Gongol.com Archives: August 2023

Brian Gongol

August 22, 2023

Business and Finance The wisdom of having nothing to add

Devotees of the annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway shareholders at which Warren Buffett so famously presides know that some of the greatest lines come not from Buffett, but from his partner, Charlie Munger. Munger, who is renowned for his fanatical devotion to lifelong learning, frequently uses his turn during the question-and-answer session to say nothing more than "I have nothing to add". ■ A great many of us have a lot to learn from Munger's wisdom. A great deal of what passes for news and commentary is nothing more than a fleeting acknowledgment of immaterial events or a rephrasing of threadbare conventional wisdom. ■ There are countless circumstances and events that just don't matter, and on which none of us should really have anything to add. Similarly, there are a great number of things on which only something very basic needs to be said to join in the consensus opinion of all right-thinking people. ■ The manner in which the Supreme Court issues opinions ought to be taken as more of a guide than it is. Justices can concur with an opinion in full, they can concur in part, or they can dissent, either individually or as a group. Sometimes, even the dissents are divided. Yet when an opinion is unanimous, there is no need for each justice to say something individually, and the message would be diluted if there were less than full concurrence in the opinion. ■ There's a magic in "I have nothing to add". It preserves the authority of the speaker or writer by attaching them to answers they believe to have been correctly delivered, but with an underlying modesty that says, "Listen to me instead when I have something uniquely insightful to say later". We ought to normalize sharing with endorsement and agreeing without embellishing. ■ But this also requires surrendering the false outrage that so many people like to wield against their rivals, for not having said enough about the right subjects with the appropriate level of outrage. Lots of people refuse to put down that weapon, no matter how disingenuous it is. We need to enforce that socially, though: Letting it stand that individuals don't always have to pile on their own unoriginal concurrences or dissents with every issue that arises. Sometimes "I have nothing to add" is exactly the right contribution.

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