Five Golden Lessons From Warren Buffett to Inspire People and Sell Ideas


Gold medalMaster Persuader, Warren Buffett, recently released his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholders. If you need the best investment advice, then read his letter. But if you want to improve your leadership and persuasion game, you need not fear. Together we will learn five of the most important lessons from the Oracle of Omaha for selling people on any of our ideas and inspiring them.

New research in cognitive sciences shows that reasoning evolved in early humans more for the sake of winning arguments than as a guide to effective decision making (1). If you try to persuade people by directly reasoning with them they often argue and resist. Buffett’s style of buy-and-hold investing is easy and is not based on intricate trading algorithms. The best way to persuade and inspire people is to apply simple, ordinary techniques that fly under the radar. A Master Persuader knows that people cannot resist what they don’t detect. Let’s pry open Buffett’s treasure chest and extract his buried persuasion gold that was highly effective but went mostly unnoticed.

1) Own up to your mistakes; preferably early on for quick credibility.

Buffett admits that they are holding on to too much cash and were unable to make a deal.

“At yearend Berkshire held $116.0 billion in cash and U.S. Treasury Bill…this extraordinary liquidity earns only a pittance and is far beyond the level Charlie and I wish Berkshire to have.”

When you start with a drawback early you build instant credibility and trust with your audience (2). Later, when you get to the pros of your case, they will come to believe in them more. Glossing over weaknesses only at the end makes you less credible and leads to more argumentation with your strengths.

2) Use strong visuals to prime their imagination for maximum persuasive effect (3).

Visual persuasion is the most effective form. If you get people to imagine where you want to lead them, they are essentially half-convinced right off the bat.

“…the cash register will ring loudly.”

On how some CEO’s have a penchant for excessive deal making:

“If Wall Street analysts or board members urge that brand of CEO to consider possible acquisitions, it’s a bit like telling your ripening teenager to be sure to have a normal sex life.”

“Don’t ask the barber whether you need a haircut.”

3) Cialdini’s 7th principle of influence: Unity or being one OF us.

As he and Charlie Munger get older, a major concern for shareholders has been who will take over from them. Buffett recently appointed two longtime Berkshire executives, Gregory Abel and Ajit Jain, to vice chairman roles. He calms succession fears by talking about them as unitized family members of Berkshire. We are persuaded better by people who we view as part of our family–i.e., who are of us (2) and this will make shareholders come to accept the new leadership more readily when the time comes.

“Each has been with Berkshire for decades, and Berkshire’s blood flows through their veins. The character of each man matches his talents. And that says it all.”

4) Dispel their fears and inspire a sense of security.

Anyone who puts to rest our fears gains a privileged persuasive hold on us. We automatically grow to like and trust them more (4).

“We will attempt to alleviate this problem by continuing our practice of publishing financial reports late on Friday, well after the markets close…”

“We have intentionally constructed Berkshire in a manner that will allow it to comfortably withstand economic discontinuities…”

“…Charlie and I sleep well.” (Superb optics, also fulfills Lesson #2)

5) Encourage people’s dreams and aspirations (self-actualization).

We will do anything for those who encourage our dreams and back us up rather than people who steer us towards their own selfish goals (4).

“In America, equity investors have the wind at their back.”

And at the end of the letter he eloquently closes with a Rudyard Kipling poem to further motivate his shareholders:

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs . . .

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting . . .

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim . . .

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you…

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”

Master Persuaders inspire uscalm our fears and are one of us. They clearly articulate their vision, and take genuine steps to immediately become credible and trustworthy. If we keep it simple and follow Warren Buffett’s lead, we can all strike persuasion gold.

March 01 Update: I tweeted this article to Dr. Robert Cialdini and he liked the tweet. The best reward for spending time writing this article.

To learn more about the general topic of persuasion you can find my list of recommended books here.

Visit me on Twitter@ShaunMendonsa for more insights because I’ve persuaded many smart people to follow me there.


1. Mercier, H.; Sperber, D. “Why do Humans Reason? Arguments for an Argumentative Theory” Behavioral and Brian Sciences, 2011, 34, 57-111.

2. Cialdini, R. B. “Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade” Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 2016.

3. Adams, S. Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter”Penguin, New York, NY 2017.

4. Warren, B. “The One Sentence Persuasion Course – 27 Words to Make the World Do Your Bidding” eBook 2012.

Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is a Senior Analytical Development Leader in pharmaceutical R&D. Realizing the need for talent stacks besides scientific and technical abilities, he focuses on driving persuasion and influencing skills for scientists and business professionals. Unlike the other LinkedIn Influencers who mostly peddle their books or products, his only goal is to teach you persuasion and make YOU an INFLUENCER.

Keywords: #WarrenBuffett, #Influence, #Persuasion, #SalesTips, #Sales, #Marketing, #Leadership, #LeadershipDevelopment, #CareerDevelopment, #B2BSales, #B2BMarketing, #ArgumentativeTheory, #ScottAdams, #RobertCialdini, #BlairWarren, #BehavioralSciences, #CognitiveSciences

The Magical Secret to Influence and Persuade: Pacing and Leading


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If you have difficulty influencing people, you are not to blame and I was once in your shoes. You were taught wrong since there is so much nebulous advice out there. You don’t need to fear though. It doesn’t require smooth talk or an outgoing personality. Using the latest cognitive sciences research, I reveal a simple secret to persuading successfully just by matching and pacing our audiences prior to making a request so we can finally achieve the outcomes we want in our careers.

