Another Common Misquote: Charlie Munger and Assiduity

Munger's famous quote from his commencement address at USC Law School in 2007 is often horribly misstated.

The Misquote

Charlie Munger is often wrongly quoted as having said:

"Assiduity is the ability to sit on your ass and do nothing until a great opportunities presents itself."

The terrible grammar of the supposed quote aside, assiduity is defined in the dictionary as "constant or close application or effort"; the opposite of "sitting on your ass and doing nothing".

Misquote Examples

Here are some examples of the Munger misquote, a few of which are on mainstream financial sites.

What Munger Actually Said

"Another thing you have to do, of course, is to have a lot of assiduity. I like that word because it means: sit down on your ass until you do it."

Charles Thomas Munger, USC Law School: Commencement Address (2007).

The quote is from his commencement address at USC Law School in 2007, and Munger's use of the word is consistent with its definition.

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Buffett Misquoted

Warren Buffett — Munger's partner at Berkshire Hathaway — too has had his "rearview Mirror" quote misstated to convey something completely different from what he was trying to say.

Graham Misquoted

Benjamin Graham was Warren Buffett's mentor. Buffett wrote the preface to Graham's book The Intelligent Investor, describing it as "by far the best book about investing ever written". But Graham has possibly been misquoted more than anyone else in Finance.

Munger About Graham

At the Berkshire Hathaway 1997 Annual Shareholders Meeting, Buffett explained how Graham was focused on refining methods that ordinary investors could apply. Munger concurred.

"Ben Graham was a truly formidable mind. And he also had a clarity in writing. And we've talked over and over again about the power of a few simple ideas thoroughly assimilated. And that happened with Graham's ideas, which came to me indirectly through Warren, but also some directly from Graham..."

Charles Thomas Munger, Berkshire Hathaway: Annual Shareholders Meeting (1997).

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Believe this is a conflation of two quotes. Charlie has also referred to "sit on your ass investing" as a preferred investment modality, i.e. not trading frequently.

Thank you for your comment, Mark Tobak!

That's quite possible since inactivity is one of the hallmarks of Value Investors. If you have the source for the Munger quote on inactivity, do share it.

This article was intended to clarify that — unlike what is written on many mainstream financial portals today — the "assiduity" quote has nothing to do with the inactivity principle, and is even grammatically (terribly) misrepresented.