Philanthropist Howard G. Buffett has traveled to 120 countries while tackling the issues of conservation and food insecurity. However, it was in tiny Assumption, Ill., at an informal “planters’ school” for farmers like him, that Buffett learned a life-altering lesson. A speaker reminded audience members that they have 40 chances — roughly 40 years of productive work life — to do things right.

In his inspiring new book, 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World (Simon & Schuster, $26), Buffett partners with his son, Howard W., to share moving stories that change “statistics into experiences” and prompt readers to make the most of their 40 chances. Here, they share a few of their lessons learned.

1) Take risks
“At our foundation, we believe we can’t change anything if we don’t take risks,” says the elder Buffett. “The question becomes: Is it smart risk? Is it risk that will lead to change?”

2) The right data can make a world of difference
“In the U.S., the Map the Meal Gap tool ( is about the best thing we’ve ever supported,” Buffett adds. “I’ve sat down with grain-elevator managers who’ve said, ‘We don’t have a hunger problem in the U.S.’ This is a great tool for explaining to people where that need exists.”

3) Substitute “empowerment” for “charity”
“Where we’ve been the most successful is where we’ve empowered people to help themselves,” says the younger Buffett. “You can give people material things, but what they really need is knowledge — or they’ll fail.”