What do you do if you’re 20 years old and your dad happens to be one of the richest people in the world?
Well, if you’re Paris Hilton, you take daddy’s money and make a career out of having your picture taken while lounging on yachts and Mediterranean beaches, and you party at clubs ’til five every morning. Not a bad living.
Luckily for mankind, not every child of a billionaire chooses to adopt such a tacky lifestyle. If Paris Hilton represents the North Pole on the spectrum of sons and daughters of the world’s wealthiest, Peter Buffett, son of investor Warren Buffett, is the South Pole.
Though his father is said to be the third-richest person in the world, Peter has always considered himself “normal” and has managed to pursue a successful career as a recording musician, award-winning composer and author largely without the help of his father’s fortune.
In an interview about his new autobiographical advice book, Life is What You Make It, Peter said for kids from wealthy backgrounds, mom and dad’s money can be more of a curse than a blessing.
“It’s another version of drugs in a way, a gateway drug – getting everything paid for when you’re in high school and then you get addicted to it and it’s hard to get off it,” he said.
His father gave him $90,000 when he left home which, after dropping out of Stanford, he used to set out on his dream career as a recording musician.
“If I didn’t have [the money] I probably would have gotten a job at a local recording studio or somewhere to get the real-world experience, and I wonder sometimes if I would have gotten further faster because of that. Who knows?” Peter said. “There still is no shortcut. There’s nothing that replaces the continuous, diligent work at the craft.”
In his book, Peter stresses the importance of forging your own path in life. He knows from personal experience that while not everyone around you may be supportive of your choices, doing what you love is a sure-fire way to find out who you can truly depend on.
“If you fall down you find out who the people who really love you are, who really care about you. They’re the ones who will unconditionally say, ‘Go for it, I believe in you,’ or ‘I think you’re crazy, but if you fall down I’ll be there and if you’re a star I’ll be there too, either way it doesn’t matter,'” he said.
Sounds great in theory, sure, but what about right now? Some kids may be pursuing their dreams in college, but for most of us it’s a stepping stone, an interim stage of life between being a kid, looked after at home by your parents, and an adult, able to support yourself and make your own decisions. Can you really “go for it” when you’ve got student loans and a 10-page research paper hanging over your head?
Yes and no, says Peter. “College isn’t for everybody just because you’re ‘supposed to go.’ If you’re not sure at all, taking a year off and working and exploring or whatever can be just as valuable as school. And if you’re interested in certain things where college wouldn’t help but real-world experience would, that’s important too,” he said.
Still, if college is what you’re committed to, the next four years don’t have to be a waiting room for happiness. Armed with our verve for life, passion for the things we love and conviction that we can do literally anything we want, now is the time to make it happen.
“If someone really has that drive, there’s no better time than now, being in college, because you’ll never have the same amount of drive and energy and passion than you will between the ages of 18 and 25. That’s the time to say ‘I’ve got to find myself,'” Peter said. “If you really believe in it you have to say, ‘This is what I have to do for myself and I have to go for it.'”
ROBIN MIGDOL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.