In several of his speeches, Charlie Munger has referred to Sir William Osler, the Canadian physician and co-founder of Johns Hopkins Hospital. The first to bring medical students out of the classroom and directly into the hospital for clinical training, he is often described as the “Father of Modern Medicine.”

Osler was a fascinating, accomplished, and erudite man who liked to quote Thomas Carlyle’s prescription that “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly in the distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

As I followed up on Osler, I quickly came to his speech “A Way of Life,” delivered to students at Yale University in 1913. True to Carlyle’s prescription, Osler proposes that men work steadily towards success and fulfillment in life by taking the world in strict 24-hour increments, letting neither yesterday nor tomorrow be a worry today. (He called it “Life in day- tight compartments.”)


While we are all fools to some extent, Osler expounds on the value of putting one foot in front of the other and slowly progressing.

I wish to point out a path in which the way-faring man, though a fool, cannot err; not a system to be worked out painfully only to be discarded, not a formal scheme, simply a habit as easy or as hard to adopt as any other habit, good or bad … The way of life that I preach is a habit to be acquired gradually by long and steady repetition: It is the practice of living for the day only, and for the day’s work; Life in day-tight compartments.