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Excerpt from Life Is What You Make It

by Peter Buffett

A link to purchase: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307464712

I think it’s fair to say that we live in a society that is extremely preoccupied with the concept of “success.”

We strive for success, we dream of success, we read books that promise surefire formulas for success. We praise, admire, and sometimes even fawn over the success of others. Sometimes we secretly, or not so secretly, envy and begrudge it as well. We seem to believe that success necessarily implies happiness and fulfillment, and that lack of success can only breed frustration and gloom.

But here’s a question: For all our preoccupation with “success,” how clear are we as to what we mean by the word?

In my own view, “success” should be defined with reference to the substance of a person’s achievement. What is someone actually accomplishing? Is she helping others? Is he living up to his own unique potential? Is there passion and originality in her approach to life and work? Is there fundamental value in what he’s trying to achieve?

Sadly, however, my impression is that substance has little to do with our concept of success these days. Rather than focusing on the essence of an enterprise or a career, we focus only on the reward it brings— generally as measured in dollars.

To put it another way, we seem to focus on the payoff rather than the process; and this misplacement of emphasis devalues the whole notion of what “success” really means. As it is commonly used, in fact, the word “successful” has become little more than a coded synonym for “well- paid.”

Think about it. In many social situations, it would be considered crass to speak of someone as “a surgeon who makes a lot of money” or “an executive who’s paid a ton of dough.” Generally speaking, though, when people refer to someone as “successful,” isn’t that what they’re really saying?

Now, far be it from me to say that there’s anything wrong with making money; that’s not my point here at all.

What I am saying, however, is that money should be seen as a spin- off of success, a side effect, and not the measure of success itself.

True success comes from within. It is a function of who we are and what we do. It emerges from the mysterious chemistry of our abilities and passion and hard work and commitment. True success is something we earn privately and whose value we determine for ourselves.

The outside world can reward us with money, but it cannot anoint us with this deeper and more personal kind of success.

On the other hand, neither can the outside world take away the success that we’ve earned in our inmost hearts. And this has enormous implications of a very practical kind.

Anyone who’s had his eyes open in recent years will have noticed that our economic system can be fickle, to say the least. A career that is rewarded one month is punished the next. An investment banker is showered with bonuses one year, then suddenly unemployed. An executive is seen as being on a fast track . . . until her firm goes belly-up.

What happens to the “success” those people enjoyed when things were going better? Does the success vanish as soon as the money spigot is turned off? If it can be undone so abruptly, how solid could it have been in the first place?

Is it possible that maybe it was illusory all along?

If we were only talking about money here, these questions would not be so important. But in fact we’re talking about the much more intimate and crucial things that are tied in with our definitions of success— things like self-respect and confidence and peace of mind.

If someone’s self- respect is proportional to the size of her paycheck, what does she think of herself if the paycheck shrinks or disappears? If someone’s confidence is based on the next raise or the next promotion, how does he feel when his progress is stymied?

And why should any of us entrust the outside world, fickle and uncontrollable as it is, to tell us not just what our income will be, but what we are actually worth?

The bottom line, I believe, is that the blind acceptance of a money- based definition of success is just way too risky a proposition. Even leaving aside the intellectual and spiritual imperatives to find a more robust and personal definition of success and meaning, simple prudence should steer us away from measuring our worth by what others will pay us.

It is both lazy and dangerous to leave it to our bank statement to tell us how we’re doing in our lives.

You can visit the following links to read two new articles about the book in BusinessWeek and the Wall Street Journal:



And you can see some notable pre-release quotes below:

“Peter Buffett has given us a wise and inspiring book that should be required reading for every young person seeking to find his or her place in the world, and for every family hoping to give its daughters and sons the best possible start in life.”

–President Bill Clinton

"Knowing and admiring Peter as we do, this book captures his spirit, passion and values beautifully. As parents, it’s the kind of dialogue about our life’s purpose and opportunity we’re having with our children. We will have everyone in our family read and discuss the book."

—Bill & Melinda Gates

"Life Is What You Make It is the ultimate book of commonsense -- except it isn't common. Because Peter Buffett could have had a derived identity and chose not to, he has power and credibility when he tells us how to find a unique self by doing what we love. I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't benefit from this spirited, wise, and friendly book."

–Gloria Steinem

Pete Buffett, Emmy Award-winning musician Peter Buffett has an acclaimed career that spans more than 28 years as a professional composer, musician, philanthropist and author.From 1987 to present, Buffett has released 15 records, and has been signed to such labels as Narada, Epic and Hollywood Records. Most of his releases had been instrumental recordings until 2006 when Buffett began experimenting with vocals and a more eclectic pop/rock sound. His latest work combines elements of soft and progressive rock in the vein of Guster, Death Cab for Cutie and Beck.Beyond music, social action and philanthropy are very important to Buffett. His work with numerous non-profit organizations and charities has made him into a well-known activist for social concerns and these messages play out through his music. His philanthropic work includes singles benefiting environmentalism, education and the elimination of human trafficking, as well as co-chairing his own foundation.Buffett’s latest venture is his inspiring new book, Life Is What You Make It. Personal and revealing, instructive and intuitive, Life Is What You Make It is about following passions over conventions, transcending your circumstances or status, taking up the reins of your destiny, and living life to its fullest.

For more information, please visit www.peterbuffett.com

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