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Warren Buffet and Jay-Z have attributed their success in the business world to luck

At first glance, Warren Buffet and Jay-Z have nothing in common, but by digging deeper it appears that the two are more similar than first imagined.
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One can say with certainty that both Buffet and Jay-Z have reached a level of success that’s almost legendary, and the secrets to their success have constantly been debated. But what better way to truly find out how the two climbed to the top of the business ladder than to have both in the same room during an interview?

According to Warren Buffett, while talking to Steve Forbes, he was lucky given that he started early in life. He said: “My dad happened to be in the investment business, so I would go down to his office on Saturdays. At age seven I started reading the books available there, and knew that I wanted to get involved. It’s a huge advantage that I knew from a young age what I wanted do.

“You don’t need a lot of brains in this business. I’ve always said if you’ve got an IQ of 160, give away 30 points to somebody else because you don’t need it in investments. What you need is emotional stability. You have to be able to think independently, and when you come to a conclusion you have to really not care what other people say. Just follow the facts and your reasoning. That’s tough for a lot of people.”

He stressed, however, that he was lucky to be born with such attributes. Buffet suggested that the odds of being born in the US in 1930 were 30-1 against him. Having the right genes for business was also down to luck, he said.

“I was sort of wired for capital allocation, and being wired for capital allocation 200 years ago in Nebraska wouldn’t have meant a thing,” Buffet said. “But here I was in this soon-to-be-very-rich capitalistic system, and what I did paid off enormously in a market system like we have. If I’d had a talent in some other area that was way less commercial, I would’ve had a good time doing it, but it wouldn’t have paid off like this.”

Jay-Z says it perfectly when he talks about how he’s in there recording for himself, and the money comes afterwards, Buffet claimed.

“I got to do what I love, and it doesn’t get any luckier than that,” he said. “I would be doing what I do now and I would’ve done it in the past if the payoff had been in seashells, or sharks’ teeth, or anything else. I’ve had all kinds of luck. I had the luck of getting turned down by Harvard, which meant I got to study under Ben Graham at Columbia, which changed my life. All kinds of things have worked out. So I just hope I stay lucky. I’ve been lucky for 80 years.”

Jay-Z suggested that were a few similarities when it came to his tale of success. However,  his story started when he was much older – his first album came when he was 26. The album had “all these emotional layers that a typical hip-hop album didn’t have if you were making it at 16 years old,” he said. That isn’t enough wealth of experience to share with the world, he said. Having started at a mature age, Jay-Z suggested he had learned the fundamental rules of sticking to the basics that make you successful – such as staying true to yourself.

At the forefront, he claimed that where he grew up, he could have easily ended up on a different path.

“There are very few people from my neighbourhood that make it out,” he said.” Forget about being successful, I mean making it out alive or just incarcerated. Back then there was a guy by the name of Jazz who I started out with. He had a deal with EMI and had the opportunity to go to London to record his album. I went along with him for two months. In those two months there was a sting operation and they took my friend. The only reason I wasn’t there was because I was away recording music. Had it not been for music, and music taking me out at the right time, my life could very easily have been his.”

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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