Investment Wisdom

51. Charlie Munger Lesson For The Day: Part 5: The Best Way To Get What You Want Is To Deserve What You Want

In Alice In The Wonderland, a beautiful classic written by a British mathematician Lewis Caroll, there is this simple but deep and meaningful conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat.

Alice: Cheshire Cat, would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.
Alice: So long as I get somewhere.
Chesire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if you only walk long enough.

Actually there are two important lessons here. (1) If you don’t know where you are going, how are you supposed to get there? If you don’t know what you want, how are you supposed to get what you what want? (2) Sometimes, when you are in the process of figuring out what you want or need a break from a place or situation, then you start by getting your behind from that place or situation. Anywhere but here can give you much needed breather.

All in all, still you need to know what you want before you can get what you want. Having done that, there are various methods or models you can use depending on your situation, mental frame and genetic composition.

Personally, I find Stephen Coveys  7 Habits of Highly Effective People very effective. What are they? Well, here it is.

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw

For some, principle number two comes first. But if you haven’t figured out number two, go to number one. Be proactive and figure out what you want.

What has Charlie Munger to say on getting what you want?

Charlie Munger:

  1. Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts. Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day. At the end of the day-if you live long enough-most people get what they deserve.
  2. What are the core ideas that helped me? Well, luckily I had the idea at a very early age that the safest way to try to get what you want is to try to deserve what you want. It’s such a simple idea. lt’s the golden rule. You want to deliver to the world what you would buy if you were on the other end. There is no ethos in my opinion that is better for any lawyer or any other person to have. By and large, the people who’ve had this ethos win in life, and they don’t win just money and honors. They win the respect, the deserved trust of the people they deal with. And there is huge pleasure in life to be obtained from getting deserved trust

Also, if you get what you want and you deserve it, you generate less envy.

Charlie Mungers says:

But the egality has one effect in a democracy, which Aristotle comments on, people will cheerfully tolerate considerable differences of outcome if they seem deserved.  Nobody minds the fact that Tiger Woods has a big income because he’s the best golfer who’s ever lived.  Or you find somebody who invents something wonderful, or a surgeon who’s way better than other surgeons, etc , etc.  But differences in outcomes that are perceived as undeserved tend to disrupt democracy.  That’s why Aristotle commented on it in one of his most well known observations.

And of course who is getting the undeserved money in America now?  Good question.  It is not Bill Gates, it is not the people who create the new companies…  We don’t resent their success.

Bill Gates and Tiger Woods are very successful in their respective fields and beyond. We cheer them on. We are their fans. We wish them even more success. Charlie Munger is right.

Against the backdrop of knowing what you want and getting it through diligence (say from applying Stephen Covey’s 7 effective habits), still Charlie Munger rings true and loud, you should deserve it.