Charlie Munger’s Words of Elementary Worldly Wisdom

Y Combinator: Elementary Worldly Wisdom.

Charles Munger is Warren Buffett’s wingman and co-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. If you want to read the most brilliant piece of advice and insight into how to think, the importance of mental models, and just plain old horsesense. Check out this transcript of a talk he gave in 1994 at the USC Business School.

The observation that chiropractors are the “great boob[s] of medicine” is priceless.

What is elementary, worldly wisdom? Well, the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ’em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form.

You’ve got to have models in your head. And you’ve got to array your experience—both vicarious and direct—on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head.

What are the models? Well, the first rule is that you’ve got to have multiple models—because if you just have one or two that you’re using, the nature of human psychology is such that you’ll torture reality so that it fits your models, or at least you’ll think it does. You become the equivalent of a chiropractor who, of course, is the great boob in medicine.

It’s like the old saying, “To the man with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” And of course, that’s the way the chiropractor goes about practicing medicine. But that’s a perfectly disastrous way to think and a perfectly disastrous way to operate in the world. So you’ve got to have multiple models.”

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

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