Gates credited Buffett as being one of the people in his life most instrumental for his success. The advice Gates gets from Buffett often isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a hard driving self made billionaire. Gates recalled one lesson in particular in the interview: “Buffett has a definite way of looking at things, including this idea of how work should be fun. He’s made his work so much fun that he works more hours than I do.”
In a 2016 blog entry, Gates said something similar of Buffett: “Warren has helped us (Melinda and Bill Gates) do two things that are impossible to overdo in one lifetime: learn more and laugh more.”
The Oracle of Omaha, one of the wisest, hardest working men in the world, strongly influenced Bill Gates by teaching him to embrace what he didn’t know and to balance seriousness with silliness.
Here’s how to apply Buffett’s brilliant advice.
1. Learn more.
I don’t know many people who aren’t interested in learning more. But intent gets sidetracked by intense workload, causing us to quickly deprioritize opportunities to learn.
You make learning more central in your life by seeking conscious growth versus growth just for the sake of it. For example, you might not attend conferences because they’re “nice-to-haves”, we’d all like more time for that kind of stuff. But you’ll make time if you view learning as a chance to become the best possible version of yourself. If a learning opportunity helps you do this, it should make the cut.
Here’s a few cheats I use to stay committed to learning and growing. I always view opportunities to learn as a chance to upgrade my personal software and help me avoid obsolescence. I also use my values as a prompt for me to learn more — if a chance to learn something new can help me better live values important to me, I jump on it. I’ll even remind myself from time to time that I need to be working on my life versus merely in my life, which prompts me to seek out opportunities to learn something new.
I’m also careful to unplug others opinions of me. Sometimes we can be held back from showing our vulnerability, admitting what we don’t know, and getting help on it. When I left corporate to become an entrepreneur, I didn’t even have a Facebook page. I needed serious help on getting socially savvy, so I set my ego aside and went to school.
The point is that pretenses are for pretenders. Learn what you want to learn. Grow where you want to grow. You’re just trying to become you 2.0.
2. Laugh more.
In case you needed more prompting than a billionaire investor’s point of view, the Mayo Clinic says that laughing at work can relieve stress, improve mood, relieve pain, and improve your immune system. Laughter also increases your intake of oxygen-rich air, thus stimulating your heart, lungs and muscles, and increasing the endorphins that are released by your brain.
Not to mention how beneficial it can be for leaders to use laughter as a tool in their leadership toolbox. Seeing humor in just about everything is a trademark of my leadership style. I’m not saying I always got it right, but I know for certain that my use of humor created deeper bonds and camaraderie, made people look forward to otherwise dull meetings, and just made work more fun. Taking time to goof off made everyone want to work twice as hard. I very intentionally used humor as a leadership tool.
To do more of it at work, start by taking yourself less seriously. Be willing to laugh, first and foremost, at yourself and your own idiosyncrasies. Send the signal that laughter is welcome at work by making (appropriate) jokes and finding the humor in tense or stressful situations especially.
Encourage others to “lighten up” and find the humor in situations, being certain to show appreciation for everyone’s style of humor. Do all of this, of course, while being careful to know when it’s time to get down to business.
Laugh more. Learn more. It’s a prescription that anyone can follow for more happiness and success.