The Snowball Summary
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The Snowball Summary and Review | Alice Schroeder

Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

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Alice Schroeder’s Perspective

Alice Schroeder is an American author and former insurance analyst. She received a BBA in finance and an MBA from the University of Texas in 1978 and 1980. Since 2008, Schroeder has worked as a columnist for Bloomberg News.


The Snowball is a biography of one of the most respected men in the financial world. Warren Buffett has been financially successful for over 70 years but is yet to write a memoir. This book is the first book to have unprecedented access to Buffett’s life stories and lessons. The outcome is a book that provides financial advice and shows how finance can give people life advice.

StoryShot #1: Buffett Benefited From a Simple Life Image

Buffett benefited from the media being intrigued by his simple life. His public image was that of a simple man who seemed genuine and trustworthy. The reality was quite different, though. Buffett has always lived a complicated life. The reason he was seen as genuine was that he used simple words and spoke passionately. He also had a loyal group of friends that made him seem more like your average man. 

The reality is that Buffett was also a highly effective businessman. This meant he couldn’t be friends with everyone and earned a business reputation as being tough and hard-nosed. This ability to appeal to the media while also being financially successful made him one of the most reported businesspeople.

That said, Buffett did enjoy prioritizing the simple things in life. He would often be invited to the Sun Valley Conference, a conference for the economic elite. Many got carried away in the gossip of noticing who had been disinvited since the last year’s conference. Buffett was more interested in the beauty of the Sun Valley. He saw it as the perfect family vacation spot. He used this time to reunite with his whole family during one of the family’s rare times. 

StoryShot #2: Buffett’s Inner Confidence Helped Him Succeed

Buffett’s growing wealth meant that others listened to his financial advice. Roughly 99% of his wealth was invested in the stock of Berkshire Hathaway. Because he was so heavily invested in this stock, it meant the stock price was a clear measure of his success. Near the end of 1999, many longtime value investors following Buffett’s style decided to invest heavily in technology stocks. Many of these investors did very well, but many invested in the wrong stocks. Buffett had an inner confidence that allowed him to avoid investing in these stocks and stick to what he knew. He is richer than all of those other investors, so his inner confidence paid off.

StoryShot #3: Buffett Followed in His Family’s Footsteps

Warren has a family history of working their way up the ladder. The first known Buffett in the New World was John. He was a weaver believed to be of French Huguenot descent. In the seventeenth century, John fled to America to escape religious persecution. He settled in Huntington, Long Island, as a farmer. All Buffetts after him were tradespeople. They were not merchants and they were not part of the professional class. Warren’s father was born in 1903. Howard would major in journalism at the University of Nebraska and work his way up in society through his fascination with politics. Howard then married Leila Stahl, Warren’s future mother.

Leila and Howard brought Warren up in an inquisitive family. He benefited from the advantage of having interesting topics at the dinner table. Both his parents were intelligent and Warren was encouraged to go to reputable schools. Warren did not have a financial advantage, but he was born into the right environment and at the right time to make lots of money.

Buffett accepts that his lineage is filled with people who grafted their way up in society. He also believes he couldn’t have been raised with a better set of parents. But he still believes he created some of his own reality. 

StoryShot #4: The Lack of Warmth from Buffett’s Parents Pushed Him Toward Numbers

The reason Warren believes his parents helped propel him toward financial success is not due to love and care. Warren felt pushed toward numbers because of the way his parents treated him. Instead of talking about love and pride, the only acceptable topics at Buffett’s dinner table were politics, money and philosophy. Warren and his siblings were never tucked into bed with a kiss.

Leila was particularly cold to her children. After Howard left for work in the morning, she would become even more hostile. Warren and his sister could be playing or getting dressed and their mother would suddenly explode at them. She wouldn’t physically abuse them but would call them worthless, ungrateful and selfish. Warren admits that he feels emotionally scarred by the way his mother treated him and his sister. His father was like a protector. He wouldn’t argue with Leila, but she wouldn’t be as aggressive when he was around. 

The abuse at the hands of his mother pushed Warren toward numbers. By the age of six, he was already fascinated by the precision of measuring time in seconds. He was also obsessed with watches. 

StoryShot #5: Buffett Learned How to Overcome Adversity From a Young Age

Buffett loved school. He used his time at Rosehill School as an opportunity to spend time away from the adversity he experienced at the hands of his mother. He immediately made friends and he enjoyed learning. This enjoyment was accompanied by a passion for competitiveness and unmistakable intelligence. That said, he didn’t like sports and was extremely sensitive. For example, he would cry if people were mean to him, which meant he always searched for ways to be liked.

As well as adversity in his home life, Warren also struggled with health risks while he was at school. One evening he felt a pain in his stomach. After a visit from a doctor, Buffett was told he needed surgery later that night. He had a ruptured appendix. If the doctor hadn’t decided to fast-track the surgery, Warren wouldn’t be here today.

Warren used his adversity as an opportunity to learn. He recalls when he was playing the cornet at a school performance and had to echo a trumpet player. His duo played the wrong note. At this time, Warren froze as he didn’t know whether he should mimic the wrong note or play the correct one. On that day, he learned a lesson that he has remembered his whole life. The lesson is: 

It might seem easier to go through life echoing others, but this is only until the person you’re echoing plays a wrong note.

StoryShot #6: Chewing Gum Laid the Foundation For Buffett’s Money-Making

Buffett was an entrepreneur from a very young age. The first few cents he made were by buying and selling packs of chewing gum at school. He started at six years old. He also read The Trader column in Barron’s and all of Howard’s finance books.

A visit to Wall Street in 1940 ignited his passion for finance. The market was reviving after a crash, but the men of Wall Street were still busy and competitive. That said, Warren had a unique experience when meeting Sidney Weinberg. One of the most famous men on Wall Street was willing to take time out of his day to ask a young Buffett what stock he liked. He was so surprised that Weinberg was willing to pay attention to this young child and actually seemed interested in his opinion. This experience only encouraged him to delve deeper into finance. 

After this, he would visit the Benson Library to read as much financial material as he could. A book called One Thousand Ways to Make $1,000 captivated Warren. This was when he first learned about the power of compound interest. Learning he could make large amounts of money from a small sum gave Buffett new confidence that he could become rich. Soon after, he announced to his friend, Stu Erickson, that he would be a millionaire before 35. 


We rate this book 4.3/5.

Our Score

The Snowball PDF, Free Audiobook, Infographic and Animated Book Summary

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