Highlights and helpful advice: Our Zoomtopia closing keynote with Charlie Munger
Updated on October 12, 2023
Published on October 12, 2023
Donuts and poker don’t usually go hand in hand, but at Zoomtopia 2023, both represented wise advice from Charlie Munger on how to succeed in business and in life. To close out our annual customer conference, our Founder and CEO, Eric S. Yuan, sat down for an informative and candid conversation with the renowned 99-year-old, discussing everything from family get-togethers over Zoom to thoughts on how to win at poker. Here’s a hint: it requires being better than anyone else at the table.
Here are a few of our favorite moments and words of wisdom from Charlie’s keynote address.
One of Charlie’s secrets to living a long life is, quite simply, to be healthy. Although Eric joked about bringing donuts on stage to sustain the long hours of Zoomtopia, Charlie reminded the audience that a life of excess wouldn’t be a long one. “You won’t see the people who eat and drink a lot, or who chain smoke, grow old,” he said. But with a smile, he didn’t condemn Eric’s donuts, just reminded us that moderation is key.
Moderation is equally important when building wealth. Charlie recommended that audience members save money, invest it skillfully, and then “take some of your savings and invest it again and again.” But the true secret to his success was perhaps not so surprising: “Spend less than you make. It’s very simple.”
As the conversation turned to the future of work, Charlie reminisced about the evolution of technology, having used the telephone for much of his early business days with close friend and business partner, Warren Buffet.
“Warren and I used nothing but the telephone for the longest time. In its time it was a great invention over the telegraph,” he joked. But having gone into an office until he was 92 years old, Charlie now appreciates technology that permits him to work from home and connect with family and others over Zoom Meetings.
“I use Zoom a lot to do business out of my house. It’s very convenient for me because travel is difficult,” he said. “We have family Zooms, too, and get the whole family together. It’s easy to punch a few buttons overall to get connected.”
Known for being fond of playing poker in his younger years, Charlie shared how his strategy for poker can also translate to winning in life.
“In a game like poker, you have to understand your opportunity costs. You have to be able to make a lot of bets that will make you a lot of money. And then not bet when there’s too much against you,” he said. Charlie then explained how to maneuver through the game and use your opportunities to not get sucked into situations where you’ll lose.
“In poker, everyone is trying to mislead you and the same is true in life. It’s easy to get too addicted to gambling against the odds, but you should only play poker where you’re one of or the best at the table.” With this in mind, Charlie advised the audience to take intelligent risks when the odds are in their favor and to actively discern when they’re not.
Eric then reflected on some of Charlie’s successes, asking for one pivotal moment, but it was the longevity of his life that surprised him most.
“I’m surprised my life worked out as well as it did. It took a long time to get ahead. I will say, in retrospect, I’m glad it took so long because it was interesting.” Charlie went on to explain the challenges that people face today and the struggle to build wealth compared to decades ago.
“It’s going to be harder for the present generation to get rich because there’s more competition. But you have to get better and better or you will lose. Try harder, work harder and you’ll do better,” he advised.
Charlie also shared the importance of discovering the simple things in life that make you happy and using them to your advantage. “It’s amazing how simple life is. The secret to a successful life is understanding it better than other people do,” he said.
Whether encouraging people to work harder and innovate faster than their competitors or simply saying no to sweets, Charlie Munger left the Zoomtopia 2023 audience with some great words to live by. And for those who were lucky enough to attend, he gifted them with a copy of his book, “Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger, Expanded Third Edition, to continue their own professional and personal journey to success.
We can’t thank Charlie Munger enough for helping to make Zoomtopia 2023 a memorable occasion. And there were even more insightful conversations to be had — check out our on-demand library to watch sessions on modern work, AI, and more.