Risk Comes from Not Knowing What You’re Doing

Warren Buffett? Jim Rasmussen? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The investment record of Warren Buffett has been astonishingly successful. His reputation for sagacity means that his tongue can transform a prosaic remark into an adage of wry plainspoken wisdom such as the following:

Risk comes from not knowing what you’re going.

I have seen low quality citations in secondary sources from the 2010s. Can you help me to find a good citation for this comment?

Quote Investigator: In 1993 Warren Buffett spoke to graduate students at Columbia University’s Business School in New York City. Reporter Jim Rasmussen wrote about the event in January 1994 in the “Omaha World-Herald” of Nebraska.

A student asked Buffett how he evaluated investments and risk, and Buffett used the Washington Post Company as an example of a safe investment circa 1973. He stated that the company’s market value at that time was underestimated because it was substantially lower than the value of the properties it owned. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

And it was being run by honest and able people who all had a significant part of their net worth in the business. It was ungodly safe. It wouldn’t have bothered me to put my whole net worth in it. Not in the least.

Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.

Interestingly, “The Washington Post” and other newspaper and media organizations have become riskier assets in modern times because of internet induced turmoil. Amazon leader Jeff Bezos purchased the paper in 2013.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Risk Comes from Not Knowing What You’re Doing

Notes:

  1. 1994 January 2, Omaha World-Herald, Section: Business, Billionaire Talks Strategy With Students Columbia University Group Hears From Famous Alumnus Berkshire Hathaway by Jim Rasmussen (Herald Staff Writer), Quote Page 17S, Omaha, Nebraska. (The article text in the database misspelled “knowing” as “knowning”) (NewsBank Access World News)