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Change Our Story

Composer, author and philanthropist Peter Buffett on finding your own path to life fulfillment.

The Magic of Words

Peter Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is an Emmy Award-winning composer, NY Times best-selling author and noted philanthropist. Currently, he is releasing socially-conscious music and touring his “Concert & Conversation” series in support of his book Life Is What You Make It .
sunrise BUFFETT

I believe that words can change the world. 

On a personal level, when we say, “I hear you” or “I’m sorry” worlds can change. And inspirational or visionary words by leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi have changed the course of history. In the world we live in now, it may be that the collective words of millions will shape the future.

The reason I’m writing these essays is to get conversations started. To find out what others are thinking and feeling. It appears to me that the Internet has allowed the full flowering of the quote by Anais Nin: “We don’t see things as they are ... we see things as we are.”

So who are we?

I can’t be the only one that’s overwhelmed by the amount of content available on the Internet. I’m also amazed by how much of it is consumed. I think that a common narrative will start to emerge out of the many millions of voices expressing themselves through comments sections everywhere ... seriously. Not unlike watching search terms rise and fall on Google, a tag cloud meta-narrative could start to define the mood of a nation ... or region ... or world.

My personal experience with this was when my book, Life Is What You Make It, was released. An article about the book was on the front page of Yahoo.com. Within a few hours about 3,500 comments were posted in reaction to the piece. No one (or very few) could have actually read the book. So whether it was a positive comment or a negative one, the comments really only revealed the feelings of the writer about the concepts the book explored. Attacks or praise for me were completed unfounded ... no one knew my story.

A few people went to my website and wrote to me more directly. I responded to two of the most negative to see if I became a human, would things change? And they did. One woman confided to me that she wasn’t angry—she was scared. She was raising two daughters alone, had pride in her work, and was let go like just another number. I represented something to her; what later became the "one percent" I suppose.

Every day we reveal who we are through the words we use and the actions we take. Actions generally do speak louder than words; for the most part they are more clearly understood.

Words can be confusing. Whether it’s definition or context—and probably a multitude of other reasons—words can get in the way of true meaning.

How accurate is the information contained in the words? How true is the feeling behind them? (a political season brings these questions out in spades).

But words can also unlock universal truths. And they are clearly the most direct way people who speak the same language can relate to each other. Whether it’s ordering lunch or considering the order of the universe.

Choose your words carefully. If eyes are the windows to the soul, words are a window to the brain ... and the heart.

And, of course, stories are just words strung together into a narrative. So if there’s a need to change some stories that don’t work for us—either individually or collectively—we need to study the words used and the definitions agreed upon.

What words do you think need a new definition? And what would that new definition be?

Visit www.peterbuffett.com and Change Our Story to learn more.  

Image by LouisvilleUSACE, licensed under Creative Commons. 


peter buffett
6/23/2012 9:31:18 PM

That's a great place to start... redefine "American".. so you're saying what it is to be an American? Would a fact be that you are a citizen of America? But an assumption would be that you share a set of beliefs.... and then it starts to break down from there. One of my opinions is that the concept of a Nation/State (being only a few hundred years old) is not the final form people will join an allegiance to...

larissa dahroug
6/22/2012 11:59:35 PM

"American" needs to be redefined. But I am not sure how it should be redefined. I think there needs to be a national discussion regarding this....and I think that discussion has been started in artist studios across the world.

gwynn o'neill
6/22/2012 9:59:46 PM

The word "liberal" has a long history, has drastically changed meanings, and is used often without any clear meaning.Also, "truth". I read somewhere that "liberal" is related to the idea that we cannot object to each others ideas because everyone has a right to his own opinion, and all are just opinions anyway. A dangerous situation because we cannot discuss what is true. I just read a somewhat crummy book, but it talks about how we assess what is true. It is called "Truth", by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. Do you know of a better one? Thank you for starting this discussion.

6/20/2012 4:36:10 PM

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and had a song buzzing in my head, have started to remaster some old materials lately but this is the first really "new" melody I've had come to me in a while. we have to go with our feelings in life, So much that we hear in the news and read is so slanted, ideas are thrown at us constantly whether it be politics, education, medicine. Everyone has their own usually strong opinions abd we are afraid to disagree and many times defer to the loudest voices. I think that through the powerful techniques in musical composition, people are educated in a more subtle heartfelt manner. They don't even know how it happens. I liken it to the "Tale of the Weeping Camel" where the mother camel who has refused to nurse her baby after a painful birth is able to be soothed and heled by a Mongolian ritual song. Se then, begins to nurse the baby.

6/20/2012 4:25:54 PM

I feel inspired by your philosophy and creative way of teaching others through the power of music. You are very talented. Suzi