If you’ve followed the news today, you probably know that Warren Buffett’s friend and fellow investor Charlie Munger died today at age 99. That’s a nice long run.

I never met the man but I did have an interaction with him in 1981.

Warning: The whole rest of this will be about me, not him. So if you’re not interested in me, don’t read on.

In early 1981, I was following the turmoil in Poland closely. Someone had given a talk on Poland at Santa Clara University, where I was a visiting assistant professor in the economics department. I thought Poland would be an interesting place to be. In the speaker’s group was a young married Polish couple. I hit it off afterwards with the guy. I was single and feeling the need for adventure. I told him of my interest. He recommended that I contact a charity that Charlie Munger was involved with to apply for funds to go to Poland for a year.

I contacted the charity. I can’t remember whether I spoke to Charlie or an aide. I actually think it was Charlie. I would certainly remember if I had known just how big a player Charlie was, but there was a lot I didn’t know. Remember that this was about 15 years before Google. So either Charlie or his aide told me that the first step was for me to write an intellectual autobiography. That sounded like a neat idea, so I began.

Even though I had just bought an IBM Selectric typewriter, for some reason I decided to write long hand. I started thinking about my early childhood and the thoughts I had had about revenge (I was against it), theft (I was against it), honesty (I was for it), and other things. I talked about the particular experiences that led me there. After about 30 pages of writing, I had reached age 6. I realized that to do justice to the project, I would probably need to write well over 100 pages. And then who would read it? So I put the writing aside and didn’t apply. Was that a mistake? I don’t know. By staying around at SCU, I met my wife in the fall of 1981, when we were both teaching there. If I had gone to Poland, I wouldn’t have met her.

I still owe Charlie though. By writing that 30 pages, I ended up thinking of myself as being a more interesting person than I had previously thought. Without having done it, I might never have written The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey, which Milton Friedman called, in his blurb for the book, “a quasi-autobiographical clarion call for a free society.”