Life Is What You Make It – A Review Personal

Life Is What You Make It” by Peter Buffet, the son of Warren Buffet. But despite having a multi-billionaire father, he was required to forge his own path in life, and ended up choosing a career in music. In his book, he talks about the necessity of work for self-respect, the cankering caused by a feeling of entitlement, the importance of doing what you love, and the joy of giving of your time and means to help others.

A musician myself, and an entrepreneur who has found my own version of success, I found I could really relate to Peter. I really resonated with his views on wealth, time, work, and success. I also gained a lot of great parenting lessons from the book, and especially appreciated his insights into how to not spoil your children.

Peter’s views were very well articulated, and you can tell he is a real thinker with some profound insights and great experiences to share.

For anyone who doesn’t love what they do every day, is searching for a perfect career, or struggling to find meaning in their lives, I recommend Life Is What You Make It. Actually, I recommend it regardless.

Click here to buy it on Amazon. (Amazon affiliate link)

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book (some of the quotes could have fit equally well in some of the other categories besides the one I’ve placed them in). You’ll likely have different favorites if you read it, as these quotes barely scratch surface of everything he talked about.

On Parenting

Parents should love their work:

If parents love their work and approach it with passion, then kids will come to see the value of work itself, and will be inclined to seek and discover a passion of their own. If parents don’t love and respect their work, but see it only as a necessary evil on the road to wealth and status, then the kids will absorb that lesson, too. It’s a lesson that tends to lead to a lot of frustration and unhappiness in later life.

Kids need love more than stuff:

When affluent parents give too much in terms of money and too little in terms of love, the reason often comes down to simple laziness and self-involvement. If you have a credit card in your pocket, it’s very easy to buy a kid a toy. That will make her happy for a few minutes – and, maybe more important to certain kids of parents, will keep her occupied, so that they can return to their own preoccupations. It’s much more demanding – and of course far more valuable – to take the time to play with the child, to get down on the floor, join in the game, see how the little girl’s mind works, and try to help to stoke her imagination. But that takes real involvement, and not just an American Express card.

On Privilege

Time is more valuable than money.

Many people confuse the relative values of money and time. Consider: Any economist will tell you that something that cannot be replaced is more valuable that something that can be. Money, as it turns out, is the only truly replaceable thing…

…You can’t replace a person or an experience; you can’t precisely duplicate a sunset or a good hearty laugh. You can’t reclaim even a single moment of your life once it’s slipped away; wasted time is gone forever.

By that measure, it seems crystal clear that time is much more valuable than money. Yet people tend to live as though the opposite were true; as though tomorrow or next year are soon enough for self-knowledge and self-fulfillment, but money must come today. As if dreams can wait but a paycheck can’t.

Privilege is not the same as having money.

If we equate the word privileged simply with the idea of having money, we’re painting over a lot of gray areas and overlooking a lot of other factors. Good parenting, it seems, could conquer at least some of the difficulties that attached to being poor. Bad parenting could easily squander the supposed advantages that accrued to affluence. You could not categorically say that one group of kids was happier, or better adjusted, or more prepared to make the most of their own lives, than the other.

On being vs. doing:

The Eastern philosophies tend to espouse the primacy of being – of quiet contemplation, mindfulness, and the experience of connection and serenity; in a word, happiness. Western traditions tend to emphasize doing – achieving, accomplishing, leaving a mark; in a word, work.

Is one philosophy “better” or “truer” or “more useful” than the other? The argument will never be settled. But I will say this: For a person with a true work-vocation, doing equals being. And, for a person with a sincere happiness-vocation, being equals doing. As far as I can tell, the conflict disappears.

Materialism limits our freedom:

Our absolute needs are few. And the more we imagine we need, the more we complicate our lives. These phantom needs drive us to acquire; the urge to acquire dictates how we use our time, and thereby limits our freedom. The more we think we need, the less free we are; on the other hand, our freedom – our control of our own time – is increased by everything that we can do without.

On Doing What You Love

Why not do what you like?

Why not do what we like? I’m not talking about frivolous choices, or self-indulgent choices, or lazy choices. I am talking about choices that reflect our own personal values, and that give the broadest possible scope to our particular talents and creativity.

If you are drawn to music, or painting, or writing, why not go for it? If teaching seems to offer you fulfillment, why not choose that path? If you are drawn to outdoor work far from the centers of commerce and wealth, why not go there?

