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For mid-week motivation: notable nuggets from Berkshire Weekend

May 4, 2011 by

Panelists (from left) Tom Kaminski, Molly Jarboe, James Salhany and Stanford Lipsey offered insights on balancing careers and creative pursuits on Friday night at Kaneko. Photo By Michael Stacy.

Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders meeting has come and gone, and with it so have the Nebraska Furniture Mart discounts that I, a proudly parsimonious purchaser, will kick myself until next year for missing.

But fear not, fellow unfulfilled bargain hunters: there’s still value to be gleaned from last weekend’s Woodstock for Capitalists, and I don’t just mean the ongoing Borsheim‘s bargains, which will only be utilized by yours truly in the unlikely event of dual windfalls — finances and a female for whom to purchase jewelry.

No, the Berkshire benefit of which I speak comes in the form of a couple of especially encouraging ideas expressed over the weekend. Yes, it’s absurd to suggest a weekend that featured a marathon Q&A with Omaha’s Oracle produced just “a couple” noteworthy ideas. But I’m whittling the weekend down to a couple thoughts that should resonate specifically with the region’s entrepreneurs and creatives. 

The first came Friday, at KANEKO’s Unidvided Lives event, where Roger Fransecky led a discussion of four panelists who are balancing full-time jobs with substantial creative endeavors. The challenge of juggling somewhat cut-and-dried careers with more scintillating side projects is one I’ve heard discussed often during my short time here at Silicon Prairie News, and the conversations often conclude the same way: expression of a desire to ditch the day job and focus full bore on the other opportunity. 

To those who can and do take that plunge, I say kudos and thanks— Silicon Prairie News, after all, would not exist without such entrepreneurs. But the alternative isn’t all bad, either, as Friday’s panel illustrated. Fransecky suggested that the friction of a day job can serve as inspiration for a successful side project. Sometimes, he said, people “need context” from one facet of life to flourish in another. Panelist Molly Jarboe echoed that sentiment and provided a couple of examples that strengthened the case. T.S. Eliot, who worked for years as a banker while writing poetry, and Franz Kafka, who worked in insurance while writing novels, may have produced markedly different work if not for their dual pursuits.

On Saturday, during Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger’s lengthy Q&A with shareholders (which the Wall Street Journal live-blogged), both Berkshire bigwigs alluded to the future financial importance of technology. When asked what industry or sector they would most like to add to their circle of competence, Buffett said technology and Munger answered technology or energy. 

Gary L. Watkins, the president of Brayan Capital Management, reflected on that answer in the Wall Street Journal’s Deal Journal: “At advanced ages and with vast wealth, it is amazing Buffett and Munger still have the desire to learn about new things and still have the desire to be better/smarter than they were the day before.”

Though the importance of tech-specific financial savvy shouldn’t come as a surprise to folks reading this, it’s nonetheless notable when Warren Buffett echoes the sentiment.

So there you have it: the last valuable nuggets — that aren’t shiny and measured in karats, anyway — I could glean from Berkshire weekend. Perhaps they’re not earth-shattering thoughts, but here’s hoping they resonate with others out there the way they did with me, providing a bit of mid-week motivation.

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