Just by happenstance, it was the night before Buffett's 76th birthday, and of Warren 's unannounced marriage to longtime companion, Astrid Menks. It was also, as it turns out, a life-changing event for me.
I'd retired from Wall Street in 2001, at age 44, after a very mediocre career as a portfolio manager and securities analyst. With plenty of new-found time on my hands, I decided to study someone who's actually been supremely successful at my business: Warren Buffett.
I started by reading pretty much everything Buffett ever wrote, or had recommended reading. I also read pretty much everything everyone else had ever written about him. Slowly, my fog of stupidity lifted. It was finally oh-so-clear: I'd been a damn fool to get my CFA, and then to spend my entire professional investing career managing money in "the traditional way."
Sitting in Buffett's small office at Kiewit Plaza before heading out to dinner, I distinctly remember saying to Warren that: "When it comes to investing, I've made every mistake in the book, including selling short, buying on margin, and even day-trading." I said it with considerable embarrassment, and with a tremble in my voice. But, I had never made a confession more true, nor more heartfelt. Buffett was gracious, even kind. For me, it was a transformational moment.
Since that August evening, I've tried to forget pretty much everything I "learned" along the way to becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst. Now, I keep CNBC on mute, and I focus exclusively on Buffett.
This is just the first in a series of columns that I'll be writing for GuruFocus. All will concentrate on the patience, discipline, and focus required of anyone who aspires to be a great investor. I hope that you'll join me on my journey to Buffett.
George Frost, CFA, is a retired portfolio manager and securities analyst living on the coast of Maine.