Prioritizing Career Goals: The Warren Buffet Challenge

By many counts, Warren Buffet is seen as the most successful investor of the 20th century. At the moment he’s worth over 88 billion dollars! So naturally when I hear career advice from Mr. Buffet, I’m inclined to listen. He’s also really great at managing his time and saying no, which are both individual arts within themselves.

The rich invest in time, the poor invest in money.

Warren Buffett

One of Warren Buffet’s long term employees once asked his boss how to prioritize career goals and focus on the most important tasks that will achieve the highest results. More than just following the 80/20 rule or the “Pareto Principle,” he wanted to know how to narrow down his list of career goals. As research shows, focusing on too many goals often leads to unfocused exhaustion and procrastination. Buffet asked him to do a simple exercise that consisted of the following first two steps:

Step One:  Write down your top 25 career goals

At first, 25 goals sounded like way too many to me, but once you get started you’ll find you have more goals than you think. When you go through this exercise, the goals do not need to be in any particular order — the important part of the exercise is to just reflect and write.

Here’s what I came up with for myself:  

My Top 25 Career Goals:

  1. Become an Assistant City Manager or equivalent level position
  2. Become a Professor
  3. Earn a PhD
  4. Make at least $500k a year
  5. Have a truly flexible schedule
  6. Blog regularly and earn a sustainable income from it
  7. Create and build a company
  8. Hire great people that thrive in their environment
  9. Become a master in excel
  10. Learn website design
  11. Be a great speaker
  12. Create a successful podcast
  13. Become a certified life coach and have regular clients
  14. Run for City Council
  15. Write a book
  16. Gain a higher level understanding of data analytics
  17. Tutor kids on the side
  18. Take affiliate marketing course
  19. Take course on podcasting
  20. Network with highly talented managers in my field
  21. Mentor students and/or young people in personal finance and other practical life skills
  22. Retire from working full-time by age 45
  23. Teach yoga on the side
  24. Be a great manager
  25. Be more involved in real-estate


Step Two: Prioritize your goals

Now that you have your top 25 career goals, how do you prioritize? Buffet asked his employee to review the career list thoroughly and circle the top 5 goals.

Only five.

Below are my top five career goals:

  1. Make at least $500k a year
  2. Blog regularly and earn a sustainable income from it
  3. Create and build a company
  4. Write a book
  5. Become a professor


What I Learned from Prioritizing my Goals like Warren Buffett

Prioritizing my career goals using this exercise has taught me a few different things. (1) I want to do a lot of different things and need to spend time focusing on the things that matter the most to me (2) There are several goals that cover other goals and (3) the career path I’m on right now is only loosely connected to what I want to do in the long-run. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that last point — sometimes we feel “stuck” or simply wondering how we arrived at where we are now. Although I don’t feel stuck and I am genuinely interested in what I’m doing now and my career path, I’ve realized through this exercise that what I’m doing now isn’t directly related to my top five goals — or the goals I should ultimately be focused on.

Challenge Yourself

So here’s my pitch to you: take the Warren Buffet challenge. Try to wrap your mind around the fact that time is the most important aspect of life. Not money. You only have a certain amount of time on this earth and you want to use it to the best of your ability. Also, you’ll see that making a good living is one of my top goals. I want to encourage you to think about the fact that earning that amount of money is not a bad thing, in fact it’s fantastic. With a good income, you’re able to support your family, live without the stress of making ends meet, and, if you have a high savings rate and are smart with investment, experience the freedom of living financially independent.

Take the challenge and let me know what you come up with. Feel free to email me at or post comments on the blog. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Future Posts

The Warren Buffet Challenge can also be applied to many different areas of your life — like exercise, weight less, daily to-do lists, and much more. In future posts, I hope to talk more about my goals in these other areas and how I’m setting quarterly targets for each of them. Stay tuned!

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