Great Q&A/AMA with Alice Schroeder of The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

I was fortunate to have spent 10 years getting to know Warren Buffett by spending days and weeks with him. I could ask him anything and you can ask me anything as well. Some of you may want to know why he chose me. In his words, he likes the way I think, he likes the way I write. Spending thousands of hours with Warren was like getting a Ph.D., or maybe more than one. Before writing The The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, I was an analyst at several firms on Wall Street, a regulator, a CPA, and now I invest, and serve on corporate boards. From auditor to board member I’ve seen the sausage factory. My motto is: do whatever will teach you the most.

We have a number of questions from users that can’t make it:

  • From /u/earthtomonty

    In The Snowball, Buffet’s memory seemed to play an incredibly powerful role in his success (perfect memory of textbooks in college; perfect memory of company financial information during investing). Are you aware of any exercised that Buffet did to strengthen and/or maintain that level of memory performance, or was it all raw genetic talent?

  • From /u/Grammar_nazii

    What lessons did you learn from Warren Buffet that affected you to change? In relation to encouraging you to save more or how he invests. Thanks

[–]aliceschroederThe Snowball[S] 13 points 

Warren seems to have been born with a near-photographic memory. He exercised it a lot (memorizing the population of all fifty states etc.) I consider it genetic for the most part.

[–]aliceschroederThe Snowball[S] 14 points 

Lessons that affected me personally regarding investing — the most important was about concentration. Warren believes in concentrating your bets, up to 15-20% of your assets, if you have high conviction. As he puts it, ,why invest in your tenth best idea. So I have a very concentrated portfolio now.

You had mentioned in one of your interviews that you’ve changed how you manage your time as a result of writing your book. Could you explain that a little more? How has it changed?

[–]aliceschroederThe Snowball[S] 14 points 

Sure, there are several things. Warren is a master of time management. He knows how to ease people off the phone without making them feel dismissed. He is great at saying no and I learned a lot about saying no tactfully. That’s an important time management technique. Also, he manages his energy, reading when it’s optimal, talking on the phone when he’s got the right energy for that and so forth. It’s fairly compartmentalized and he does not multitask through his day. That was a useful lesson.

[–]investingmoderator[M] 6 points 

Alice has been verified by the moderators. We’d like to thank her for her time, and we’re very excited to have her here today!

[–]omar_torritos 6 points 

More questions from other users:

  • From /u/TheSystem_IsDown

    Great book, and really helped me to remember that it’s not about that one $30k win, it’s about finding the things that will compound earnings as early as possible and putting everything into them. Not just with investing, but in all aspects of my businesses and life – find the things that can snowball and don’t worry about the slow start. I wonder how many Omaha shindigs she’s been to with Buffett, and what she thought of her first one.

  • From /u/rr2999

    Why did you have a fallout with warren? Are you guys on good terms now? Does he still drink cherry coke?

[–]aliceschroederThe Snowball[S] 10 points 

Cherry coke – yes. I have never seen him drink water. Susie Jr. says likewise. I wouldn’t call it a fallout. He made himself extremely vulnerable when he opened himself up to do this book, without any control over the contents. It was the right decision and he did it because he knew it was the only way to get a credible book. Then, as you would expect, when he read it, the book did not perfectly match the narrative of his own life that he carries in his mind. That was pretty uncomfortable for him. One of his friends wrote me a letter that said, oh my god, you captured him exactly but it was like taking all his clothes off in public. And that’s true. So, I have a lot of empathy, because he made himself vulnerable in a way that I would never do myself. It was courageous of him. The end result is that the book makes him feel uncomfortable. He would rather not think about it. There’s no personal issue between us at all, it’s pretty comfortable actually.