Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Shackleton's Survival Skills: Mission

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Shackleton's Survival Skills: Mission

Article excerpt

This is the sixth in a series of columns about British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton's epic story of courage and survival in the Antarctic -- and the lessons we modern captains of capitalism can learn from Shackleton's survival skills.

Victor Frankl survived the Nazi Holocaust and German concentration camp during World War II. In his book Man's Search For Meaning, Frankl wrote that the deepest longing of mankind is the desire for life to have meaning. If life has a purpose, Frankl believed, then man can survive even the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust. Frankl wrote, "If a man has a `why' he can endure any `how'." Meaning enables us to survive.

Although Sir Earnest Shackleton was dead by the time Frankl's book was published, he would have wholeheartedly agreed with this notion. Shackleton's motto "Never for me the lowered banner, never the last endeavor" only made sense in the context of a meaningful mission. Shackleton recognized what Frankl later wrote about: In order to have a banner to fly or to press the endeavor, one must have a mission. Shackleton did. Indeed, keeping this mission in mind helped Shackleton and his crew survive 22 months of frozen captivity in Anarctica.

Shackleton's goal in his 1914-16 expedition was to cross the breadth of the Antarctic continent.

Just a few years earlier, a British polar team (led by Sir Robert Scott) had been beaten to the South Pole by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen. In the process of losing the race to the pole, the Brits also lost a national hero; Scott and his crew died in the unsuccessful attempt. It was against this somber backdrop that Shackleton began his expedition.

Many Britons saw Shackleton's expedition as needless and foolhardy. Others encouraged Shackleton but harbored grave doubts. Shackleton knew crossing the Antarctic continent would be an uphill climb --figuratively and literally. But he kept his goal firmly in mind as he set about planning and preparing for his epic voyage.

In an effort to raise money to fund his Antarctic expedition, Shackleton put together a "prospectus" much the way modern day corporations do when courting stock investors. In this prospectus, Shackleton clearly and concisely stated his goal:

"From the sentimental point of view, it is the last great polar journey that can be made. It will be a greater journey than the journey to the pole and back, and I feel it is up to the British nation to accomplish this, for we have been beaten at the conquest of the North Pole and beaten at the conquest of the South Pole. There now remains the largest and most striking of all journeys -- the crossing of the Continent."

The goal, simply stated, was to cross the Antarctic and restore British pride. Shackleton said it repeatedly. He wrote about it. He promoted it. It was fixed on the cross hairs of his mind. …

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