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Before I tell you about Warren Buffett, I first need to lay some groundwork for the article because there are some very common misconceptions about Asperger’s Syndrome, and in this particular case, I mean it as a compliment to Warren Buffett’s extraordinary abilities to think that he has this.
Asperger’s Syndrome (sometimes shortened to “aspergers” or “AS”) is the name now used for a mild form of autism that is thought to affect as many as 1 out of 300 people. People who have Asperger’s Syndrome are often affectionately referred to as “aspies” by those who love them. Most experts do not consider Aspergers to be a “mental disorder” but rather an uncommon neurological phenotype. Aspies often come across as “eccentric.” They are sometimes deemed to be “oddballs” by others but many blend in so well in society that no one would ever guess they have aspergers. It just depends on the person.
Many aspies have a very high IQ’s. In fact, some exhibit “off the charts” intelligence. The most famous aspies throughout history have mostly been highly gifted artists and scientists such as Mozart and Einstein or technical people like Bill Gates. However, aspies can also be financial geniuses because many are very good with numbers and possess other traits that can make them exceptionally good at understanding business and picking stocks (see below).
Warren Buffett, the most famous investor the world has ever known and certainly considered to be quite eccentric, is widely rumored to have aspergers or some other closely related form of mild autism. This of course is a “pop diagnosis” because, to my knowledge at least, there has never been any official announcements of Warren Buffett being officially diagnosed with aspergers. At the very least, however, he demonstrates many of the traits and quirks that are commonly associated with aspies.
Many aspies are highly resistant to change, especially in their personal lives. It is quite interesting that one of the richest men in the entire world still lives in a very humble home in Omaha Nebraska, the same home he has lived in since 1958! He eats at the same restaurant almost every day and orders the same rather bland food almost every time. Most of his day, every day, is spent reading financial reports and periodicals and he very seldom varies from this routine. In fact, he has fixed routines and does not like these to be changed. He considers them to be “distractions” from his ability to work.
People with Asperger’s Syndrome usually have some problems interacting socially with other people. They also often have some inner-personal emotional issues with the people they they are closest to. They really are not “anti-social” as some people assume because they do like to be social sometimes (just not all the time) and they do seek out close bonds with family and friends. However, they do often struggle in this department.
Many of those who have worked with Warren Buffett over the years have commented on how odd he is and how he can sometimes blurt out “inappropriate” statements. They sometimes comment on his lack of other social graces. Buffett has freely admitted in interviews how socially awkward he was when he was young. Just the thought of standing up in front of people and talking made him want to throw up. He was not very successful in the girlfriend department either and many classmates considered him a “smarty pants” and hard to get along with. However, as a young man, Buffett discovered Dale Carnegie’s book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People,” and he put it to the test in his real life. He was quite impressed with the results and later took Dale Carnegie’s leadership training course. Buffett credits this course to his success in business and in other aspects of his life. He proudly displays his certificate of completion in his office but does not display his college diplomas! That should tell you how much he values his Dale Carnegie training.
Regarding his abilities with interpersonal emotional issues, Warren Buffett’s family, including his deceased first wife and his son, have made public statements about how difficult it is and was to connect with him emotionally. It is quite clear that he loves his family very deeply but expressing this seems to be more of an issue than with most people.
There are many other traits that Warren Buffett exhibits too that are known traits for mild autism. It is well known that he can be painfully honest — some say “honest to a fault.” Although he usually wears a business suit, he is often disheveled, As a child, he had some very unusual interests. He would read toy railroad train catalogs for hours, roll pennies down the bath tub and time them over and over again, record the license plates of passing cars, memorize unusual facts, and sit and stare for hours at a time.Even today, he still has some very unusual “hobbies” such as spotting the square roots and cube roots of large numbers on license plates. It has been pointed out by experts that these are very “aspie-like” traits.
It is easy to see how some of Warren Buffett’s traits that could be considered to be asperger-like have helped him to be the extraordinarily gifted investor that he is. For starters, he has the uncanny ability to hyper-focus for very long periods of time and he can do this on subjects that would bore most people to death. Plus, he has has continued to do this for years. This hyper-focus is just not a trait that can be duplicated by most people no matter how hard they try and it is a known aspie trait.
“Fluid intelligence,” which I personally believe Warren Buffet likely has, is a special kind of intelligence that has been shown to be present in highly intelligent aspergians. It is a true gift and allows one to see connections between topics that most people, even intelligent people, can not see. It also allows a person to very easily recognize patterns and trends. I believe this “fluid intelligence” may be another critical key to why Buffett is such a talented investor and why it is very difficult to truly imitate him.
Warren Buffett does not seem affected by the same “peer pressure” that most investors are subject to. In fact, he seems to pride himself on being different and bucking Wall Street paradigms. He doesn’t seem to much care if he is different. This is very much an aspie trait that I believe has allowed him to amass a fortune by developing his own very unique and very successful style of trading which has evolved over the years to accommodate his ever increasing amounts of wealth.
Most aspies develop what is usually termed “special interests” which are intense interests in subjects that are esoteric and/or unusual. Aspies will go to great lengths to learn absolutely everything there is to know on their special interest subjects. Often times they have a genius level savant ability in their special interest. These usually start in childhood and Warren Buffett’s interest in making money and the financial world certainly started in childhood. Further, he continued to pursue this special interest with an intensity that is very seldom seen in other individuals.
In interviews, Warren Buffett himself has said that he thinks he is “wired differently” than most people. From my research, I agree with him and I believe he demonstrates many traits that are common in those who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. I also believe that these very special traits are the reason he is so financially gifted. The human race is quite lucky to have these rare individuals come along ever so often. Given all that he has taught other investors and the enormous donations to charity that he has recently so generously given, he has become one of the most influential people of all time and I believe will continue to make a positive impact for many generations to come.