by Daniel Madhavan

I keep a note book everywhere I go. I have one for each year. I write ideas down, collect quotes, make a list of books I want to read and take note of people I admire.

At the end of the year I sit down in a quiet place for a day and review my year. What I did well, where I won, where I lost, what I learnt. I write up what I want to take with me into the new year and what I want to leave behind.

I thought I would sign off from Impact Investing Australia by sharing three of my learnings from the last few years with some of my favourite quotes that went with them.

1. Pretty much everything takes longer than I would like it to. Impact investing is no different.

Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay it’s not the end.
– John Lennon

Only with winter-patience can we bring the deep-desired, long-awaited spring.
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

We face some serious challenges. Many things that have worked in the past will not work into the future. Many things that never worked in the past will continue not to work into the future! If you’re reading this you’re 78% more likely to believe that. (Note – I made up that statistic but we all know 87.4% of statistics are made up on the spot).

If you believe the way business operates, the way finance works and the way we allocate our resources matters then you probably believe impact investing has a role to play in how our future takes shape. I believe that. As we sit on the impact investing steam engine we can sometimes feel it hasn’t moved far enough from the station. Whilst it may not have moved as far as we would like, there is no doubt it is gathering momentum.

2. You can control what you share, you cannot control what others accept.

Commander Locke: “Dammit Morpheus! Not everyone believes what you believe.”
Morpheus: “My beliefs do not require them to.”
The Matrix – Revolutions

For those who understand, no explanation is necessary. For those that don’t understand, no explanation is possible.
– Joseph Dunninger

The experience of exploring how capital can be used for good has been an overwhelmingly fulfilling one. At times it has also been frustrating.

Frustratingly, I have ran into countless people who just cannot wrap their head around the two very different animals of profit and purpose coming together. I get it. The platypus is a difficult animal to imagine. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I have also met many who have crudely crafted objections that demonstrate they simply haven’t put the work into understanding what this is, or could be. That’s just annoying.

On the positive side I have also had the opportunity to meet many of my two favourite kinds of people.

Firstly, people that have reached a different conclusion to me even though we have both done our homework. Those that understand the complexity in this, the dangers, the opportunities for creating perverse incentives and the conflicts of embedding impact into a system that wasn’t designed for it. Whilst we often disagree, I have thoroughly enjoyed the debate. You have challenged my thinking and helped shaped my opinions. I have learnt from you. I still disagree with you.

My favourite second group are the doers. The pioneers. I have dedicated my last learning to them.

3. Talking is underrated but at some point you have to do something.

If you hold a cat by the tail, you learn things that you cannot learn any other way.
– Mark Twain

You can always tell who the pioneers are because they have arrows in their back and are lying face down in the dirt.
– Anonymous

Everyone says they want to “do” something, that there is too much talk. I don’t agree that there is too much talk however I do agree there is not enough doing. Talk is great, particularly when we are engaging in debate. It encourages thoughtfulness and diversity of opinion. It allows us to share ideas and learn from each other. The problem comes when we don’t go past the talk to actually doing something.

It can be hard in a space like impact investing as people want to feel like they have all the information before they act. They want certainty which is typically very difficult to attain when doing something new.

That’s why I love the pioneers so much. They have accepted that we all need to learn but the best way to do that in a new field is to learn by doing. They learn by putting together a transaction for the first time and reflecting on what went well and what didn’t. They do so by backing an entrepreneur or a business model that hasn’t been proven and observing the feedback the market provides. Also, by agreeing to an outcome with an organisation and giving them the flexibility and space to iterate their approach towards achieving it. You people rock.

It is because of your curiosity, your courage and in many cases your failures that we will eventually succeed.