We’re Building A School In Guatemala ≠ Impossible

We did it.

We freaking did it.

Impossible School

I remember shooting this video in LA back in July and wondering “What the heck amI getting myself into?” Apparently the answer was: An Awesome Adventure.

The goal was $25,000. We smashed that a week early (on Christmas no less), and raised $26,406

Because of you guys, 1,000 kids in Guatemala are literally going to have the chance to do something they thought might be impossible – get an education. I really can’t accurately describe how that makes me feel. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

The Breakdown

A large quantity of consistent small actions can produce incredible things.

An interesting thing happened as our campaign developed.

Most campaigns are dominated by the 80/20 rule. They’ll have big, generous, flagship donors who contribute anywhere from 25% – 50% or even 75% of the goal. We didn’t have that.

That’s probably something I can work on doing as I learn more and get better at fundraising, but personally I think it’s pretty freaking awesome that we raised over $25,000 with mostly small donations.

Now small is relative, of course, we had some very generous donors, but I think the biggest overal donations were a touch over $1,000. The majority were made up of $100, $50, and $25 donations. That means a ton of people got involved and took action.

That’s pretty cool.

Things I Learned


Clarity is huge. Stating exactly what you want to achieve by an exact date is really important. It can be tempting to be vague when talking about doing something impossible because vagueness gives you safety. When you’re vague, you give yourself some cushion in the future in case you fail – you have a built in alibi.

Specificity makes it a hard landing. Interestingly enough, the bolder you are, the more precise your goals are, the easier it is to achieve them. Be clear. Be precise.


Goals without deadlines are nothing but dreams.

Always have a deadline. They have a way of creating an urgency and focused around.

Have a deadline. Make it shorter than you think you need. You might be surprised at how fast you can actually accomplish it (for more on this, see Parkinson’s Law).

The Origin of Service

Service (like most things) is more about mindset than capability.

It’s less about the amount of money than it is the idea of generosity. For some people, donating $5 takes way more than it does for other people to give $1,000. It’s not about the quantity as much as it is about the attitude of the person giving.

Anybody can donate $5. Few people will actually do it.

If you can see yourself doing something, you can do it. If you can’t see yourself doing it, usually you can’t achieve it. – David Goggins

Similarly, if you tink you can make an impact, you probably will.  If you don’t think you can, you probably won’t.

Interestingly enough, this is exactly what happens when you want to do something impossible.

If you always say “I’ll start being generous when I have X amount of dollars”, chances are you’ll never learn how to be generous in the first place – even if you have a million, billion, trillion dollars (or whatever the number is for you).

Similarly, if you always say “I’ll start doing something impossible when [insert your reason here] (ex. I know more / I’m less scared / I’m more prepared), chances are you’ll never learn how to do things that require you being ignorant, scared and unprepared and you’ll never do much of anything.

You’re probably not ready to do the things you need to be doing. Do them anyways.

Special Thank Yous

Special Thanks to the following people for stepping up big throughout the campaign.

All of them stepped up to raise more than $1500 towards the campaign.

Also, thank you to everyone else who donated or rallied their own friends & family to raise money for this.

For those of you who donated throughout the campaign, I’ve fulfilled my promise. I ran the race with a camera and shot videos throughout it giving shoutouts along the way. It’s a little on the long side (it was a long run), but if you make it through past mile 20, I start to get a little loopy and the shout outs get a little more convoluted/entertaining :). You can click through to youtube you can skip directly to different parts. There’s a special thank you to EVERYONE (over 300 of you) who contributed in some way at the end of the video as well.


(click on my face to watch the video in email)

What’s Next

I learned a ton from this project and it’s not done yet. We’re still finalizing all the details, but we’ll be heading to Guatemala later this year to check out the school and add some final touches.

To everyone who’s been involved with the campaign in any way: thank you. You made this happen.

This is just the beginning.

Thanks for being a part of it.

– Joel

(If you’d still like to give, you can do so here – these guys will appreciate it).


Impossible Ones School


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    • says

      Rachele – thanks for your support with our Impossible HQ fundraising campaigns. It was such a pleasure to work with you. Much love to you and the gang at PoP.

  1. says

    Joel, it has been an honor to be part of this campaign. I am so proud of you and what we have accomplished as an Impossible community.

    Even though we have never met, I have been so inspired by you – your words and actions – ever since I first read the Impossible Manifesto. I don’t remember how I first found your site, but I am glad I did.

    My mentor once emailed me one of his own “manifestos,” – 25 Facts About the Uncommon Dream Within You by Dr. Mike Murdock. I won’t repeat them all here, don’t worry, but #20 makes me think of you: “When you announce the Uncommon Dream, those who believe in you will be encouraged and energized to assist you.”

    I experienced this viscerally when I read your PoP campaign announcement in your August blog post. I was in the car on a way to a family wedding in Vermont. I made a donation of $1,000 from my iPad, using internet access from my iPhone hot spot. Within minutes of reading the post.

    This despite the fact that my husband had lost his job 5 weeks previously. You are exactly right when you say “Service is more about mindset than capability.” If you believe in something – go for it. There is never a perfect time. Live your ideal life right now.

    Thank you, Joel!

    Love to everyone who has been touched by this project,

  2. davidd says

    Keep us posted as to when you’re headed down Guatemala way.

    In the meantime… when is the swanky, celeb-spangled Noo Yawk gala to celebrate? ;-p

  3. says


    Watched the video of your run, especially the credits at the end! Great to see how you were able to inspired so many people to help out. Congratulations!


  4. says

    Hi Joel – this is incredible. Truly wonderful. I am inspired and excited that I’m jumping on the bandwagon of living an awesome life with meaning in my work (just ‘launched’ (made unprivate) my website/blog last night. I hope you won’t be offended at the similarity of some things – I think we’ve both been reading nerdfitness’ level up your life!

    Anyway – Thank you for making awesome accessible again. And freakin well done.

    warmest and best wishes

  5. says

    Congrats again on the Ultra and leading us all to contribute to a very worth cause. I’m glad everyone made this happen. It’s going to be a blast reading, and hopefully watching, about the school being built.

    Wasn’t expecting to be in the video credits but cool. haha Cheers!

  6. says

    Man I can’t tell you how awesome this is. You and everyone who helped should feel extremely proud.

    I’ll have to keep a closer eye out so I can be involved IN THE NEXT ONE!

    Great job

  7. Ryan Bruno says

    Brilliant job and it is very inspiring to see people giving their time to help those who are less fortunate then themselves. It is a reminder that I should give back more myself.

    Thanks for sharing this article

  8. says

    This is incredible!
    Just found your site Joel.
    I’m actually heading to Guatemala for 8 weeks this summer in order to go to language school.
    Where in Guatemala is the school?
    I’d love to check it out!
    Do you need me to carry something to them in my bags?
    I’d be happy to.


  1. […] spending the first part of the week with the Pencils of Promise team in Guatemala checking out the brand new dedicated Impossible school we built the first part of the year! I’ll have more updates (and a lot of photos) on that […]

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