Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966–2012: A Fortune Magazine Book

Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966–2012: A Fortune Magazine Book

Posted by jack_miller | Published a year ago

With 256 ratings

By: Carol J. Loomis, Susan Boyce, et al.

Purchased At: $18.00

When Carol Loomis first mentioned a little-known Omaha hedge-fund manager in a 1966 Fortune article, she didn’t dream that Warren Buffett would one day be considered the world’s greatest investor - nor that she and Buffett would become close personal friends. As Buf­fett’s fortune and reputation grew, Loomis used her unique insight into Buffett’s thinking to chronicle his work for Fortune, writ­ing and proposing scores of stories that tracked his many accomplishments - and his occa­sional mistakes.

Now Loomis has collected and updated the best Buffett articles Fortune published between 1966 and 2012, including thirteen cover stories and a dozen pieces authored by Buffett himself. Loomis has provided commentary about each major arti­cle that supplies context and her own informed point of view. Listeners will gain fresh insights into Buffett’s investment strategies and his thinking on management, philanthropy, public policy, and parenting. Some highlights include:

  • The 1966 A. W. Jones story in which Fortune first mentioned Buffett
  • The first piece Buffett wrote for Fortune, 1977’s "How Inflation Swindles the Equity Investor"
  • Andrew Tobias’ 1983 article “Letters from Chairman Buffett,” the first review of his Berk­shire Hathaway shareholder letters
  • Buffett’s stunningly prescient 2003 piece about derivatives, "Avoiding a Mega-Catastrophe"
  • His unconventional thoughts on inheritance and philanthropy, including his intention to leave his kids "enough money so they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing"
  • And Bill Gates’ 1996 article describing his early impressions of Buffett as they struck up their close friendship

Scores of Buffett books have been written, but none can claim this work’s combination of trust between two friends, the writer’s deep under­standing of Buffett’s world, and a very long-term perspective.

This is Buffett in his own words. Assembled and edited by his long time friend who also writes for Fortune magazine, it details his thinking mostly through his legendary annual letters to Berkshire stockholders. Robert Hagstrom's The Warren Buffett Way covers Buffett historically and accurately; he had access and permission and interviews with Buffet to bolster the strength of his story, but Tap Dancing gets the reader into Buffett's mind. It is a very accessible read for the often intense and convoluted words of investing, microeconomics, and macro economics. Why wouldn't it be. Buffett's key to investing in a business is simple and clear: the business must be simple and clear (he sometimes says he must be able to explain it to his secretary or his wife), it must be managed by trustworthy people who have been in place for awhile, and it must be under priced for its market position. Each aspect is made clear, so any reader will be wiser in any endeavor for understanding how a man became so wealthy doing such a fine job with a staff of one or two.

- emily_lopez

Book consists of Fortune articles on Warren Buffett.

Good things
1. Nicely written
2. Carol Loomis is an Exceptional financial reporter
3. Provides some good insight

Bad thing(S)
1. Almost 90% of the book is widely known and no "new" thing is revealed

- lionel_alvarez

In 2008, when Warren Buffett had a down period in a 10-year performance bet between his choice (Vanguard's Admiral shares) and a hedge fund, he said: "I just hope that Aesop was right when he envisaged the tortoise overtaking the hare." In fact, he has been a spectacularly successful financial tortoise for over 50 years in good and hairy times.

This is a remarkable book about a remarkable investor AND person. Carol Loomis, my favorite FORTUNE writer for over 40 years, has been professionally and personally close to Warren Buffett for nearly two generations.

In recent years Warren Buffett has been widely acknowledged as the Oracle of Omaha. CEOs flock to seek his advice. His self-deprecating annual Berkshire-Hathaway annual letters (gently edited by Loomis) have become classics of understated financial wisdom. He is regularly ranked among the three richest individuals in the world, along with Bill Gates, his good friend. Recently his and the Gates' personal philanthropy has been at a stratospheric level that make Andrew Carnegie and J. D. Rockefellers look like charitable pikers.

Who is this Buffett fellow, who first merited a modest FORTUNE mention in 1966? What is the secret of his financial wizardry? When and how did he discover his magical financial elixir? To what extent has he adhered to this over the past two generations and more?

Virtually every book that I've read about successful businessmen or investors tells the story within the context of their recent success. Instead, Carol Loomis has decided to describe chronologically the Buffett phenomenon by abstracting from articles (including her own) and from Buffett statements from 1966 to 2012. Loomis adds some comments to provide a relevant historical context.

The result is an unprecedented biographic time line in which we see how and why Buffett reacted to America's financial ups and downs over the past two generations. As he explained, in April, 2008, during the outset of the Great Recession, "I always say you should get greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy." Most remarkable is Buffett's steady, long-term hand on his financial tiller, however turbulent the financial waters might be.