The common mistake people make is that they try to influence others directly with their reasoning and facts. New discoveries in cognitive sciences, however, show that people are not influenced by rational reasoning but by irrational tendencies derived mostly from their emotional state. The leading theory, called the argumentative theory, proposes that reasoning evolved in early humans more for the sake of winning arguments than as a guide to effective decision making (1). Most behavioral scientists now agree that trying to bring people to your side only with facts usually fails. You can find my recommended list of books that cover this here. A more effective way to persuade is to move people to a more receptive emotional state prior to influencing them; a pre-suasive state or sweet spot that triggers the primitive and more active decision-making processes (2).

Pacing and leading provides such a pre-suasive avenue and is a concept from neuro-linguistic programming. The technique involves first pacing or matching the person you are trying to lead, mimicking their posture, speech, gestures, and most importantly, emotion. If paced correctly, you will establish rapport and trust with them. In this connected state, they are now more amenable to your suggestions (leading).

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Elon Musk Teaches Us How To Influence: What Successful Leaders Do To Inspire

pexels-photo-946524.jpegElon Musk, Master Persuader and SpaceX CEO, appeared for a surprise Q&A session recently at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. He made quite a sensation with his announcement of trips to Mars as early as next year and future colonization of the Red Planet.

Ever wonder how Musk and other visionaries like Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates grab our attention so easily and powerfully?

Well, if you have difficulty influencing people, you are not to blame. You have been taught wrong by misleading and unnecessarily complicated information out there. It is now easier than ever to persuade people now. The key is to home in on the right advice.

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Mark Zuckerberg’s Lost Opportunity: How to Execute A High Ground Maneuver Like Steve Jobs

renderedFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence yesterday and released a statement on the Cambridge Analytica data scandal that hit his company over the past weekend.

From a PR disaster standpoint his statement had all the right elements expected from leaders like him. Here’s what I’d say he got right.

Took personal accountability — didn’t blame it on someone else in the organization or third parties.

Explained how this happened to provide clarity to users.

Outlined the fixes that will prevent this from happening again.

No doubt he also got some important advice from his highly paid PR folks at Facebook — so I’d give him a solid A for a good response to the black eye his company got with this.

However, if Zuckerberg really wanted to knock this out of the park he could have executed what Scott Adams (Dilbert creator) calls a high ground maneuver — like Steve Jobs did in 2010 for Apple.

A high ground maneuver is when you take a situation from the weeds of the discussion, make a generalized statement that is fully true — but also simultaneously takes the topic to a higher level — from which potential and current critics will look foolish if they continue to focus on the earlier details. For full impact it is also important to be brief and to the point. Continue reading

Mistakes To Avoid When You Get Fired: Persuasion Scorecard In The Trump-McCabe Feud

shutterstock_453281728On March 16th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former Deputy F.B.I. Director, Andrew McCabe, just a few days before he would retire and become eligible for a full pension. McCabe was in charge of the investigations into both the Trump campaign, and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Since those investigations, President Donald Trump and he have been in a bitter back-and-forth. The president has lashed out at him on Twitter while McCabe has contradicted the White House on numerous television appearances.

So now that McCabe is gone, who won the public opinion game? Here’s my persuasion scorecard on the latest events:

President Trump: A+

Trump had been using powerful visuals when he’s tweeted about McCabe going back as far as December. However, his tweet after McCabe’s firing had significant persuasive firepower.

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Influencing and Persuasion Reading List

still-life-teddy-white-read-159080.jpegIf your persuasion skills are not as good as you hoped they should be and you are not getting what you want in life, it is really not your fault and I understand your frustration. I was once in your position. You have been misled and mostly taught the wrong ways to persuade by the confusing advice out there.

We are now covered, though. Our list here will clear the fog away and guide us down the right path. So in our journey to learn about how the human mind makes decisions, and how to use that to better influence in our careers and to develop as leaders, here is a list of the best books that will get us there.

Books to understand decision-making and tools of influence:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion By Robert B. Cialdini, Revised Ed., Collins Business Essentials, New York, NY 2007


You should start with this bestselling book by Robert Cialdini first as it is the basis for understanding how influence and persuasion works. His premise is that our world is too information-rich and so people then rely on shortcuts for decision making instead of making rational choices. It will open your eyes for understanding the rest of the list.

The Enigma of Reason By Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA 2017


Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade By Robert B. Cialdini, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 2016.

Presuasion Continue reading

A Hollywood Star Interview: Three-Act Structure for Answering STAR Questions

Superhero Woman. Young and beautiful blonde in image of superheroine

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It is actually quite easy to make an impact and persuade your way to success at job interviews. Behavioral scientists have made it simple for us to get our dream job. But if you are, like most, still having difficulty in your job search it is really because the internet is flooded with advice that is overly complicated and is mostly given by people who want to sell books and make money off you in your vulnerable situation as a job seeker.

They key is to sort through the falsehoods from these charlatans and find the ways that work. Usually if it is complicated, it is unlikely to work. I’ve been studying the field of persuasion for longer than I want now, and the one thing that stands out with effective persuasion is simplicity and non-obviousness. We have one such approach here, that if employed correctly, will shift the odds of success in our favor substantially.

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