Much has been written about Warren Buffett’s relationship with Benjamin Graham. But one of my favorites is from an article he wrote for the Financial Analysts Journal back in 1976. I think it sums up their relationship perfectly.
My favorite Buffett quote is, “And if encouragement or counsel was needed, Ben was there. Walter Lippmann spoke of men who plant trees that other men will sit under. Ben Graham was such a man”.
Here’s an excerpt from that 1976 article in the Financial Analysts Journal:
Several years ago Ben Graham, then almost 80, expressed to a friend the thought that he hoped to do every day “something foolish, something creative and something generous.”
The inclusion of that first whimsical goal reflected his knack for packaging ideas in a form that avoided any overtones of sermonizing or self-importance. Although his ideas were powerful, their delivery was unfailingly gentle.
Readers of this magazine need no elaboration of his achievements as measured by the standard of creativity. It is rare that the founder of a discipline does not find his work eclipsed in rather short order by successors. But, over 40 years after publication of the book that brought structure and logic to a disorderly and confused activity, it is difficult to think of possible candidates for even the runner-up position in the field of security analysis.
In an area where much looks foolish within weeks or months after publication, Ben’s principles have remained sound-their value often enhanced and better understood in the wake of financial storms that demolished flimsier intellectual structures. His counsel of soundness brought unfailing rewards to his followers-even to those with natural abilities inferior to more gifted practitioners who stumbled while following counsels of brilliance or fashion.
A remarkable aspect of Ben’s dominance of his professional field was that he achieved it without that narrowness of mental activity that concentrates all effort on a single end. It was, rather, the incidental by-product of an intellect whose breadth almost exceeded definition.
Certainly I have never met anyone with a mind of similar scope. Virtually total recall, unending fascination with new knowledge and an ability to recast it in a form applicable to seemingly unrelated problems made exposure to his thinking in any field a delight.
But his third imperative-generosity-was where he succeeded beyond all others. I knew Ben as my teacher, my employer and my friend. In each relationship-just as with all his students, employees and friends-there was an absolutely open-ended, no-scores-kept generosity of ideas, time and spirit. If clarity of thinking was required, there was no better place to go.
And if encouragement or counsel was needed, Ben was there. Walter Lippmann spoke of men who plant trees that other men will sit under. Ben Graham was such a man.
You can read the original article on the CFA Institute website here.
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