keep.

We need to take their advice seriously. Not only because both are billionaires talking and not some self-proclaimed leadership gurus churning out thoughts and advice on LinkedIn, but their own life and business have also achieved massive success in their business and friendship.



(Francis Kong’s podcast “Inspiring Excellence” is now available on Spotify, Apple, Google, or other podcast streaming platforms.)

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