Warren Buffett gave his son enough to follow his dream, but not enough to do nothing.

What would you have done if someone, very early in your adult life, had given you a free ticket to explore any career you wanted — but not enough to stop working forever? Would you have used that freedom to pursue another life path? How would your life be different now?

A story from a forthcoming book by Peter Buffett, son of the legendary Omaha investor, is an invitation to daydream on that topic. At age 19, the younger Mr. Buffett received a relatively modest bequest from his wealthy father — ‘enough to do anything, but not enough to do nothing,’ one of his father’s often-quoted tenets, he explains in an essay adapted from his book, ‘Life Is What You Make It,’ published recently in Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Proceeds from the sale of a farm were converted into shares of his father’s company, Berkshire Hathaway.

A student at Stanford University at the time, Peter opted to sell the shares, collect roughly $90,000 and leave college. (Those shares are worth roughly $72 million now, but the younger Buffet says he has no regrets.)

He moved to San Francisco, set up a studio and began working on his music, playing the piano, writing tunes, experimenting with electronic sounds and taking whatever work he could find, paid or unpaid.

The decision put Peter Buffett in position to get his lucky break — a chance encounter that led to a meeting with an animator who worked with a fledgling cable channel called MTV. That led to paid work in advertising and eventually, the ability to make a living in music. Mr. Buffett went on to create a career as an Emmy Award-winning musician, composer and producer. ‘If I had faced the necessity of making a living from day one, I would not have been able to follow the path I chose,’ he writes.

I found this story thought-provoking. Some young adults feel forced to grab the highest-paying jobs they can get right out of college — jobs that can entrap them on a path leading away from their career dreams. But for others, the need to earn a living serves as a positive and practical discipline. If someone had given me the gift of time, for example, as Mr. Buffett did for his son, I imagine I would have squandered it writing bad novels, rather than getting useful paying work as a secretary, then as a teacher, and then going on to graduate school in journalism, a far more practical path in my case.

Readers, what would you have done if someone had given you a free pass to spend time exploring the career of your dreams? Would you have taken a different career path? Or would a free ticket have destroyed your motivation?


‘To my mind nothing is more tragic than having a passion for something that will never be able to support yourself or your family. I have a friend with a passion for music but not enough talent to ever make a go of it professionally, so he works as an administrator. How much better to have been born with a passion for tax law, chemistry or computer programming.’

‘I would have left for France and enrolled in culinary school. That was my dream coming out of high school.’


沃伦•巴菲特(Warren Buffett)给儿子留下的财产,足以让他追逐自己的梦想,但还不足以让他空享清福。


Getty Images
巴菲特之子彼得•巴菲特(Peter Buffett)即将出版的新书中,有一个故事不禁让人对这样一个话题浮想联翩。彼得19岁时便从他的富爸爸那里得到了一笔相对不多的财产,这些钱“够做任何事,但不够无所事事。”这是他父亲经常引述的原则之一,并在彼得的一篇短文中得到了诠释。短文改编自他一本题为《人生由你打造》(Life Is What You Make It)的新书,发表在近期出版的彭博《商业周刊》(Bloomberg BusinessWeek)上。这笔财富来自于出售一处农场的收益,并转换成了他父亲的伯克希尔-哈撒韦公司(Berkshire Hathaway)的股份。

彼得当时还是斯坦福大学(Stanford University)的学生。他选择变卖了手里的股票,得到了约九万美元,并离开了学校。(这些股票现在约值7,200万美元,但彼得说他不后悔。)


这一决定让彼得•巴菲特最终碰到了好运气──一次偶然的机会让他遇到了一位在新成立的有线电视频道MTV电视台工作的漫画家。这让他得到了一份有报酬的广告工作,并让他终于能够靠音乐谋生。彼得在音乐事业中不断前行,成为一名荣获艾美奖(Emmy Award)的音乐人、作曲家和制作人。他写道,如果我一开始就面对必须自己谋生的压力,我可能无法继续沿着我所选择的路走下去。






Sue Shellenbarger