Warren Buffett | Bill Gates | Lecture | University Of Nebraska | 2005 | Summary and Q&A

November 11, 2020
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Warren Buffett | Bill Gates | Lecture | University Of Nebraska | 2005

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In this video, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, two of the world's richest billionaires, engage in a dialogue with students from the University of Nebraska on various topics, including leadership, decision-making, success, and societal issues. They share their experiences, lessons, and insights on how to navigate the business world, make ethical decisions, and create a positive impact on society.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the worst investment Warren Buffett has ever made?

Warren Buffett jokes that there have been many bad investments he has made over the years. However, he emphasizes that making mistakes is a part of investing and life in general. He believes that the worst mistakes are those of omission, where he didn't take action on opportunities he knew about. He mentions missing out on potential profits of up to $10 billion because he didn't act on certain investments.

Q: How does Warren Buffett ensure ethical leadership throughout his organization and assess if the management below him is making decisions aligned with his own values?

Warren Buffett emphasizes the importance of reputation and ethical decision-making in his organization. He encourages his managers to judge every action they take not just by legal standards but also by imagining how they would feel about it being written up in the local newspaper the next day. He believes that if an action passes this test, it is generally acceptable. He also mentions that if anything is close to the line, it means it's out. He trusts his managers to make the right decisions but is always available for consultations if needed.

Q: How does Bill Gates instill ethical leadership within Microsoft's management team and ensure their behavior aligns with the company's values?

Bill Gates explains that Microsoft's top management team consists of individuals who joined the company early on in their careers. He believes that their behavior and decision-making are demonstrated through their actions. They have annual discussions on important matters and ensure that the behavior of everyone in the company is consistent with their values. Gates mentions that he is the only college graduate on the panel, implying that education is not the sole factor in ensuring ethical leadership.

Q: Have Bill Gates or Warren Buffett ever considered taking over each other's roles in their respective companies?

Bill Gates mentions that being on Berkshire Hathaway's board is an honor for him, and while he is committed to being an advisor and helping with succession planning, he does not see himself taking over from Warren Buffett when he retires. Gates emphasizes that Berkshire Hathaway has many great people and a unique system that will eventually handle succession effectively.

Q: How did Warren Buffett and Bill Gates first meet?

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates first met on July 5th, 1991, in Washington. Buffett was invited by a mutual friend to meet Bill Gates' parents, and Bill decided to join the gathering as well. They instantly connected and discovered a shared passion for discussing the world's issues, which laid the foundation for their long-lasting friendship.

Q: How do Warren Buffett and Bill Gates manage their time and balance their work and personal lives?

Warren Buffett mentions that his days are relatively unstructured. He avoids too many meetings and spends a significant amount of time reading and thinking. He also emphasizes the importance of having the right people around, making work enjoyable, and maintaining a good work-life balance. Bill Gates mentions that he is often in meetings and spends time on emails at night after his kids have gone to bed. He also makes time for reading and thinking, dedicating two weeks every year to think and read without interruptions.

Q: What steps can new entrants into the job market take to accelerate their journey towards upper-level management positions?

Warren Buffett emphasizes the importance of surrounding oneself with high-grade people who bring out the best in one another. He suggests developing excellent public speaking skills and investing in personal growth. Buffett advises young individuals to invest in themselves because they are their biggest asset. Bill Gates adds that individuals who excel at the three core areas of strategy, leadership, and individual contributions have a higher chance of rising to upper-level management positions. He also mentions the value of partnering with others who complement one's skills and filling in any gaps.

Q: How do Warren Buffett and Bill Gates ensure that their children appreciate things that are not material and will bring them genuine happiness in life?

Warren Buffett shares that his children did not grow up in a wealthy environment, even after he became rich. They lived in the same house their entire lives and attended public schools. He believes that setting an example through behavior and surrounding oneself with high-quality people plays a significant role in shaping children's values and overall happiness. Bill Gates explains that he raised his children to value education and experiences over material possessions. He encourages young individuals to invest in broad exposure, including understanding the living conditions of less successful people, to develop a well-rounded worldview.

Q: What are some of the most important societal issues we face, and how can future leaders create a better society?

Bill Gates believes that issues of equity, both within and between countries, are crucial societal challenges. He emphasizes the need to renew the commitment to equality and invest in long-term solutions. Gates also suggests gaining exposure to conditions outside of one's immediate environment and understanding the challenges faced by people in different parts of the world. Warren Buffett adds that future leaders have a tremendous opportunity to change the world and leave it in a better state. By surrounding themselves with high-grade people, practicing ethical leadership, and working on endeavors that have a positive social impact, they can make a difference.

Q: If Warren Buffett and Bill Gates could have one superpower, what would it be?

Bill Gates shares that he would choose the power to extend people's lifetimes. He believes that if he could reduce the threat posed by nuclear knowledge and prevent evil individuals from causing harm, it would be a significant positive impact on the world. Warren Buffett jokingly suggests that a superpower he would like is the ability to read faster, as Bill Gates is a much faster reader than him.


In this video, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates share valuable insights and advice for success and making a positive impact. They emphasize the importance of ethical leadership, surrounding oneself with high-quality people, investing in personal growth, and following one's passion. Both billionaires encourage individuals to think independently, make their own decisions, and not be afraid to make mistakes. They highlight the significance of equity, both within and between countries, and stress the importance of leaving the world a better place through actions that benefit others.

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