Life Advice from Jimmy Buffett

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Photograph by Pamela Jones

What advice would you give the younger you?
To learn to play the piano when my mother wanted me to. And I wish I would have learned another language earlier. I struggle with both now. But music is the universal language; you can still communicate with a guitar and a song.

What should every man know about money?
You’ve got to be able to take it out of the equation in order to enjoy life and make good decisions. Years ago I went to Warren Buffett for advice about something, and that’s what he told me. He said, “Whether you make or don’t make this deal, is it going to affect your life? And if not, then do what you want to do and be prepared for them to say no.” I’ve used that quite a bit. A while ago I almost bit on a deal with Disney. I thought it would mean instant fortune, but they had all these things they wanted me to do. I walked away from that and it worked out.

What’s the best way to impress a woman?
I start with southern charm. Then the guitar would come in.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
My old friend Herman Wouk gave me this advice: “As a prose writer, just get a page a day done and don’t try to do anything else.” That seems to work. The task of writing a big book, it takes discipline, while writing a song is so refreshing it’s like you’re skipping along like a stone in the ocean. But after writing books I’m more conscientious about what I’m saying in lyrics. I take more time making that little bit of poetry better.

How do you make your favorite drink?
It’s basically just good Caribbean rum, coconut water – the clear stuff from the coconut that you can now get in Whole Foods; not Coco Lopez – a fresh piece of lime, and lots of ice. That’s it. No bubbles, lots of electrolytes, and no hangover – if you don’t drink a gallon. How do you think all those folks survive Carnival in Trinidad for two weeks?

What one skill should every man have?
To be a good reader, because then you don’t have to be a conversationalist to be knowledgeable. I’m shy.

When is it okay for a man to lie?
For me it would be every day. I have to default to Faulkner and say, “Well, you know I’m a liar, and I make a good living at it.” I’m not going to claim the Fifth here, but I’m going to claim writer’s privilege in that we’re allowed to expand our version of the truth. I’m an embellisher.

What secrets should a man keep to himself?
I think secrets should be held for a long time, and, if you live a long and interesting life, it’s worth it to let them all out at the end. I wrote a book at 50, and I didn’t tell all the good stuff. It’s like, there are secrets to writing songs. There are secret surf spots. You keep that box of magic tricks around, and when you’re done doing your magic, then you can talk about it – purely for the showbiz aspect of the tell-all book.

What’s the handiest survival skill you have?
I’m a pretty good field medic. From my Boy Scout days I can patch people up. I can do stitches, which comes in handy in remote surf breaks.

What skill would you like to master?
I had a fleeting desire to do kitesurfing – then I saw the injury reports and the YouTube videos and I went, “Nah. I’m content.” Stand up paddleboarding is the last new skill I learned. Laird Hamilton gave me a lesson. It took me about an hour, and then I had it pretty good.

How should a man best face his fears?
There have been times onstage when fear comes up. You have to acknowledge that you’re scared to death and just say, “Well, here we go.”

What do you want to do before you die?
I have four things: Learn to hang ten. Go to space. Go to Pitcairn Island, where my Buffett ancestors are from. And go to Antartica.

What’s the secret to staying young?
For me it’s being in the water every day, whether it’s surfing or swimming. I look at these guys in Hawaii and they’re 80 years old in the surf break and look great. And that’s all they do. I want to be in that club when I’m that old.

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