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  • September 2011
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Teen review: Life Is What You Make It by Peter Buffett

My name is Joshua, I attend Obama 6-12 where I will be a sophomore this year. Me and my afro greatly enjoy playing magicthegathering, reading, playing soccer, fencing, doing my school’s musical and hanging out with my friends. I know how to speak some Spanish (Hola hermosa, come estas?), can pretend to speak some Swedish (jog ticker om du), am learning some American Sign Language (…), and am hoping to learn some Thai.

Life Is What You Make It by Peter Buffett

An exercise in absurdity

As a genre, self-help books don’t tend to be very eye-opening or original. They usually focus the majority of the blame and responsibility for a person’s life on that person, disregarding entirely all social, cultural or economic situations. Peter Buffett’s book Life Is What You Make It is no different. In one simple book, Peter Buffett manages to conclude a whole lot of things of rather mixed value.

Buffett opens the book with some of the values that he sees as important to being a functional human being. These values are trust, a work ethic, tolerance and valuing education. Buffet finds that these are the things that a person needs as a baseline to achieve happiness. The next portion of the book is where Buffett concludes that, at birth, we do not deserve anything. He says that because we have not done anything for the world, we do not deserve anything from it. He says that all we are given must be payed back as if it were a debt.

His next chapter talks about how life really isn’t that fair. The main reason he sees this as necessary to point out is that many people will try to assure us that things are pretty fair. However, he takes this more from the standpoint that everyone’s life is different in that some people come from a better place than other people do. After that, Buffett starts talking about the benefits dangers, and comparative authenticity of choice. He pointed out how sometimes it is useful to have people make a choice for you if you are uneducated in the topic, but how they could also be a little overbearing. He was mainly discussing this in the context of parents, and how some would put too much pressure on their kids career, and how some would know when they had to step in for their kids career.

The next section of the book was were Buffett got down to his serious opinions on choosing a good career. The main thing he said was to choose something that you loved enough to devote huge amounts of time and energy to and still enjoy. In the next section he explained that finding that special thing takes a good amount of time. He also went on to say that it was worth investing good money into taking that time, which is what he did with the $90,000 given to him by his family as his inheritance. Buffett, in the next chapter, shows how he made the work he loved support him financially. The next section of his book shows how Buffett believes mistakes to be unavoidable and rather good lessons as well. In a reference back to a previous chapter, Buffett begins another chapter with the dangers of choice when it is heavily influenced by society.

In a new section, he goes on to discuss the different ways we define success. He points out how if we define success as making money, then many more people are considered successful than if we define success as happiness. In his second to last section, Buffett goes into detail about the problems that face the children of the rich and prosperous.

Finally, Buffett concludes with a chapter on the importance of giving back to the world in any way, using quotes from Andrew Carnegie’s article “Wealth” to support his ideas.

Despite reinforcing time and time again just how in touch he is with he world, Buffett shows that he is not quite up to comprehending certain harsh truths about life. The most obvious way that Buffett shows his lack of realism is in his statements concerning economic disparities. The main opinion he expresses is that everyone has their own problems to deal with, end of story. While it is true that everyone has some type of issue, Buffett neglects to mention that having absolutely nothing to wear in your walk in closet that will work for the party you’re going to is quite different than actually having nothing to wear. This is not to say that the rich don’t have genuine emotional issues (which Buffett discussed in great length), it is merely to illustrate the absurdity of Buffett’s claim.

Next on the list of minor insanities is Buffett’s opinion that no on deserves anything when they are born because they haven’t done anything. While it is true that a baby hasn’t got much under their belt (if they wore belts), they still deserve to be raised with a good education and a healthy environment, emotionally and physically. The most glaring and disturbing of Buffett’s claims is that all we have to do to live a good life is find what we love and make it pay. The main problem with this is that not everything pays that well, by which I mean well enough to live on, and Buffett says that, that isn’t important, as if having a comfortable place to live is negligible.

In his final main absurdity Buffett sees donating as all someone who is rich needs to do to become a good person, ignoring the fact that how they got rich probably did far more damage than they could do good.

Despite the cons of this book it does supply some amount of good advice. For instance, it is extremely important to pick a job because you like it and not because your family is pressuring you to. This is something of extraordinary importance, especially if you actually have many choice for your life, and aren’t forced into flipping burgers to get from paycheck to paycheck. The book also raises a good point about how we should learn from our mistakes. Buffett tells us that we should not hate ourselves for our mistakes but should admit to them, learn, and move on. He says it is unhealthy to be overly concerned with mistakes, or not concerned enough about them.

As we can see, though it does provide certain beneficial ideas, Peter Buffett’s book also brings in a lot of out-of-touch opinions. Due to this ridiculously weird mix of quality, I would not recommend that you read this book. If, however, you have the time and the energy, you can look through this book and evaluate each of these opinions with logic to find good ones, something Peter Buffett obviously didn’t do.

One Response

  1. Fantastic review! I have the same reaction to self-help books…

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