Someone to Make Proud

“It’s been the best relationship, except family and so on, that I’ve had,” Warren Buffett says of his business partner of over 40 years, Charlie Munger. “He’s been the person, subsequent to my dad, that I least wanted to disappoint.”

“It’s good to have somebody in your life you don’t want to disappoint,” the 91-year-old Buffett continues. In fact, “it’s enormously important” for one simple reason: “It makes you a better person.”

Selfish motivations are weak. Deep down, we know there are only so many margaritas we can drink, so many cars we can drive, so many parties we can attend. Serving someone whom you truly, sometimes even desperately, want to see happy and prosperous, however? That will put nearly infinite fuel into your tank.

It’s a fickle thing, fulfillment. It should not depend on other people at all, and yet, it must. Making someone you deeply care for proud is the line: You can’t just do everything for yourself, but you also can’t be a people-pleaser waiting for affirmation that might never come either.

The trick lies in being satisfied with the actions you take for others without taking the consequences of those actions too much into account. Not every birthday present will be a hit, but if you put a lot of thought and love into each one, what does it matter? They’ll know, and so will you — and that is enough.

Pick your idols carefully, and then do the best you can to make them smile. Maybe, when they’re in their 90s, someone will ask them a question, and all they’ll say is, “It’s been the best relationship that I’ve had.”