How to Guarantee a Life of Misery – Charlie Munger

Even 30 years ago, Munger was already famous as the partner of another investing legend — the one and only Warren Buffett. Today, Munger is worth well over $1 billion. With his trademark down-to-earth wisdom and biting wit, his speeches and writing have gone on to inspire thousands of thinkers in the investing world and beyond. Munger’s 1986 speech was no exception. What follows are my favorite bits from the legend’s speech, where he gives his seven tips to “guaranteed misery in life.”

charlie munger

1. Take Drugs – “Addiction can happen to any of us.”

“The four closest friends of my youth were highly intelligent, ethical, humorous types, favoured in person and background. Two are long dead, with alcohol a contributing factor, and a third is a living alcoholic — if you call that living.

“I have yet to meet anyone, in over six decades of life, whose life was worsened by overfear and overavoidance of such a deceptive pathway to destruction.”

2. Be Envious– [Envy] was wreaking havoc long before it got a bad press in the laws of Moses.

“If you wish to retain the contribution of envy to misery, I recommend that you never read any of the biographies of that good Christian, Samuel Johnson, because his life demonstrates in an enticing way the possibility and advantage of transcending envy.”

3. Be Resentful – I cannot recommend [resentment] highly enough to you if you desire misery.

“For those of you who want misery, I recommend refraining from practice of the Disraeli compromise, designed for people who find it impossible to quit resentment cold turkey.

“Disraeli, as he rose to become one of the greatest Prime Ministers, learned to give up vengeance as a motivation for action, but he did retain some outlet for resentment by putting the names of people who wronged him on pieces of paper in a drawer. Then, from time to time, he reviewed these names and took pleasure in noting the way the world had taken his enemies down without his assistance.”

4. Be Unreliable – Do not faithfully do what you have engaged to do.

“If you will only master this one habit you will more than counterbalance the combined effect of all your virtues, howsoever great. I must warn you that if you don’t follow my first prescription it may be hard to end up miserable, even if you start disadvantaged.

“I had a roommate in college who was and is severely dyslexic. But he is perhaps the most reliable man I have ever known. He has had a wonderful life so far, outstanding wife and children, chief executive of a multibillion dollar corporation.

“If you want to avoid a conventional, main-culture, establishment result of this kind, you simply can’t count on your other handicaps to hold you back if you persist in being reliable.”

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