Lessons from Sundae School

ben and jerry's sundae school

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking at Ben & Jerry’s Sundae School event alongside the quite incredible Martha Lane-Fox and Edward Hibbert of Freegle.

As I said (one too) many times on the night, many of Martha’s words struck a chord with me and have lingered in my mind (hands up, I admit it, I have a total hero-crush on her).

sundae school sundae school  sundae school

(sadly these are the only photos we have of the night. Bummer.)

But slightly unexpectedly, what has stuck in my mind and had me thinking over the last few weeks was a question from interviewer Sophie Heawood. Badly paraphrased, it went something like this:

“You seem to love taking on enormous challenges – cycling to Morocco; setting up a business like The DoNation on your own. Is it because you like to prove to people that you can do the impossible?”

That makes me sound horribly egotistical, but I couldn’t deny, it rang faintly true.

Having thought about it more I realise that it’s actually that I love to show people (and myself) that what they think is impossible is actually highly possible.

Cycling to Morocco as a pretty un-sporty diabetic with a metal femur who’d done no training seemed like a ridiculous ambition destined to fail. Along the way people we met were could not believe that we’d come all the way from London.  But in reality it was just a few weeks on the road. One day after another. Pedal after pedal. It was completely doable.

Setting up The DoNation also seemed like a mighty impossible task. How could I, someone with pretty much no business experience, do it all on my own? Funding, web development, design, marketing, accounting, contracts, recruiting, launching, user support, project management, PR, carbon calculations, environmental policies, and strategy innovation… too much to do, surely?

But I started (somewhat naively). One day at a time. Step by step, piece by piece, it slowly took shape. All the little tasks started to get done, with the help of volunteers and advisors, individual to do lists were ticked off, and it began to happen.

Similarly, many people think that changing the way they live is impossible. That living sustainably, being green, will require an impossibly big lifestyle shift. But actually, if you take it step by step, action by action, it’s amazingly doable. As our doers have shown.

And on the bigger scale, tackling climate change and resource scarcity often seems impossible. Especially as we cross the dreaded 400ppm landmark.But again, like all these things, if you tackle it day by day, person by person, organisation by organisation, actions begin to add up to make the impossible possible.

So yes, Sophie was right. The seemingly impossible is something that I’m hooked on.

It’s the very being of what The DoNation is: showing the world that no matter how impossible it may seem at times, making the world a better place is really quite a doable thing.

But it’s got to start with you. And then your friends. Their friends. Their colleagues. And on and on and on.

PS – It might be no surprise that this is my all time favourite song.

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