Every parent of young children wonders if their kids’ choices of reading material may shape the adult they’re destined to become. Billionaire Warren Buffett has a gem from his own childhood that may serve to back up this theory tucked away in a couple of personal profiles, recently uncovered by CNBC.
The most recent of those profiles is the 2017 HBO documentary Becoming Warren Buffett, in which Buffett mentions the title of a book you’ve probably never heard of:
“Very early, probably when I was seven or so, I took this book out of the Benson Library called One Thousand Ways to Make $1,000.”
That wasn’t the first time Buffett has mentioned this book. He also says he “virtually memorized it” in a Fortune profile way back in 1988, so clearly the book made a long-lasting impression on him.
One Thousand Ways to Make $1,000 was published in 1936, the work of author Frances C. Minaker, who, like the book itself, has mostly faded into history. But in looking at the book today, it’s easy to see the influence it had on the young super-investor, as it lays out how the successful business people of the day got started in starting their own companies, with chapters devoted to topics like raising money, coming up with novel business ideas, and philanthropy, the latter a particularly well known passion of Buffett’s.
In the HBO film, Buffett says that a chapter on pennyweight scales – a popular product at the time – fascinated him above all others. As he tells it, as a child he thought that if he owned such a scale for himself, he’d use it all the time, figuring that many others felt the same way:
“I sat and calculated how much it would cost to buy the first weighing machine, and then how long it would take for the profit of that one to buy another one…I would create these compound interest tables to figure out how to have a weighing machine for every person in the world…I [pictured] everybody in the country weighing themselves 10 times a day, and me just sitting there like the John D. Rockefeller of weighing machines.”
While weighing machines didn’t end up becoming the source of Buffett’s enormous fortune, the lessons found in One Thousand Ways to Make $1,000 clearly made their mark on him as he grew into the massively successful investor he is today.