To best appreciate the Buffett personal style and core principles I abstract below book highlights from his early years to 2012. (In 1966 Berkshire Hathaway Class A stock was about $22. In mid-September, 2012 it was $133,000.)


+ Rejected by Harvard Business School, Buffett went to Columbia Business School to study under Benjamin Graham, whose book, THE INTELLIGENT INVESTOR, has captivated him. ("The first rule of investment is not to lose. The second rule is not to forget the first rule.") Buffett later worked for Graham and ingested the Graham dictum of determining the intrinsic value of companies. Buffett absorbed Graham's focus on 'bargains' which he rigidly defined as stocks that could be bought at no more than two-thirds of their net working capital.
+ "When I got out of Columbia University, I went through Moody's manuals....It worked out so well I actually went through the book [s] a second time. 1998
+ In 1969, Warren Buffett, then thirty-nine, was unhappy with the financial world. He regarded the wild excesses of 1969 as insane. "This is a market I don't understand." He announced in 1969 that, after thirteen years of a spectacularly successful operation, he would close Buffett Partnerships at the end of the year.
+ Professor William Sharp of Stanford referred to Buffett as a "five-sigma event."There is only one chance in 3.5 million of compiling an investment record like Buffett's by chance. 1983
+"Things aren't right just because they are unpopular, but it is a good pond in which to fish. You pay a lot on Wall Street for a cheery consensus." 1985 "Rationality is essential when others are making decisions based on short-term greed or fear....That is when the money is made." 1990
+"You can't do well in investment unless you think independently. And the trouble is, you are neither right nor wrong because people agree with you. You're right because your facts and your reasoning are right....That's all that counts." 2002
+"My problem is I don't get 50 great ideas....I'm lucky if I get one or two." (When he does decide to plunge, Buffett bets big.) 1985 Gates on Buffett: "Warren says that in your life you should swing at only a couple dozen pitches, and he advises doing careful homework so that the few swings you take are hits." 1996
+ Gates on Buffett: "He keeps his schedule free of meetings....He likes to sit in his office and read and think." 1996 Buffett is probably one of a few CEOs in America who spends much of the day reading. Buffett doesn't e-mail (but he is in constant touch by telephone). 2002
+ Buffett speaks to a number of business graduate school groups annually. In response to a student's question ("How do you get your ideas?", Buffett said "I just read. I read all day." 2008
+ Buffett tends to do a few calculations in his head and comes up with a bid. He does not own a calculator. 1988 For years Bill Gates tried to convince Buffett that he should at least think about buying a computer. Buffett finally bought one to play online bridge. 1995
+ "I'm doing what I would most like to do in the world and I've been doing it since I was 20....I choose to work with every person I work with. That ends up the most important factor. I don't interact with people I don't like or admire." 1989
+ "It is far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price." 1990
+ In light of the enormous premium required to buy all of a company, Buffett's strategy has become to obtain partial acquisition. 1992
+ Buffett's policy is to buy stocks at bargain prices and hold them patiently. 1996
+ "I look for businesses in which I can predict what they are going to look like in 10 or 15 or 20 years." 1996 "The key to investing is not assessing how much an industry is going to affect society, or how it will grow, but rather determining the competitive advantage of any given company and, above all, the durability of that advantage." 1999
+ "There is no magic to evaluating any financial asset....That method of valuation is exactly what should be used whether you're in 1974 or 1998. If I can't do that, then I don't buy. So I'll wait." 1998
+ "There are a lot of things I'd wish I'd done in hindsight. But I don't think much of hindsight generally in terms of investment decisions. You only get paid for what you do." 1991
+ We have expanded World Headquarters by 252 square feet (17%).1992
+ George Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, regarding litigation involving his company: "They subpoenaed our staffing papers. Not only didn't we have any staffing papers, we didn't have any staff." 1995
+ Bill Gates on Buffett: "Warren is so humble and yet so good at describing complicated things. At the surface level it's funny for him to quote, say, Mae West, when talking about his investment policies, but, of course, he is really saying something much deeper." 1995
+ American Express CEO Ken Chennault on Buffett: "He embodies this incredible blend of high intellect and business judgment with the ability to emotionally engage with people." 2010
+ Buffett said that being called the 'Atlas of America' really means that "if I do something dumb, I can do it on a very big scale." 2003
+ "Berkshire's goal will be to increase its ownership of first-class businesses. Our first choice will be to own them in their entirety--but we will also be owners by way of holding sizable amounts of marketable stocks. I believe that over an extended period of time this category of investing will prove to be the run-away winner among the three we've examined. More important, it will be by far the safest." 2012

At 83 Buffett still lives in the house he bought at age 25. His meal of choice remains hamburger, French fries, Cherry Coke, and, occasionally, a Dairy Queen sundae.


