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Srinivasan Pillay

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Life Is What You Make it: The Buffett Way

Posted: 04/20/10 11:40 AM ET

Unless you're talking food, as in a movable feast, the word "Buffett" conjures up only two names for most people: There's Warren -- of the world's wealthiest men (though with two Ts), and Jimmy -- the musician and Margaritaville icon (likewise last name spelled with two T's).

In the former case, you are thinking 'loads of cash,' and in the latter island fun and singing in the sun. But for the purposes of this article, I am referring to a relatively new Buffett who embodies the enterprising nature of both these men and simultaneously showcases some of life's more important priorities. He is Peter Buffet -- a man who happens to be the son of Warren Buffet -- and whose latest book Life is What You Make It-Find Your Own Path To Fulfillment touches on the reality that existential suffering does not follow socio-economic rules and that you alone are in charge of your direction and purpose in life.

It turns out that Warren Buffett knows more about investing than just money, for in his son he has contributed to the growth of a man who learned that in life, listening to your own heart is every bit as relevant as listening to others -- even when those others include one of the wealthiest men in the world. A recession is not a time when people feel charitable enough to dole out interest, empathy and sympathy for a man with so many doors wide open for him, but in Life is What You Make It Buffett shows us why, at a time when life feels so uncertain to so many people, we might want to take notice of his wisdom and perhaps reflect on his experience.

Peter Buffett reminds us that it's not enough to know what you want to do; that the pain of action is a challenge we must take on. And that we must open our arms to the mysteries of vocation as much as the well-delineated parts; that work is not all about following a predictable path but also about doubts, mistakes, uncertainties and embracing opportunities.

These philosophies are clearly embedded in his personal journey, for this is a man who has thrown a few curveballs right back at life. Admitted to Stanford University, he dropped out just one year later. After receiving a $90,000 "inheritance" from his grandfather, he sold what would have grown into $72 million today so that he could develop a career in his primary area of passion: music. I find it inspiring that a man with the explicit temptation to "overlook" his true passion and fall onto the security blanket of his father's legacy would want to share with the world his conviction that life brings you the real jewel of personal satisfaction. At least once you have paid for it with your own truth, hard work, determination, and readiness to make your own mistakes, learn from them, and move on.

What is striking about this book and the way it is written is that it is not just about "how not to be a trust-fund baby." It is extremely far-reaching, and really rattles the cages in which we sometimes find ourselves chewing on our fingernails as we watch life pass us by.

Just when we wonder why we do something that we're not familiar with Buffett challenges us to think outside the box and notice that the process is every bit as important as the goal. If we are shivering because what we want seems so far out of reach, perhaps what we are actually shivering about, he implies, is the reality that our own truth is far more intimidating to us than we might think. Referring to the struggles of The Glen Miller Band in finding its own "sound," Buffett tells us that we are all charged with the task and afforded the possibility of finding our own sound in life. In case you've lost your way, the book gently takes you by the shoulders and points you in the right direction.

And he should know -- an Emmy award winning musician and a vital part of scoring "Fire Dance" in the film "Dances with Wolves" -- Peter Buffet's book is as much an inspiration about achieving worldly success as it is about the path to personal accomplishment. For me one of the most touching observations that the author makes about his dad, was that he witnessed how he would sometimes go into an altered state, a "trance," emerging with "an almost saintly calm." He has also likened his father's endless hours of financial analysis to a rabbi or monk studying religious writings. In these examples of profound influences on his life, we learn how the degree of our worldly successes greatly depends on the depth of our inward journey, and that what he calls "making life" means getting to the depths of your own creative potential so that people want to touch the work you make because the truth is irresistible.

I am inspired enough by Buffet's book to invite you to join me in absorbing its essence so that you too can spread this wisdom to your own children, to your family and friends, and to the world at large that so deeply needs this kind of inspiration.

 
 
 

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