The Dandelion Project was inspired by Neil Gaiman’s address to the 2013 London Book Fair, exhorting publishers:
“Try everything, make mistakes, surprise ourselves, try anything else, fail, fail better, succeed in ways we would never have imagined a year ago, a week ago. It’s time for us to be dandelions, willing to launch 1000 seeds and lose 900 of them if 100 or even a dozen of them survive and grow and make a new world.”
The project consists of six challenges, in fields that we are told every day “don’t go together.” An essential part of the project is also talking about its goals whenever the opportunity arises. If you would like to book me to give a lecture or a workshop or to write about the project, creativity, facing the challenges of the 21st century, or our assumptions about mental health, email me at email@example.com.
The goals of the project are simple:
- To question our assumptions about what we can and can’t do. About what we “must be able to do” and what we “mustn’t be able to do” if we can do something else. At its most basic, just because we can do things with our bodies, why should we not also be able to do things with our minds? But also, why should our bodies not have strength as well as endurance? Why should our minds not excel at arithmetic and art?
- To challenge our assumptions of the capabilities of and difficulties faced by those with mental ill health. Just because a person has a mental health condition, that does not mean they cannot also do remarkable things. Conversely, just because a person can do remarkable things, that does not mean they don’t need high levels of adaption and support in order to help them do those things. I want people to see the incredible value to society of giving every support we can to people with mental ill health so that they may flourish.
- To explore what happens when we push ourselves in many different directions at once. To see what new possibilities might arise that we do not expect, and where these might lead us.
- To discover new ways to help people unlock their creative and intellectual potential, and tools that will enable organisations to provide their members with opportunities to develop that potential, to the benefit of all.
- To find ways that basic, abstract skills such as arithmetic, endurance, memory can be put to use to help enrich everyone’s lives and to help tackle the problems we, as a planet face.
As a species, in my lifetime we will face challenges that will affect not only our future, but whether we have a future at all:
- A tipping point for climate change
- A crisis in food security
- The artificial intelligence singularity
- The automation of the workplace
- The potential for transhumanism
It is my belief that it is only by enabling everyone to unlock their potential and nurture their passions and their talents that we can meet these challenges. This project, like my work, speaking, consulting, research, networking and sharing here in general, is a part of my contribution to meeting those challenges. So many of the problems, and the challenges, that all of us face, are the result of the actions of those who had the freedom – of circumstance and resource – to pursue their dreams. For those of us who have a trace of that freedom, I believe it is not a choice bt a duty, for the sake of those who don’t as well as ourselves, to do what we can to meet those challenges and tackle those problems. We need to try new things. Even though most will fail. We must all be dandelions.
The challenges are:
Mental Calculation (left brain) – I will be adding columns of 10 digit numbers, multiplying 8 digit numbers, and calculating 6 digit square roots at the Mental Calculation World Championships on 22 August.
Creative thinking (right brain) – I will once again be taking part in the Creative Thinking World Championships on 27 August.
Memory – who knows where the competitions will end, but I will be aiming at the MSO Natural and Speed Memory Championships on 21 August.
Powerlifting – because there is a very rigid qualifying structure, I will be aiming at a much smaller meet for this, at Oxford University, in October. I will be deadlifting, and aiming to set the kind of weight that makes me not out of place, at least in that company.
Ultra running – I will once again take on the UK’s leading ultramarathon, the 100 kilometre Race to the Stones on July 15-16
Indoor Rowing – the perfect combination of endurance and strength, I will be taking on a 100 mile row in November. Entirely under my own steam because (as yet) there are no competitive 100 mile open races. But I will take in the an Indoor Rowing Championships along the way.
The project is raising funds for Apopo, the charity that trains rats to use smell to detect landmines and tuberculosis, and which played a key role in Mozambique being declared mine free in 2015.