I have just gotten back home from my trip to Omaha. It was the first time I had gone to the city as well as the State.
It was truly an unbelievable experience, more so than it was eye-opening. I say so because I had many expectations that turned to be quite accurate; however, it was nonetheless incredible to witness the event, the city, and more importantly, the Oracle himself with my own eyes.
I flew to Omaha from Montreal on Friday, and arrived in the city at about 10pm. The hotel I was staying at was in a decent location, so I knew that it wouldn’t be a hard walk to the Century Link Centre. I set my alarm at 3:30 am and started making my way to the Centre by 4.
It was a chilly and rainy day, which I learned later was one of the worst weathers that Berkshire Hathaway’s conference had seen over the years. The flip side was that the rain might have deterred some less-motivated people from waiting at such an early time. I was relatively in the beginning of the line;though soon, I realized the line had gotten so long that I could not see the end.
Just before the meeting officially began when the majority of participants had arrived and were settling into their seats, the atmosphere was truly lit up with Jay Z’s beat Empire State of Mind, except the lyrics, if listened to closely, was about the history and present of Berkshire Hathaway, instead of “the concrete jungle of New York.” At this point, I turned around to look at the room around me and I was truly amazed. I had expected the large number of participants, but to see over 40,000 people from all parts of the world flying thousands of miles to come and see one person mainly, is just incredible. “That is what greatness looks like!”
The material and questions from the meeting are really easy to find online. I wouldn’t want to waste anyone’s time by reiterating them. I was genuinely impressed and amazed at Buffett and Munger: their energy and their genuine enjoyment of work and life. The meeting lasted for 8 hours, including a lunch break in between. I have seen the people on the right side, the left side, in front of, behind me falling asleep. The entire row behind me even left two hours earlier after they had just napped. It would be a lie if I said I didn’t feel tired at times myself. However, throughout the entire meeting, Buffett and Munger were injected with energy and their enthusiasm was echoing around the stadium.
Even more amazing was their sense of humor and their enjoyment of life. I had long known that Buffett prioritizes happiness and strive for genuineness from the numerous readings I had done about him. However, people in capital allocation and investment banking almost always come with a certain degree facade. They do things sometimes not because it makes them happy, but because it is the most “correct” or “prettiest” thing to do. Buffett and Munger, on the other hand, did not care slightly. When someone challenged BRK’s credit rating with a what I deemed to be a rather rude and pointless question, Munger simply brushed it off, “The credit agency is wrong!”
Every once often, one of the two old children would crack a joke to light up the mood. Even when the questions were hostile or boring, the two kings of Omaha would also try to take them lightheartedly and inject a dose of their unique sense of humor. It was truly inspiring to see someone enjoying doing what they do best and putting fun into work. It is something that Buffett is known for and it is even truly amazing to witness it with my eyes.
I had, to some degree, overestimated the level of fun in Omaha. I could have left a day early on Sunday after the 5k run, but I typically give myself a day to wander around when I go to a new place. Therefore, I had a lot of time talking to the locals in Omaha and getting a better sense of the city. One thing I have attained from all the conversation was that, Buffett was not only a capitalist guru, the Oracle of Omaha, and an investing rockstar, but also, he is a hometown hero. In my experience of living in many different cities in Canada, China, and the U.S., I have never seen someone with this level of beloved-ness in the city that he/she lives. They called him Warren and not Buffett. Everyone I spoke to, from bartenders to taxi drivers had nothing but the nicest to say about him. Humility was mentioned much frequently than wealth. They view him as a grandpa, as a friend, and as hometown pride. Buffett is respected, admired and idolized worldwide; but he is loved here in Omaha. He was born and raised there; he stayed there, and after he became the best investor the world has ever seen, he put the city on the Map of the World.