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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Story Of A Little Boy

The other day I came across a very interesting story. It was a story of a little boy. A true story. This little boy picked up an interest in music. For several years, he had been learning to play the cornet. He persisted, putting in hours of practice at home each day, and there came a time, after many painful hours of practice peppered with criticism from his mother, that he was rewarded by being chosen to participate in his school's Armistice Day Ceremony.

Each year on November 11, the entire school went down to the gym for a ceremony honouring the nation's fallen soldiers. In what had become a school tradition, trumpet players stationed at doors on either side of the gym would alternate playing "Taps," one blowing the first dum da dum notes, and the other echoing dum da DUM, and so on.

That year, this boy's cornet skills had advanced enough for him to be given the part of the echo. He woke up the morning of the event, exhilarated at the prospect of performing in front of the entire school. When the big moment came, he was ready.

As the little boy stood in the doorway with his cornet, the first trumpet player sounded, Dum da DUM.

But on the second dum, he hit a wrong note.

"My whole life flashed before my eyes, because I didn't know what to do with the echo. They hadn't prepared me for this. Paralyzed - my big moment" recounted the little boy years later.

Should he copy the other trumpet player's mistake or embarrass him by contradicting what he's played? The little boy was undone. The scene scalded itself permanently into his memory. What he did next he can't remember - had become a blank.

But that little boy learned a valuable lesson that day: It might seem easier to go through life as the echo - but only until the other guy plays a wrong note.
It is a lesson that will serve all of us well. Often, either by choice, circumstances or sheer force of habit, we end up playing the 'echo'. And this was probably the lesson that made him stick to the principle 'Be Greedy When Everyone Panics, and Panic When Everyone Is Greedy'.

That little boy grew up to be the most successful investor of all time and the richest man in the world a few years running. That little boy's name is Warren Buffet.

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