+ "Stocks mean business and owning businesses is much more interesting than owning gold or farmland...if you buy at appropriate prices." 1977
+ "I wasn't against it....It's just that I don't understand the semiconductor business, and I don't go into businesses that I can't understand, that my sister can't understand." 1978
+ Buffett, in his 1982 letter to Berkshire-Hathaway shareholders: regarding recent acquisitions, "managerial intellect wilted in competition with managerial adrenaline."
+ Regarding derivatives, Buffett wrote: "We don't need more people gambling in nonessential instruments identified with the stock market in this country, nor brokers who encourage them to do so." 1987
+ Buffett wanted every CEO to affirm in his annual report that he understands each derivatives contract his company has entered into...."Put that in, and I suspect that you'll fix just about every problem that exists." 1995
+ In his 2002 Berkshire annual report, Buffett describes derivatives as "financial weapons of mass destruction."
+ "Many institutions that publicly report precise market values for their holdings of CDOs and CMOs are in truth reporting fiction. They are marking to model rather than marking to market. The recent meltdown in much of the debt market, moreover, has transformed this process into marking to myth." 2007
+ "Underneath the mathematical elegance--underneath all these betas and sigmas--there was quicksand." 1998
+ "You never know who's swimming naked until the tide goes out." 1998
+ "Unfortunately, the subject of pension assumptions, certainly important though it is, almost never comes up at a corporate board meeting." 2001
+ About the tech bubble, "It was a mass hallucination...by far the biggest in my lifetime." 2002
+ "When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is usually the reputation of the business that remains intact. You should invest in a business that even a fool can run, because someday a fool will." 2009
+ "Never invest in a business you cannot understand." 2009
+ Buffett wrote, in the 2011 Berkshire-Hathaway annual report: "Gold is a barren asset; bonds are seldom rewarding to the investors; well-chosen productive assets like common stocks and land are the logical prospects to deliver superior returns."
+ In 1997, when Salomon Brothers was on the edge of bankruptcy, Buffett temporarily abandoned his much-cherished lifestyle. He was the only individual who was trusted by the secretary of the treasury and the president of the New York Federal Reserve to step in to prevent a massive financial disaster. For ten months, Buffett, moving to New York, personally rescued Salomon Brothers.


+ In 2006 Buffett announced that he planned to give away his Berkshire-Hathaway fortune (then about $40 billion), much of which would go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With a time lag, he required that his contributions be spent rather than added to endowment.
+ He was asked whether it was ironic that the second-richest man in the world was giving this money to the richest man. Buffett expressed supreme faith in the Gates' philanthropic priorities and their ability to implement these effectively. 2006
+ Once his estates was closed, which Buffett estimated would take three years, every dollar of his gifts must be spent within ten years. There were also family foundations and he had made appropriate arrangements for family members. 2007
+ Buffett pledged to give more than 99% of his wealth to charity during his lifetime or after. 2010
+ In June, 2010 Buffett and the Gates announced the Giving Pledge, their initiative to expand the thinking of billionaires about how much to give to charity.
+ By September, 2012 92 billionaires have signed the Giving Pledge. Buffett and the Gates have organized private dinners for billionaires in the United States and as far away as India and China. They remain dedicated to signing up many more billionaires to contribute at least 50% of their wealth to targeted charitable objectives.

Buffett's total charitable gifts ay amount to over $50 billion. (Bill and Melinda Gates' charitable gifts may eventually be of a similar magnitude). The largest previous individual charitable givers, in current dollars, have been Andrew Carnegie ($7.2 billion), John D. Rockefeller ($7.1 billion) and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. ($5.5 billion).

There never will be another Warren Buffett.

- bryson_bennet

Easy 5 Star Read! There were a plethora of great points in the book, what I found most interesting was the fact that Warren Buffett used and trusted Carol Loomis enough to edit his annual letters to his shareholders. After learning the significance of these letters I went over to the Berkshire Hathaway website to immerse myself in reading all the letters to the shareholders dating back to the 1970's. Little did I know when I purchased Loomis' book-Serendipity was with me! In less than a month from the writing of this review I will be attending the Annual Shareholders meeting in Omaha for Berkshire Hathaway all because I decided to read "Tap Dancing To Work" by Carol Loomis. If you dig deep and study, this is so much more than a book, its a whole financial lesson in itself.

Martin J. Fischer

Founder, Creator and Author


- heath_james

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend to anyone who likes investing or likes hearing about Warren Buffett’s life. This book does a great job of showing some of Warren Buffett’s accomplishments and there is some content in there from him which help show his views on investing.

