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April 23, 2010

Staff Picks: Life Is What You Make It

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 4:30 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

In a previous life, I worked for a digital media company, and Peter Buffet, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, was one of my clients. As we would talk about his projects, Peter always had a certain sense of calm about him. While other clients seemed stressed about deadlines, layout, technical issues, etc., Peter discussed these issues with a sense of purpose and seriousness, conveying their importance, but with a balance that implied that these things were not the end of the world (which many others did). We talked a lot about music old and new, and I respected him, for what he brought in for us to work on, and what he revealed as his future plans.

Now, years later, I get to share his sense of calm and purpose again, but this time with even greater understanding. Just released is his new book Life Is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment. In it, Buffett quickly makes the distinction that it's not about a life of privilege that can offer fulfillment, but how closely one can surround themselves with "trust for the world"; reflected in interaction with others, education, and the choices we make. The writing is as thoughtful, story-like, and insightful as a face-to-face conversation with Buffett. Here's a brief excerpt as an example:

If life is what we make it, if we ourselves take up the challenge of creating the lives we want, then it seems clear to me that the essence of privilege has to do with having the widest possible array of options. Think about all the many people who - by our conventional measures, at least - are not privileged. The African villager who, because of a corrupt government or a lack of educational opportunities, can only remain a bare subsistence farmer or the tender of a few meager cattle. The inner-city youth or an American Indian on an impoverished reservation, whose horizons are cut short by a culture of broken families and despair. Or, for that matter, those Chinese workers whose society keeps them in the factories or on the farms where they happened to start. For people in these circumstances, survival tends to be a full-time job. Food and shelter for themselves and their families must obviously come first. But economic security and material comfort are not the only things these people are deprived of; they're often deprived of choice. And, if you think about it, a lack of options is every bit as cruel as any other lack. Hunger and thirst can be satisfied from day to day. But a frustrated yearning for change, for new possibilities, can last a lifetime - or even be passed down through generations.


There's plenty of first-hand stories in the book as well, which reveal much about Buffett's personal perspective as well as the intelligence passed to him from his family, and while this Buffett might not have the billions of dollars his father does, he certainly has a wealth of fundamental knowledge which he shares in this thoughtful book.


About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.