It’s easier to sell ice cream.

The truth doesn't take as good.

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photo courtesy of the author; tasty treat via FOMU in Boston, MA

ce cream isn’t a hard sell. Everything involved in running a business that makes ice cream may not be easy, but selling ice cream is easier than say…selling self-help. That’s the business I’m in and it isn’t easy. I was talking to my friend recently, she sells ice cream, and something occurred to me.

Selling ice cream is easier than selling personal and transformation for two main reasons:

1) ice cream tastes good

2) ice cream doesn’t last

Here’s why these two reasons make ice cream an easy sell whereas health coaching, or identity development, or personal transformation or behavioral change or mindfulness or intercultural awareness (all of the things I do and “sell” to people) is much harder.

1) People want to feel good all the time. Ice cream tastes good. People eat ice cream and it makes them feel good (unless you’re lactose-intolerant or vegan, but modern science has solutions for you, don’t worry). Ice cream is an easy sell.

People don’t want to feel bad. That’s what I know from being a Buddhist. People want to avoid hard feelings and not deal with conflict or rejection or talk about it or be vulnerable because often, other human beings, in their own efforts to avoid these feelings, treat other human beings quite horribly. I watch it happen every day, in person and on social media. I do it myself, but much less than I did before I realized I was even doing it.

I hear it from my clients. I heard it so many times, and saw the correlation to what they experienced at work which was where they spent so much time, that I pivoted my business focus to help individuals and also help workplaces and specifically small business owners improve the experience their employees have while working for them.

But there’s a problem I ran into: small business owners are people, too. And most of them, definitely not all of them, aren’t doing the work on themselves to even understand why and how they are creating a work environment that isn’t safe, comfortable or healthy for their employees. They are so fixated on their bottom line, they aren’t even making the time to address their own issues or problems to see something to true about something they spend so much time doing. They don’t see that workplaces are just microcosms (did I say cesspools?) of society and society is pretty dysfunctional. People don’t have the tool or skills to be nice to themselves OR other people. It all makes a really big mess that costs a lot in turnover and health insurance or law suits and so on. How do I know? I wrote a whole master’s degree thesis about it. The research is there. You just have to Google it.

But business owners often don’t see this about themselves so they won’t really care (or worry about?) about how nicely their employees play with each other. They might be quicker to buy new technology for their store to move more customers through, or fix a hole in the roof or some other short-term fix to their business to make them feel better in the moment.

The equivalent of buying ice cream. SOLD! To the person in the white shirt.

But not every person behaves like this. Not every business owner operates (pun!) like this. I’ve had some wonderful clients who’ve gone above and beyond for themselves and their employees. It IS possible. It DOES happen.

2) People fear change. We want to do something and have it work all the time, forever. We don’t want to work very hard for very long to see results. We want to do it and get it over with. That’s something that’s getting “worse” with technology as it creates “solutions” otherwise known as feeding the Instant Gratification Monster. But impatience has been a pretty consistent human trait for about as long as we’ve all been around. How do I know? I’m not very old. Well, on my own personal development path, I’ve read many old masters who speak from their experiences and the experiences of their teachers. So that wisdom has been passed down to me and I’m sharing it with you. Human beings crave security and most associate security with consistency, which is why people (including company and small business owners) will say, “this is how we’ve always done it.” And those ways often work to a large extent (they think) so they see no need to change. People want to feel good and fear changing what’s bringing them some sense of comfort or familiarity even when the reasons to change are staring them right in the face with blaring sirens and bright signs in neon lights.

But didn’t I say ice cream was an easy sell because it doesn’t last? That’s right. It’s about impermanence. People crave permanence even when the only constant in life IS CHANGE. They hate change. They fear change. They want things to sit still and STAY so they don’t have to constantly adjust and adapt and deal with life. They don’t want the work involved in initiating and maintaining and actualizing change. They don’t want to experience the discomfort of the adversity that brings real resilience in life. So, ironically, we are pulled toward short-term fixes that never last. We are compelled by hundreds of thousands of tiny little temptations that bring the promise of relief from the millions of moments of personal agony.

Ice cream doesn’t last, but it sure does make things seem better in the meantime.

Avoidance does this. Denial does too. And these can last for as long as we want them, too…sort of like Willy Wonka’s Ever-lasting Gobstopper if you pulled it out of your mouth and placed it in a container and sucked on it once a week for a few seconds.

That’s how most people dance around changing anything in their life. They put it off and put it off and look at it on the shelf and say, “I really should do something about that,” and then busy themselves with a billion other things instead of the thing that needs addressing to actually bring about true relief, lasting reassurance and transformation. They try a diet and lose a few pounds or do intermittent fasting (FAD ALERT!) because it works right away and then eventually crave (ice cream) food and poof the pounds are back on. You get the idea.

Health coaching or personal transformation or spiritual evolution or whatever else you want to call this business I’m in takes a really long time. Jeez, I’ve been at it over 25 years and I’m only starting to actually do what I know to do more often than I don’t. But I know a lot from all I’ve seen and done, so the knowledge is there, the wisdom is in putting it into place.

Imagine how many people don’t even know what they don’t know? Imagine how many are walking around with these blinders on, bumping into things, and leading companies or political agendas and they hardly have a clue about who they are and what they’re doing?

So many people don’t think it’s them. They’re pretty sure they have themselves figured out, even when the evidence around them says otherwise.

But that’s too hard to think about. It’s too much work to address.

That’s why it’s easier to sell ice cream.

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