Shackleton and UNFEAR

Last week I introduced the concept of my book, UNFEAR, which will be released this autumn.

UNFEAR : \ ən-fir\ confidence in one’s ability to overcome
the odds, and to create a positive outcome no matter what
the circumstance

Today I would like to share one of my favorite examples of unfear from the book.  It is the story of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, the journey of his ship, The Endurance, and his example of leadership in the face of seemingly unending adversity.  If you’re feeling sorry for yourself right now, put yourself in Shackleton’s shoes!

In December of 1914, Shackleton’s crew set out to traverse the Antarctic continent as one of the last frontiers of the golden age of exploration. On January 19, 1915, their ship was frozen in pack ice, never to sail again. Known to his men as “the boss,” Shackleton engaged the men in constant activities, both work and play, as they camped on the ice, waiting for
the coming thaw. He encouraged unity on his team by making everyone equal by removing all rank, and giving them a new, shared mission: keeping every man alive. With every catastrophic event, from being stranded on the ice, to losing the ship, and, later, having to sacrifice their beloved sled dogs to sate their hunger, the men of The Endurance were buoyed by Shackleton, who kept a focus on the future and looked for solutions at every turn. When the thaw came and the ice began to break up, the crew set out in three  lifeboats, carrying nearly nothing with them, to find dry land. After five days at sea in temperatures of minus twenty degrees Fahrenheit (-30º C), they reached Elephant Island, a desolate place inhabited predominantly by penguins. It was soon clear that there was no chance of rescue. The crew patched together one of the three lifeboats, the James Caird, and Shackleton and five other men set out across the roughest ocean in the world (in hurricane conditions, no less) to find the nearest whaling station at South Georgia Island. Upon reaching their destination, three of the men took on the challenge of traversing a vast expanse of glaciers and crossing the island to reach the whaling station. After thirty-six hours, they reached their goal. Stopped from immediately rescuing his men by sea ice, Shackleton finally reached Elephant Island with a tug four months later then rescued every single member of The Endurance crew.

Shackleton’s ability to accept the real, focus on the positive future, build relationships and community, and view challenges as opportunities enabled his crew to survive. He took the circumstances they were in and never gave in to believing in a terrible future. He kept the faith, and helped his crew to develop constant physical and mental discipline that helped  them stay alive no matter what happened.

Just as Shackleton lead his team through difficult circumstances, our business leaders are being challenged to face enormous challenge and unprecedented change. While we may not be trapped in a sea of ice, we may face issues we’ve not even imagined, and when we’re in charge it’s up to us to keep ourselves and our teams rallied to meet whatever lies before us.

How we develop these marvelous abilities to accept the real, focus on the future, build  relationships and community, and view challenges as opportunities is the focus of my book and this blog series.

Please visit next Wednesday for a blog entitled . . . How do you use the four practices of UNFEAR?


About karlinsloan

Karlin Sloan has committed herself to finding out what makes great leaders tick, and to supporting leaders to be the change they wish to see in the world. As a corporate citizen she is an advocate for triple-bottom-line reporting, for creating sustainable ways of working and living, and for creating positive organizational communities that work together for the greater good. She is the author of the acclaimed business book Smarter, Faster, Better; Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership which has been translated into Thai and Russian, UNFEAR: Facing Change in an Era of Uncertainty, and co-author of the 2012 book Lemonade: The Leaders Guide to Resilience at Work. For more information see
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1 Response to Shackleton and UNFEAR

  1. Pingback: How do you use the four practices of UNFEAR? | Karlin Sloan's Good Business

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