This was my second visit to the Berkshire annual convention or as the popular parlance state ‘woodstock for capitalists’. Not to worry. I didn’t take away anything specific to business or investing this time around since all of that has been spoken or written enough about Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger through several mediums. What instead I took away was something that I observed keenly during the meeting – ‘Their long attention Span’!! Yes the two nonagenarians sat there for 5-6 hours and attended with utmost concentration fielding all the questions and answering them in detail. They have been doing these meetings since last 3 or 4 decades consistently.
There were no phones ringing, no checking mobiles or any other distractions during the meeting and what is commendable is their ability to sit there, focus and concentrate with such long attention span.
Charlie Munger had famously attributed this to his success. To quote him
“I think people that multitask pay a huge price. They think they’re being extra productive, and I think they’re out of their mind. I use the metaphor of the one-legged man in the ass-kicking contest.
I think when you multi-task so much, you don’t have time to think about anything deeply. You’re giving the world an advantage you shouldn’t do. Practically everybody is drifting into that mistake.
Concentrating hard on something that is important is .. I can’t succeed at all without doing it. I did not succeed in life by intelligence. I succeeded because I have a long attention span.“
Both of them are known to read hundreds of pages of books, analysts reports, company reports and so on for hours together every day. This practice is extremely difficult in today`s world of digital distraction. Humans are now officially worse at focusing than a goldfish.
A recent study by Microsoft concluded that the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds – shrinking nearly 25% in just a few years. On average, people spend 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phones per day. Individuals check their phones an average of 58 times each day and is increasing by day.
We feel we are effective multitasking but humans cannot multitask because of the ways that our building blocks of attention and executive control inherently work. To this end, when we attempt to multitask, we are usually switching between one task and another. The human brain has evolved to single task. And on top, all these are taking a toll on our mental health.
We cannot undo any of the digital distractions that are taking over our lives but we atleast can try to zone out for few hours everyday from gadgets, that might help reduce the stress and the urge to attend to notifications. And more importantly, it helps improve our focus on one task in hand thereby elongating the attention span.