Mind Over Munger
By Suzanne Woolley

(MONEY Magazine) – Devoting a weekend to an annual meeting in Omaha is hard-core. But for true Berkshire Hathaway devotees, the Buffett-fest is just a warm-up. After gorging on the earthy wit and investing wisdom of 71-year-old Warren Buffett and enjoying a small sample of famously laconic vice chairman Charlie Munger, the Berkshire cognoscenti head for Pasadena.

The attraction? Pasadena is home to Wesco Financial (WSC), a mini-conglomerate with just $2.3 billion in market capitalization. Wesco, an 80%-owned, publicly held subsidiary of Berkshire, is led by the 78-year-old Munger. On May 8, 310 investors crowded into the University Club of Pasadena to hear Munger field more than two hours of questions. Some simply come to hear more about Berkshire. Others are here for a course on how to think, from a champion thinker.

The importance of scientific literacy in developing good "habits of mind" was a major topic at this year's meeting. "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail," declared Munger. How can we avoid this myopia? He argues that every field of study, from philosophy to physics, has a few "big ideas" that can help us gain insights that reinforce or undermine investment decisions. Think of it as the intellectual version of Peter Lynch's "invest in what you know" axiom, or the way writers use metaphors to help in understanding complex ideas. "People calculate too much and think too little," he grouses.

Can you bank such tips? No. Can they make you a more agile thinker and hence a better investor? Sure. Look what they did for Munger.