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Does the sentence mean "If you consider Buffett as a role model to follow, you should use the discipline to buy things only when you really, really like them"?

"If the Oracle of Omaha serves as any example, the discipline to buy things only when you really, really like them pays off."

Source: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/10/warren-buffetts-investment-strategy-can-help-you-build-wealth.html

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You basically got it. "Serves as an example" (note the 's') here means "is useful as an example". So we have:

"If the Oracle of Omaha serves as any example,"

IF Warren Buffet is a useful example

"the discipline to buy things only when you really, really like them"

having the discipline to wait for perfect investing opportunities

"pays off."

earns the investor a lot of money

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The use of any rather than an in OP's cited example represents a relatively subtle choice of phrasing (it's a feature of persuasive writing).

It's important to note that the clause starts with if, which in principle already implies the writer and/or reader may in fact not think of Buffet ("the Oracle of Omaha") as an example.

Also note that any is effectively shorthand for any kind of example at all - so the if- statement should be considered "true" even if Buffet is in fact a really poor example (he's still an example "of sorts").

But in practice we can be quite certain the writer does think Buffet is a [good] example, so in effect, this means the text acts something like a rhetorical question. Superficially, the words seem to imply there's room for different opinions on whether Buffet is a good role model to follow, but the writer takes it for granted all his readers will admire Buffet and see him as a source of sound advice.


Consider over 7000 written instances of if I'm any judge in Google Books (for comparison, note that there are only 6 instances of if I'm a judge). In such contexts, the speaker isn't normally admitting there's some possibility that he might not be a good judge of whatever he's opining on - he's implying that no matter how bad a judge he might be, his opinion is reliable, and should be agreed with.


TL;DR: The writer is claiming that if you follow the dictum have the self-discipline to only buy things if really like them, this will definitely "pay off" (be profitable). He strongly implies this is obviously true because that's what Warren Buffet always says, and he's made a lot of money over the years (thus anybody could reasonably look to him as a good example to follow).

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  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo: Yeah. Noting that the text is primarily aimed at potential investors, I reckon the implicit rhetorical question in the "subtext" is something along the lines You do want to be successful like Warren Buffet, don't you? (the writer isn't interested in any readers who might be unsure about their answer there). May 11 '17 at 17:55

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