I picked the book, Life is what you make it, simply because it was a NY times best seller and the title of the book pulled me towards it. My honest opinion after reading the book is that it is a must read to draw some inspiration from. The author Peter Buffet, is an acclaimed Emmy award winning musician, song writer, performer and a composer for TV and films. As his surname suggests, he is also the son of the world famous business magnate Warren Buffet.
In this book, Peter quotes a beautiful sentence , “We don’t get to choose where we start in life; we do get to choose the kind of people we become.” which pretty much sums up what he wants to tell us starting from his childhood, to having the boldness to choose his own path and become a success. In short this book is about the convictions and intuitions that define what’s worth doing during our brief stay on Earth, followed by the actions and attitudes that will add up to a well-lived life. Economic prosperity may come and go but the values are the steady currency that earn us the all important rewards of self respect and peace of mind.
In the earlier chapters, Peter tells us how self-respect is earned. None of us deserve the particular start we get in our lives, but there are certain smug people who imagine that they are entitled to their good fortune. It is easy to envy such people unless we look much deeper. The somewhat luxury of the cars, the boats and the high end lifestyle turns out to be an imperfect compensation for things that are more important: a sense of purpose, knowledge and acceptance of who they really are and the things they really yearn for. Self respect can come only from earning your own reward. He also touches upon two of the main mistakes parents make. One is substituting money for love. The second mistake parents make is, if life is what we make it, it is essential that we make it for ourselves.The well to do parents are subverting the kids of their chances for self esteem, depriving them of the hard knocks that build their character by making things too easy for them.
Next he takes up the topic of freedom and choices. There is nothing as too much freedom, but growing up many people make bad use of their freedom. Clearly it is not freedom’s fault; it’s their fault. Here, Peter shares a mantra passed on to him by his mother. She used to say that he could be whatever he wanted to be, but not do whatever he wanted to do. In other words, aspirations could be boundless, but freedom of behavior was subject to right and fitting limits. These limits were defined by personal morality and integrity and were not intended to crimp the freedom, but rather to give it shape and direction. Similarly when people get tangled up in their options, its not because there are too many but they lack the clarity or direction.
Moving ahead from options topic to the topic of vocation. Does each and everyone of us have a life vocation? If we take vocation to mean a passion for the work we do, we can strive to excel or succeed in our work but that is not the same thing as loving our work. In a broader definition, vocation would be the tug we feel towards the life that is right for us. The bliss of it – the rightness of it – can reside in any aspect of a chosen path. Peter was lucky to find his vocation ,i.e, towards music one fine day and might be the reason behind a whole chapter being dedicated to that. In the subsequent chapter he touches upon the subject of privilege, and how it can allow us the luxury of not hurrying through life, be it a supportive family or a financially secure family. Also in the process of not hurrying up, the one in a better position to recognize and seize an opportunity, would be the one who has logged some effort getting ready for it.
It is an ingrained facet of human nature to confuse between what we really want with what we think we want. Add to that tendency, the social pressure that goes with what we think we should want like a raise or promotion and it becomes extremely challenging to make decisions in accordance with our happiness, rather than with our sometimes misguided wishes. Regarding success, Peter quotes a sentence “The key to the treasure is the treasure” from one of the Buddhist texts and details on that, in the angle of our minds being tuned to the success definition as a chest of gold or treasure. But what good it is to us if we cant open it with the key we possess? However, there are a number of possible treasures waiting to be claimed, but it is the key, i.e, the right mix of talent, inclination and passion that determines which treasure we unlock and is the version of success we define for ourselves.