On listening to your heart:

The heart knows things that the plodding mind then has to explain and justify by way of words and logic.

Speaking of cultural emphasis on finding oneself:

Over time, of course, this notion of finding oneself went from being a quest to being a cliché; then it devolved into a punch line for a lot of bad jokes that portrayed the Baby Boomers as being a bunch of self-involved navel-gazers. And okay, the emphasis on finding oneself probably went too far; social trends always do, and that’s why the pendulum swings.

Which is exactly my point: In recent years, I believe, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. In a world where everything from computers to economic cycles seems to be moving faster, we seem to regard introspection as a leisurely luxury we can no longer afford. Goaded by the fear of being left behind, we don’t dare give ourselves the time to slow down and think.

Work does not have to be awful:

A friend of his said, “I realized that what I’d absorbed from my father wasn’t really a work ethic. It was a suffering ethic. Dad had suffered on the job, presumably for the good of the family. Therefore, I should suffer, too. If I didn’t, I was shirking. Work was supposed to be painful. How could I have learned anything different?”

On Success

Definition of success:

There is no one version of “success” that has been agreed upon and esteemed in all places and at all times. In Periclean Athens, success meant having time and leisure to hang out and talk with the philosophers. Among certain monastic orders, success means letting go of all attachments and desires, breaking off dependence on the material world: having nothing and needing nothing. But success can also be counted in goats or grandchildren. Sometimes “honor” – however defined – is esteemed far above wealth; in other times and places, wealth seems to count above all else.

Given all these varied definitions of success, it should be clear that success, in fact, is a very peculiar kind of noun! Think about it: We can all pretty much agree, for example, on what a chair is. Say “tree” or “book” or “steering wheel,” and most of us will picture something real and solid – something whose existence does not depend on our opinion. Does success even exist in that same way?

Success, basically, is whatever we decide to call success.

On happiness in a vocation:

If I had decided that my joy in life was picking up trash, my parents would have been fine with seeing me hanging from the back of a truck all day. If I was happy in my calling, that would have sufficed for them.

On mistakes:

Mistakes are very seldom permanent; most of them can be fixed with less difficulty and drama than one imagines, and there’s nothing shameful about making them. There is, however, something sad and limiting about the fear of making them.

Success is the beginning:

Too often, I think, people see the fulfillment of a wish as a consummation, as the end of a process. But doesn’t it make more sense to see a wish coming true as a beginning, as the start of something? The real excitement and the real fulfillment lie in seeing where that wish can lead.

The value of work:

Why work hard? Because it’s the surest and possibly the only route to self-respect.

Why strive? Because striving brings out the best in us; it tells us who we are, what we have to offer, how much we’re capable of achieving.

What’s left to do after the family’s prosperity has been established? Everything!

On Philanthropy

Everyone has value:

Too often, even well-meaning folks confuse people’s circumstances with their essense. But cirumstances vary widely; essences do not. If you believe in the dignity and value of any human life – including your own! – then you should recognize the equal dignity and value of every human life.

Sadly, seeming acts of kindness are sometimes tainted by a failure – maybe an unconscious failure – at accept this basic truth. But if people imagine that they are somehow superior to those they are helping, the result is not true kindness, but condescension.

How to help the needy:

After lots of soul-searching and many meetings with  more experienced donors and administrators, we defined a few guiding principles for our work. First, we wanted to avoid what I think of as “philanthropic colonialism.” This is the tendency of (generally) well-meaning outsiders to imagine that they understand the challenges facing peoples better than the local people themselves. Imagining that they better understand the problems, they further imagine that they can effectively impose solutions. Not only is this arrogant and condescending, but it usually doesn’t work. So our approach would be to provide support for people who identified their own needs and evolved their own solutions.

Brandon is a location independent entrepreneur, musician, worldschooling father, and the principal author of this blog. He's all about reaching his potential and enjoying life to the fullest in each moment.


  1. I’ve enjoyed hearing you share your thoughts as you were reading this book. Thank you for sharing some quotes from the book too. Very thought provoking and inspiring. :)

  2. Excellent review.

  3. Thank you for sharing, this one definitely seems to be a kind of book that’s worth reading. Also, I wanted to thank you for your blog which is one of the most inspirational ones on the web I think…

  4. Very thorough review. Sounds like a book I need to get my hands on. Thanks

  5. […] I recommend it regardless. Note: I wrote a more complete review of this book a few months ago. Click here to read my full review. Or Buy Life is What You Make […]

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