Peter Buffett to talk at UNO about following own path

Article published by Omaha World-Herald
Written by Kevin Coffey, World-Herald Staff Writer

Peter Buffett is Warren Buffett’s son.

That’s what most people think when they hear his name or see him at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. But the youngest of Buffett’s children is much more than just the son of billionaire investor.

Buffett is an Emmy-winning composer — who contributed to an Oscar-winning film score — and the author of New York Times best-seller.

Perhaps most impressive is that Buffett has always opted to define his own path. His career as a musician is unique among his family, and he has channeled his experience of doing his own thing into a book, “Life is What You Make It”; his philanthropic organization, the NoVo Foundation, largely funded by Warren Buffett; and a concert series that touches on all his pursuits.

On Thursday, he returns to his hometown for “A Concert and Conversation with Peter Buffett.” The event is being presented by the United Way, with whom Buffett has been collaborating on series of concerts across the country.

This show will be his first for United Way in Omaha.

“This one is definitely special,” Buffett said.

We caught up with him before the concert to chat about his music, doing what he loves and his propensity for doing things his way. The interview was edited for length and clarity.

Buffet: His concert is concert connects his music and his philanthropy

Q: A lot of people would say, “Peter Buffett’s a musician,” but that’s no longer your day-to-day focus, is it?
A: Not anymore! It used to be. I talk a lot about that in the show. My dad really did what I call the big bang, when he gave it all away, in 2006. When we were all going together as a family to make this announcement, he said, “Do you think this will affect your music?” I said, “Well, probably.” But I never guessed how.
I was exposed suddenly to this world that I had never seen. My music didn’t stop. It just changed dramatically, and the reason for doing the music changed.

Q: Is this concert kind of a hybrid of all of your experiences and outlets?
A: I think Steve Jobs said, “You can only connect that dots in retrospect.” I never would have guessed it. It’s really wild.
I cannot tell you how powerful that is for me to experience. I’m on stage and I’m doing my thing and I think, “This is unbelievable that I can pull these threads together and learn new things.”

Q: This might be a question you hear a lot, but how did Warren Buffett’s son end up as a musician?
A: My dad’s actually very musical. My mom was very musical. It was around the house and it was encouraged. But more to the point, my parents both were always saying, “If you’re lucky enough to find something you love to do, do it.”
It’s one thing for your parents to say that. It’s another to see my dad come home everyday, loving what he did, not mad at the boss, not wishing he has another job. But not because he was getting rich. He loved what he did.
I got to experience that firsthand. I saw somebody do what they love and encourage me to do the same. The punchline is my dad and I do the same thing. That’s what people don’t expect to hear.

Q: That’s something you write about in your book: Finding your own path and defining that and going forward.
A: If you’re lucky enough. A whole bunch of people never get that opportunity. The name of my book (“Life Is What You Make It”), I make a joke about it in the beginning of the show: “Easy for me.” For so many people, life is not what they make it.

Q: You talk about ways to find new and different approaches. Does that match up with the goals of your foundation, too?
A: Exactly. Let’s not just replicate because it did work somewhere and think that it’s going to work somewhere else. In a sense, that’s colonial thinking. “Let’s just go in and plop it down everywhere and everybody will be good.” Probably not.
I became very comfortable with the unknown, with creativity, with mystery. You couple that with the idea of creativity in philanthropy, the idea of being able to fail, the idea of trying things.

Q: What’s next? Surely a lot more of these concerts.
A: A lot more of these. I’m really looking forward to the end of this year when we’ve done all of these cities and experienced all of these communities — the United Way is taking me inside their world everywhere — to find out what comes out of it in terms of my own observations and what I’ve learned.