An impossible trek to most, but possible to one
Henry Worsley trekked for seventy-one days and nearly eight hundred nautical miles to reach the south pole single handed in January 2016. He was inspired by Ernest Shackleton who had walked to within ninety-seven miles of his goal in 1909.
Worsley had studied every aspect of Shackleton and admired not only his courage but his leadership and of course his determination.
On January 2nd, 2016 only a day behind schedule, he reached the South Pole. He now had to continue to the Ross ice shelf so he had “crossed” Antartica. To stick to the principle of an “unaided trek” he refused to go into the base at the South Pole. “It was weird arriving here and not stopping,” he wrote in his diary, adding, “Very tempting to stay at Pole—eat and sleep.” He set up his camp nearby maintaining a self-imposed exile.
Worsley did not make the complete journey and he died in hospital of a lung disease shortly after. You can read the story “THE WHITE DARKNESS, A solitary journey across Antarctica. in the New Yorker by David Grann. Grann tells it well. Worsley raised a huge sum of money for a foundation and is now an inspiration to others.
Our Mission is to inspire people to do the Impossible
We all work within boundaries. We all set self-imposed limits on what we can or can’t achieve. This becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. You will achieve what you think you will.
Inspiring people is more than encouragement. It is more than enthusiasm. It is more than positive coaching. It is wholeheartedly having people convince themselves that they can achieve an otherwise impossible goal.
In my opinion, facts, logic and truth are the key contributors to this.
Boundaries and limits are only in your mind.
Even the financial and time constraints can be stretched to achieve the impossible.
Risk, both Real and Imagined
At issue here is “risk”, both real and imagined.
In 2001 at an IMD Leadership program in Lausanne, I asked the guest speaker, Stelios Haji-Ioannou , who founded EasyJet when he was 28, “what is the single determining factor for a bold entrepreneur like yourself to be successful?” He replied “the size of the risk he/she takes”. “It may look like a virtually impossible task to some, but in my mind it it is a manageable risk.”
The imagined risk is never the real risk. We don’t know the real risk until the fat lady has sung. How much conservative “fat” do we put in our plan to compensate for the risk?
Elevate the Perceived Skill Level of People
My experience is to inspire people requires methodical assessment of the barriers to success. In doing this, take the person’s personal skill out of the equation. Consider their skill far higher that it appears. Prove their plans right with facts and logic. Reverse the logic and see if it holds up. Then ask “Can you elevate your skills to a much higher level, if you can you will achieve the impossible”.
A reasonable percentage of people are successful. Naturally, encouragement and support is helpful. But I don’t believe in falsely praising people or overstating positive messages. The messages and feedback have to be honest.
Keep the Barriers at Bay
The Barriers to achieve the impossible are like the wolves in the night. Having a focussed phrase, a “belief” is essential to keep your determination.
Worsley repeated a line from Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses”: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
At one of our regular review meetings, Jorgen Centreman, the CEO of ABB in Zurich had one such belief “Self doubt is a cancer”. The minute that creeps in, you are gone. This was his way of keeping focus on the “impossible”.
You may fail
Think of it as a practice. Did it kill your ability to go again? Most likely not.
My motto is “the impossible is waiting for you, are you ready for it?”
Go for it!
The impossible task for me now is to find several people wanting to tackle big barriers. All they need is the right inspiration! Bruce Loxton speaks to groups of people on this topic.
Images courtesy of David Grann and New Yorker Magazine.