Friendship, Communities, Music, and the Dark Side of Philanthropy – Peter Buffet on Invest Like the Best, Hosted By Patrick O’Shaughnessy

Check Out the Invest Like The Best Podcast Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • If you’re entering a new field, no job is too small (or beneath you)
    • Say yes to nearly every opportunity that comes your way, and work your ass off
  • “The best kind of friend is one that can listen and connect to your story, feelings, or whatever you’re experiencing, and then reflect back something that’s helpful—whether sympathetic, challenging, or critical” – Peter Buffett
  • Many people have no idea where their food, clothes, and technology products are coming from; they’re unaware that the people involved in those supply chain are likely being treated “less than human”
    • “Almost anything we buy, you can trace back to somebody not being treated well” Peter Buffett
  • It’s not all sunshine and rainbows—philanthropy has a dark side

Intro

Books Mentioned

Why Warren Buffet Has Given So Much to Charity

  • In 2006, Peter’s dad, Warren Buffett, decided to donate a decent portion of his wealth to charity, pledging $1 billion to the NoVo Foundation
    • The foundation focuses on helping young girls and women in poor communities
  • 🎧 Warren considers himself extremely lucky to have been born a white male with a brain wired for the market system (and to be able to work a job he loves)
    • “And that’s why he gave all his money back. Because he said, ‘Look, if I live in a society that allows me to do what I love every day, that society should get its money back.’” – Peter Buffett

Ponder This

  • Even with life expectancy increasing and mortality rates decreasing, who are we to say we’ll end up living longer?
    • “We think we’re the most important thing; we’re so ego-driven in terms of everything being better off. We’re forgetting about all these other things that will kill us eventually if we don’t pay attention.” Peter Buffett

Communities Thrive Off Their People

  • One problem with creating a community is size: If it gets too big, it won’t feel close-knit
  • 🎧 When you’re in a community, you tend to realize you need everybody for something
    • You never know what somebody might bring to the table or when you might need a helping hand
  • Living in a world of hyper-individualism, where people mainly focus on themselves, is hurting us as a society
    • Peter believes the single-family home is a myth; people are meant to live in tribal communities
    • Dividing people by pronouns, race, etc. creates a narrow-mindedness—the opposite of what we should be doing
  • For a community to thrive, it needs: Food, education, healthcare, childcare, and transportation

Education Must Be Re-Built from the Ground Up

  • 🎧 Our education system is about assimilation and control
    • “Our education system is, I don’t think, reformable. I think we have to start completely over.” – Peter Buffett

Pursuing a Passion for Music

  • Growing up, Peter remembers seeing his dad, Warren, come home happy every day from work
    • He didn’t know exactly what his dad did or how much money he made, he simply knew that his dad enjoyed his job – this inspired Peter to look for a job he, too, loved
  • In college, a friend invited Peter to come listen to someone play guitar in one of the dorm rooms. Upon listening, Peter had an epiphany—that he wanted to pursue music.
    • Around this same time, Peter’s grandfather passed away and left Peter with a good chunk of cash (~$90k). Peter dropped out of school, moved to San Francisco, and used the money to buy various pieces of music equipment.
  • At first, Peter took any music-related gig he could get
    • A piece of advice: If you’re entering a new field, no job is too small (or beneath you). Say yes to nearly every opportunity that comes your way, and work your ass off.

Good Friends Add Value to Your Life

  • “The best kind of friend is one that can listen and connect to your story, feelings, or whatever you’re experiencing, and then reflect back something that’s helpful—whether sympathetic, challenging, or critical” – Peter Buffett
  • A good friend adds significant value and is a welcome addition to your life
    • Sometimes, a good friend will challenge you or be critical; that’s fine—there are multiple ways to add value

The Dark Side of Philanthropy

  • There’s a dark side to philanthropy; Peter recommends reading his NYT op-ed to learn more – a few takeaways:
    • The rich often feel guilty about their wealth, leading them to donate to charities so they can sleep better at night
    • Sometimes, charity work has unintended consequences that actually make things worse in communities 
  • A question to reflect on: Why do we live in a world that needs philanthropy?
    • Society is beyond maxed out with homelessness and poverty – the philanthropic industry can’t keep up
  • “The trap of philanthropic work is its seductive power of feeling like you’re doing something good”Peter Buffett
  • If you work in philanthropy, you should be thinking about how you can put your company out of business
    • Find out how to achieve your charity’s mission so the world no longer needs your services

Supply Chain Ignorance

  • People love their cell phones and clothes, even though there’s a large chance both are coming from a country that pays factory workers terrible wages
  • Bad working conditions aren’t specific to third-world countries – Peter recalls visiting a tomato farm in Florida and witnessing absolutely horrendous working conditions
    • “You don’t have to go halfway across the world to see some pretty egregious behavior” – Peter Buffett
  • Many people have no idea where their food, clothes, and technology products are coming from; they’re unaware that the people involved in those supply chain are likely being treated “less than human
    • “Almost anything we buy, you can trace back to somebody not being treated well” Peter Buffett
  • Peter wishes everyone could spend a few days working in a garment factory in order to shed light on the dark side of textile manufacturing

Additional Notes

  • Peter recently moved from New York City to Kingston, NY where he lives on a 6-acre farm
  • A crazy fact: In the 19th century, the age of consent was just 10-years-old in almost every U.S. state
  • “Language is the skin of culture” Peter Buffett
    • The words we use MATTER
      • For example: “Workforce” is a terrible phrase – it sounds like people are being forced to work
  • Music is sound that carries meaning
  • Be careful of weapons of mass distractions (TV, phones, social media, etc)
    • It’s difficult to figure out who you are when you’re buried by noise (advertisements, social media, content)
  • “If you don’t use your imagination, someone else will”Peter Buffett
  • Discovering who you are is a life-long journey