Plainspeak

Updated: Mar 25 2005, 05:30am hrs
Why do Warren Buffetts homilies in his annual letter to shareholders of his Berkshire Hathaway strike such a chord Why does everyone, shareholder or no, look forward to these so much The reason is simple. These are straightforward and easy to understand.

Take his letter to shareholders this year. Hes talked about how hes made the annual meeting less boring, by separating the question and answer session from the formal meeting (those who wish to hear it all can stick around and those who dont can leave, or better yet, shop), their bungling (we have disappointments and we will try to be as candid as we are in describing the happier experiences) and what happens after his death (the ownership picture will change, but none of my stock will have to be sold to take care of the cash bequests Ive made or for taxes). Its simple and direct language, about the things which ordinary people actually care about. Seeing the point and being able to communicate it is a great gift. It enables the clarity of mind needed to see where to go and how. You and others.

That ability is the real link between the great doers in history, the ones who have stirred millions and created reality. The great conquerors, of the battlefield, or of human following, have all been great communicators because they kept it simple and basic. Take Gandhis autobiography. The average length of a sentence is about a dozen words. Theres no need for a dictionary, the paras are short, the book grips. Its how he roused a people, using simple language to talk of the things they cared about and to question. There were many better orators in the freedom struggle, but it was his way of putting things that people turned to.

Business and economics are two fields whose practitioners never seem to get this. There are few fields which affect humanity so widely and in such basic ways. And in which so many have so little interest. Those who can see why lay people get put off and can tackle this are worth their weight in gold. One reason why Buffett has so much of it.