Charlie Munger: “I Worked for the Experience Not for Money”

Charlie Munger: “I Worked for the Experience Not for Money”

“I worked just for the experience of working.” – Charlie Munger

Charlie Munger believes in the principle of working for experience, not for money, particularly at the beginning of one’s career. This perspective reflects a long-term view of personal and professional growth.

Munger suggests that the knowledge and skills one gain through hands-on experience, especially when starting out, are more valuable than immediate financial gain. This experience can provide deeper insights into industries, processes, and professions, which can be more beneficial in the long run.

By working for the experience, individuals can:

  1. Learn valuable skills: Working for experience enables individuals to acquire and develop important skills that can be beneficial throughout their careers.
  2. Network: It allows individuals to meet and connect with professionals in the industry, which can lead to future opportunities.
  3. Understand the industry: It gives a first-hand understanding of the industry, essential to future success.
  4. Make informed decisions: With a better understanding of the industry and the role, individuals can make more informed decisions about their career paths.
  5. Long-term growth: While the initial monetary reward might be less, the long-term career growth can be significantly higher due to the skills and experience gained.

This doesn’t mean that people should work without compensation or undervalue their work, but rather that early in their careers, they might consider prioritizing opportunities that offer valuable learning experiences over those that offer the highest immediate financial return. Over time, the benefits of this early learning can compound, much like the investments Munger often speaks about.

Buffett and Munger On Job Motivation

Here is the dialogue from one of the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meetings where Buffett and Munger discuss when they worked together in a grocery store owned by Buffett’s grandfather.

Warren Buffet said, “But I still prefer working for myself. And of course, Charlie and I both worked for my grandfather. And we just didn’t find it that interesting. I don’t remember. How did, why’d you ever decide to go to work at the store? Apparently, Charlie worked there in 1940.”  

Charlie Munger interjected, “I worked just for the experience of working. I didn’t need the money. My father gave me an ample allowance and I also had a private business. So I was kind of working as a lark in your grocery store.”

“12 hours a day?” asked Buffett.

“Yes,” replied Munger. 

“For a lark?” Buffett asked again. 

“Yeah, as a lark, yes,” Munger assured 

“Do you consider that a good investment of your time?” inquired Buffett. 

“I’m looking back on it. Well, I had never done it before and I wanted to have a little of that experience and I wasn’t going to do it very long.” Munger explained. 

“That sure as hell wasn’t the reason I worked,” Buffett replied.[1]

Learning is the most important career choice

“A life properly lived is just learn, learn, learn” – Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger, as an advocate of lifelong learning, has often emphasized its importance in career development. Munger’s philosophy stresses that the accumulation of knowledge and skills not only enriches one’s personal life and significantly enhances professional growth.

Here are some reasons why Munger believes learning is the most important career choice:

  1. Adapting to Change: The world is constantly evolving, and so are industries and professions. Lifelong learning helps individuals keep up with these changes, adapt to new technologies, and stay ahead of industry trends. It increases professional relevance and prevents obsolescence.
  2. Building a Latticework of Knowledge: Munger often mentions the importance of building a “latticework of mental models” — a diverse set of ideas from multiple disciplines that interact and provide a more holistic understanding of the world. This latticework can help in decision-making and problem-solving in various scenarios, making individuals more effective in their roles.
  3. Continuous Improvement: Munger believes in always getting better, no matter how accomplished one already is. Continuous learning is the key to continuous improvement and evolution, both personally and professionally.
  4. Compound Effect: Like the power of compound interest in finance, learning has a similar compound effect. The more you learn, the more you know, and the more you can learn. Knowledge builds on itself and can lead to exponential growth over time.
  5. Better Decision-Making: Knowledge and understanding derived from continuous learning empower better decision-making. More informed decisions lead to better outcomes, both in one’s professional and personal life.

In Munger’s view, a commitment to lifelong learning can provide a significant competitive advantage in one’s career, and it is one of the best investments one can make.

Munger career advice

“Three rules for a career: 1) Don’t sell anything you wouldn’t buy yourself. 2) Don’t work for anyone you don’t respect and admire. 3) Work only with people you enjoy.” – Charlie Munger.

Charlie Munger’s career advice can be seen as a reflection of his own values and principles, which have guided him throughout his successful career. Let’s break down each rule:

  1. Don’t sell anything you wouldn’t buy yourself: This principle is rooted in integrity and authenticity. Munger advises that if you cannot stand behind a product or service enough to use it yourself, you shouldn’t be involved in selling it. It’s also about respecting your customers and valuing their trust. If the product or service isn’t good enough for you, it’s not good enough for them.
  2. Don’t work for anyone you don’t respect and admire: Munger believes that the people you associate with, particularly those you work for, have a profound influence on you. They shape your values, work ethic, and perception of the world. Working for someone you respect and admire allows you to learn from their knowledge, wisdom, and experience, and it also ensures that you’re aligned with the ethos and practices of the organization you’re part of.
  3. Work only with people you enjoy: According to Munger, life and work are more fulfilling and productive when spent in the company of people you enjoy. It creates a positive and energizing work environment that fosters collaboration, creativity, and mutual respect. This advice can lead to a more fulfilling career and contributes to overall life satisfaction.

All three rules emphasize the importance of integrity, respect, and enjoyment in one’s career. They offer guidance on building not just a successful career, but also a fulfilling one.

Key Takeaways

  • Value of Self-employment: Preference for working independently can provide a sense of fulfillment and control over one’s work.
  • Learning from Experience: Working not for immediate financial gain, but for the value of the experience and the insights it can provide.
  • The Necessity of Initial Experience: Undertaking jobs in different sectors early in a career, even those that may seem mundane or strenuous, can offer valuable lessons.
  • Importance of Interest: The inherent interest in a job or a field is crucial to sustained engagement and growth.
  • Prioritizing Learning Over Immediate Compensation: The initial stages of a career might require prioritizing learning opportunities over immediate financial rewards.
  • Reflection on Past Choices: Reflecting on past work experiences can provide valuable insights for future career decisions.
  • Value Integrity in Business: Never market a product or service that you personally wouldn’t endorse or utilize.
  • Seek Respectable Leadership: Choose to work under leaders you hold in high esteem and whose values resonate with you.
  • Cultivate Positive Relationships: Aim to surround yourself with colleagues you genuinely enjoy being around, fostering a dynamic and harmonious work environment.


Nurturing a successful and fulfilling career is often about more than just financial rewards. It requires focusing on gaining meaningful experiences, self-awareness about what motivates us, and a conscious evaluation of how we invest our time. A commitment to lifelong learning and openness to new experiences are crucial elements that foster professional growth. Ultimately, the most enriching careers are those that align with our personal aspirations and offer more than just monetary compensation. They provide valuable lessons, experiences, and personal satisfaction that extend beyond the workplace and into our broader lives.

To navigate a successful and gratifying career, the guiding principles should always incorporate authenticity, admiration, and pleasure in your professional relationships. Uphold sincerity by promoting services and products you believe in and would personally use. Working under mentors and leaders that you look up to and share values with allows for professional growth in a stimulating and ethically aligned environment. Establishing and maintaining enjoyable colleague relationships can significantly enhance the overall professional experience. Adopting these tenets in your professional journey not only promotes career growth but also ensures fulfillment and contentment in your work life.