Monday, July 23, 2007

Get Rich; Read Some Books

McNay on Money

Get Rich; Read Some Books

As someone who writes books, I am stunned at how few people read them. Many people who I consider intelligent read few books, if any.

In 1991, a reporter asked the nominees for Kentucky’s Governor which book had a major influence on their lives. Congressmen Larry Hopkins answered with the pop-business hit Megatrends. Brereton Jones, who won the race, said that he didn’t have a favorite at all.

My first reaction was to move to another state. However, I liked and respected both men. Hopkins was my neighbor at the time and I had several intelligent conversations with him. I think a lot of Jones as a business leader and Governor.

It’s just that neither sat around reading books.

Thus, I found the New York Times article, C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success fascinating.

The article noted many business leaders are devoted readers.

The best piece of advice comes from David Leach at the American Medical Association. “Don’t follow your mentors; follow your mentor’s mentors.”

I did this accidentally with Warren Buffet. I am a big fan of Buffet’s way of doing business and must admit that a chunk of my retirement plan is in Berkshire Hathaway stock.

I set out several years ago to read every biography written about Warren. Once I did that, I realized that I really needed to understand Benjamin Graham, the great Columbia professor who taught Buffet the concept of value investing.

Graham’s two great books, Security Analysis and The Intelligent Investor are not easy to read but once you have, you immediately understand what motivates Warren Buffet and can easily predict the kind of investment opportunities Buffet is looking for.

The concept works in all walks of life. Harry Truman was an avid reader and a scholar of Greek and Roman history. You can see how many of his decisions were shaped by leaders born thousands of years before him.

That is what learning history is all about. You learn history through reading books; a concept that seems to have become a lost art.

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