Interview: Warren Buffet and Jay-Z on Investing Success

Steve Forbes has a knack for bringing together interesting people in sometimes unexpected combinations. For the Forbes 400 Summit, he sat down with Warren Buffet and Jay-Z at a Hollywood Diner in Omaha, Nebraska for a personal discussion about their different backgrounds, how they have generated wealth, and the responsibilities they see as coming with it.

Here are two highlights from the question and answer session:

Steve Forbes: Jay, a lot of people fade away after one or two albums. That hasn’t happened to you.

Jay-Z: I think it goes back to a bit of what Warren was saying. It’s the discipline not to get caught up in the moment. You know, music is like stocks, too. There’s the hot thing of the moment. There’s this hot, electro sound, or the hot auto-tune voice, or the hot whatever’s new and exciting. People tend to make emotional decisions based on that. They don’t stick with what they know, you know, this is who I am. This is what I do. They jump on this next hot thing. And it’s not for you.


Steve Forbes: There is that element of luck you can’t quantify. Warren, you’ve thought about luck.

Warren Buffet: There’s lots of luck. Just being born in the United States in 1930 the odds were 30-to-1 against me. I didn’t have anything to do with picking the United States as I emerged. And having decent genes for certain things. I was sort of wired for capital allocation, and being wired for capital allocation two hundred years ago in Nebraska wouldn’t have meant a thing. 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 said it perfectly when he talked about how he’s in there recording for himself, and the money comes afterwards. I got to do what I love, and it doesn’t get any luckier than that. 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.

The two seemingly-different personalities share at least a few beliefs… they see sticking with what you’re good at — and having the confidence to follow through on your own ideas — as being essential ingredients for success. You can read the entire discussion at Forbes’ interview transcript of Jay-Z, Buffett, and Forbes on success and giving back.


Rocky Vega,
The Daily Reckoning