- kassandra_ross

Looking for a "warm and fuzzy" biography? Well, you're looking in the wrong place here. Having said that, you will find mind-bending details about Warren Buffett's business experiences, his opinions about investing, the stock market, and an impressive history of Berkshire Hathaway. The book is composed of a number of essays and interviews by different authors gathered together by Carol Loomis. Although dense, the book is sprinkled with wry humor. I particularly enjoyed the sections on he and Bill Gates (especially, "Charity Begins When I'm Ready"); one describing Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meetings as "Woodstock weekends for capitalists"; the excerpt on Howard Buffett from "Children of the Rich and Famous"; and the section comparing Warren and Jimmy Buffett (more alike than different!). A quote of note, "I'd advise you ... work for an organization of people you admire ... I don't see any sense in pretending." Point well taken.

- darius_jimenez

This is a must read book for anyone who would like to get perspective on investing.
The book tracks slices of Warren Buffetts life, from obscurity to world fame. The approach taken in the various sections is that of "Fortune Magazine" - which is trying to educate/tip-off its readers as to current trends in investing and ideas around money.
Of course Mr. Buffett's investing wisdom will have clashed with the general magazine mood at certain times - the internet bubble being the easiest example, and that also provides an insight into the robustness of his approach/wisdom in all things investing.
Here we can see that Mr. Buffet has mastered all types of investment (and used all types at one stage directly or indirectly) , stocks, bonds, rental properties, deposit and t-bills. Furthermore he is better than "just" a capital allocator - he is a great manager of people.
I suggest that you also read The Snowball - for a further gripping read to provide some more perspective, but this is the better of the two books for people seeking investing lessons.

- alina_bennet

Warren, Warren and again Warren. I love this gentleman. He is a legend for me. A phenomenal investor, leader, manager and motivator. Thanks to him I learnt a huge a lot about business, investing, management and leadership. Thank You Warren Buffett, and God bless you forever.

- darian_taylor

Starts off a bit stodgy and technical for a novice investor, like myself, but soon becomes a great biography and introduction to stocks and bonds. Culminating in the question, "What do you do with your money if you're in the top five richest people in the world?"

- tiffany_richardson

Great book with an incredible amount of useful and productive information

- elisabeth_howard

A good compilation, hagiographic at times, but no reason not to be.

Gives a goof insight of the man and Berkshire Hathaway.
Would recommend.

- corbin_edwards

Brilliant read - a ready reference providing an insight into the personality and methods of the world's greatest investor.

If your interested in business or investment buy this book - it will also make you smile

- haylee_ramos

Well, I flew through this eagerly lapping up the snippets of wisdom everywhere. Just tremendous and I have a lifetime of wisdom to digest and act on. Brilliant.

- huxley_hughes

This is a must read for Buffett fans, although quite a lot of the content is available in other places, this book aggregates some of the key articles nicely

- lena_brown

You can always learn something from Warren

- craig_wood

Excellent copy, exactly as described. Sincere thanks

- shepard_sanchez

great insight on the oracle although some articles are a bit too tilted but the info is great. highly recommend if you're interested in investing or just to see how a great mind ticks.

- lydia_james

Fünf Sterne für die Erfüllung des Untertitels "on practically everything".
Das bedeutet aber, dass man hier auch einige Texte findet, für deren Verständnis volks- und betriebswirtschaftliche Kenntnisse nötig sind.

Dieses Buch ist eine Kompliation von Texten (zum kleinen Teil von, zum überwiegenden Teil über W. Buffett) aus den Jahren 1966 bis 2013 - versehen jeweils mit Einleitungen der Verfasserin zum besseren Verständnis. Es ist nicht dazu gedacht, in einem Zug durchgelesen zu werden wie z.B. eine Biografie. Der Leser wird sich wohl nach seinem eigenen Geschmack bedienen wie an einem Buffet (pardon the pun).
Meine persönlichen Favoriten sind das Kapitel "The Bill and Warren Show" auf den Seiten 133-151 (= Transkription einer Diskussionsveranstaltung zusammen mit Bill Gates und zugleiche das längste Kapitel im Buch; das alleine ist den Kaufpreis schon wert) und "My Philanthropic Pledge" auf pp. 306-7, weil dort die philosophische Seite von Warren Buffet so gut zum Ausdruck kommt.
Die Schrift ist recht klein und daher etwas anstrengend zu lesen, mit 335 Seiten reinem Text - ein anderer Verlag hätte vielleicht 500 daraus gemacht.

- elsie_smith

Bisschen enttäuschent. Hätte mir mehr erhofft. Keine klassische Biographie sondern eher knappe Geschichten über warren. Bei der Bio hatte ich mehr learnings.

- kylan_white

This is a great compilation of a phenomenal investor and his life chronicled over time from exerpts of a magazine.
Warren Buffett has so many great quotations from over the years and it is nice to have them all in one place!

- giancarlo_alvarez

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