40 chances
Jan 06, 2014 • By

We all have 40 chances

“Go out, show up and do it.”

Those simple and inspiring words – in the context of fighting hunger – from philanthropist, farmer and photographer Howard G. Buffett, rang in my ears as I recently left an event at Cargill’s headquarters.

He and his son Howard W. Buffett spoke there, hosted by Partners in Food Solutions, a nonprofit organization started by General Mills in 2008 (which now also involves Cargill, Royal DSM and Bühler).

40 Chances

The Buffetts highlighted their book, “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World,” and the lessons they’ve learned from seeing and supporting the global fight against hunger firsthand.

40 Chances

“40 Chances” is based on the concept of a typical farmer’s 40 crop seasons, and emphasizes that each of us has only a limited number of opportunities to make a difference.

Buffett, the eldest son of Warren Buffett, explained the meaning of the book’s title in this video clip from my interview with him.

Buffett has given himself a deadline of 40 years to put more than $3 billion to work to help the most vulnerable people on earth.

His mission, with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, is to improve the standard of living and quality of life for the world’s most impoverished and marginalized populations.

After hearing from Buffett and his son at the event, it’s clear the mindset for making a difference drives them both.

“Just because we’re trying to do good in the world, it doesn’t mean we can’t do better,” said Howard W. Buffett. “And it doesn’t mean that we can’t work as hard as we possibly can to improve lives for others in the way that they want their lives to be improved.”

Howard G. Buffett said choosing stories to include in 40 Chances made him focus on what has been accomplished, and the people his foundation is investing in who are getting something done.

Howard G. Buffett

Howard G. Buffett

“You’ve got to figure out, ‘What are the things that do work?’ and ‘Who are the people that are changing things?’ We have some phenomenal people in this book that are really average people, who just keep on doing things with amazing passion and commitment.”

Both men recognized the work being done by the volunteers from Partners in Food Solutions, who attended the event.


“This is the first place we’ve really sat where what we’re talking about translates into what a lot of people are actually doing,” Buffett said. “Time is more important, and knowledge is more important than money a lot of times and I think people forget that … It’s important to realize that everybody can do something. And that’s what counts. It isn’t all about money.”

Howard W. Buffett

Howard W. Buffett

“I think a lot of what 40 Chances is about is finding people who are dedicating their time, resources and their knowledge – not unlike the volunteers that we have right here in the room – trying to make the world better for others anywhere,” said Howard W. Buffett.

“Anybody can do something,” added his father. “I have faith in people. So if you can find the right people and you can empower the right people, they will change things.”

“It’s very meaningful to just be reminded that we are on this planet for a very short period of time,” said Ken Powell, chairman and CEO of General Mills, after the Buffetts spoke. “I think bringing it down to that perspective, for me anyway, is very meaningful and it means you need to take a chance … Clearly, there’s a yearning for this kind of message.”

Partners in Food Solutions provides technical and business expertise to small and growing food companies and millers in five countries in the developing world. It now connects professionals at the partner companies, including General Mills, to more than 675 companies.


Partners in Food Solutions brings a broad range of expertise to food companies in Africa.

“Many General Mills employees have told me it’s the most rewarding thing they have ever done,” said Ken.

“If there’s one thing that General Mills and Cargill create over the course of careers is the human capital that can be of such great value to people in places like Africa,” said Greg Page, chairman and CEO, Cargill. “The things that we know and take for granted, the skills that we practice, and the professions that we pursue come naturally to us. When we share them with someone for whom this is new information, it adds an enormous amount of value.”

To learn more, visit 40Chances.com.