A decade ago, we started a new annual tradition: sitting down to write a letter about our work in philanthropy. We got the idea from our friend Warren Buffett, who’s been writing brilliant reports to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway for more than half a century.

This year we’re marking our 10th letter by answering 10 tough questions about our work that people often ask us. Here is one of them. You can read the rest at gatesletter.com.

Why are you really giving your money away—what’s in it for you?

Bill: It’s not because we think about how we’ll be remembered. We would be delighted if someday diseases like polio and malaria are a distant memory, and the fact that we worked on them is too.

There are two reasons to do something like this. One is that it’s meaningful work. Even before we got married, we talked about how we would eventually spend a lot of time on philanthropy. We think that’s a basic responsibility of anyone with a lot of money. Once you’ve taken care of yourself and your children, the best use of extra wealth is to give it back to society.

The other reason is that we have fun doing it. Both of us love digging into the science behind our work. At Microsoft, I got deep into computer science. At the foundation, it’s computer science plus biology, chemistry, agronomy, and more. I’ll spend hours talking to a crop researcher or an HIV expert, and then I’ll go home, dying to tell Melinda what I’ve learned.

It’s rare to have a job where you get to have both a big impact and a lot of fun. I had it with Microsoft, and I have it with the foundation. I can’t imagine a better way to spend the bulk of my time.

Melinda: We both come from families that believed in leaving the world better than you found it. My parents made sure my siblings and I took the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church to heart. Bill’s mom was known, and his dad still is known, for showing up to advocate for a dizzying number of important causes and support more local organizations than you can count.

When we got to know Warren Buffett, we discovered that he was steeped in those same values, even though he grew up in a different place and at a different time. When Warren entrusted us with giving away a large portion of his wealth, we redoubled our efforts to live up to the values we share.

Of course, these values are not unique to the three of us. Millions of people give back by volunteering their time and donating money to help others. We are, however, in the more unusual position of having a lot of money to donate. Our goal is to do what our parents taught us and do our part to make the world better.

Bill and I have been doing this work, more or less full-time, for 17 years. That’s the majority of our marriage. It’s almost the entirety of our children’s lives. By now the foundation’s work has become inseparable from who we are. We do the work because it’s our life.

We’ve tried to pass on values to our children by talking with them about the foundation’s work, and, as they’ve gotten older, taking them with us on trips so they can see it for themselves. We’ve connected to each other through thousands of daily debriefs on learning sessions, site visits, and strategy meetings. Where we go, who we spend our time with, what we read and watch and listen to—these decisions are made through the prism of our work at the foundation (when we’re not watching The Crown).

Maybe 20 years ago, we could have made a different choice about what to do with our wealth. But now it’s impossible to imagine. If we’d decided to live a different life then, we wouldn’t be us now. This is who we chose to be.

Read the rest of our Annual Letter and ask us your toughest question at gatesletter.com.

Written by

Bill Gates
Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Originally at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-were-really-giving-our-money-away-bill-gates


A carpenter and his apprentice were walking through a large forest. They came across an old oak tree. The carpenter asked his apprentice, “Do you know why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled and beautiful?” The apprentice looked at his master and said, “No… Why?” “Because it is useless,” answered the carpenter. “If it had been useful, it would have been cut long ago and made into tables and chairs. But because it is useless, it could grow so tall and beautiful and you can sit in its shade and relax.”

We constantly confuse worth with usefulness. Witness the way we treat the old and the economically unproductive. No longer do we seek to benefit from their wisdom and experience. I wondered about the number of harried, “useful” people who had identified their worth with the numbers, statistics and concrete results they could deliver, the societal praise and adulation, and I realised how much wisdom there was in the elderly.

We talk about a society with a “human face”. Yet, most of the underlying premises of our society, our jobs, environment, our social groups is based on equating worth with “usefulness”.

What we have is the fellowship of the strong and the able. What we need also to develop is the fellowship of the weak and the disabled, who are often more transparent and open and from whom we can learn. Most people defend their “usefulness” for as long as they can.

Instead, if they learnt to share their “uselessness”, they would, like the beautiful oak tree that —though gnarled and old — is beautiful, providing shade and sustenance to others.

by Janina Gomes

Originally at https://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/the-speaking-tree/know-your-true-worth/

There is an old piece of advice, maybe you’ve heard it. It goes something like “You don’t really know who a person is, until you know who they are when they’re mad.”

For those not familiar, this is often advice given to young couples before they consider marriage.

For us trekkers, the advice is : Make sure you go trekking together, before you consider marrying each other!

Here’s why….

In an artificial setting like a coffee shop, restaurant or a park, you only talk.

Yet, we spend most of our married life doing things – making breakfast, going to office, sending the kids to school. And in doing these ordinary tasks we display our love, respect and consideration towards one another. It cements our bond and our marriage becomes stronger.

But those are things you cannot get a sense of while sipping overpriced coffee.

However, on a 5-6 day trek, the mask of the city wears off quickly and the real person surfaces.

There is no better place to evaluate a partner than on a trek.

Here’s why:

1. Trekking is not a “walk in the park.” It’s hard work… and the best way to tell if you have a complaining partner. If so, you can be sure married life with them will be similar.

2. Like a trek, life is a series of cooperation – at home and work. If your partner doesn’t exhibit a sense of cooperation on a 5-6 day trek… you can guess what the next 50 years may be like.

3. There are any number of things that can go wrong on a trek. And in life. Trekking is the perfect way to see if your partner deals with bad situations in a cool and composed manner. A dose of humour is a bonus.

4. Trekking gives you a true sense of how your partner gets along with others. Beware of a partner who is glued to your side on a trek, and doesn’t socialise with others.

5. A considerate partner is far more important in life than a loving partner. Trekking gives constant opportunity to evaluate this. Does your partner show consideration to the world? Do they pick up fallen chocolate wrappers? Have a kind word and gesture towards others?

6. Trekking will quickly show you whether your partner is a self sufficient human being… Or someone who gives orders (however sweetly), for others to get things for them.

(As we have heard, “A partner who orders is a menace for the future.”)

Over the course of a 5 day trek, you can learn a lifetime of information about someone (for some people, this is found out just in travel to basecamp!).

For that matter, it can be a great way to meet a well-suited partner as well!

Lest you marry the wrong one.

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