Charlie Joins the Eminent Dead

Dec 4 2023

Charlie Munger passed away at the age of 99, just a few weeks shy of his 100th birthday. My first instinct was to join the social media fray of sharing reflections and favorite Munger quotes but it was tough to pick just one. Instead I just thought about what I admired most about him: his fierce desire to live an independent life shaped to his own personality.

Munger was never one to mince words. He knew early on he wanted wealth, not for the material trappings but for the independence it brings (he felt it “uncouth” to send someone an invoice). So he read a lot, figured out what worked, and made a fortune. Meeting Buffett certainly helped but he was well on his way to his goal before that.

I admire this drive for independence because it’s such a rare trait in this world. We tend to live and think in highly regimented, engineered systems (schools, corporations, social media) that incentivize us to act in ways that might not align with our true nature. I know few people who actively (and “successfully”) reject organizational prerogatives and carve out a life they can truly call their own. It’s easier to live life on autopilot, especially with family obligations, and just stay within these systems. As Munger said, “Who’s bread I eat, his song I sing”.

I know, too, that independence is something I highly value, though the realization came to me later in life. I spent most of my school life worried about grades, not always pursuring learning for its own sake.

And then I saw The Matrix.

This was one of those “holy shit” moments where I begin to see reality through a different lens. Like what kind of systems are we currently plugged into, consciously or otherwise? Which thoughts are truly ours, or engineered by our environment? How can we free our minds from these systems? What is identity, really, if “the matrix cannot tell you who you are”?

This helped liberate my approach to learning and thinking, and I’ve been lucky to find and learn from many mentors from the “eminent dead” as Munger liked to say.

I don’t claim to have any answers yet, but that’s the point. You can get further in life not by finding all the answers but figuring out the right questions to ask. I think Munger did that exceptionally well.

I think the best way to honor his life is simply to emulate it (“shamelessly clone” it as his good friend Mohnish Pabrai might say). Learn as much as you can, try to stay rational, and find something useful to do with your life.

Source: Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger
Munger reading

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