Weathering Unpredictable Environments

With our country in such seemingly unstable times, I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about a concept and example given in the book Great By Choice by Jim Collins about the importance of preparation. While this book is about strong leadership in successful companies, I think there are a lot of life lessons to be pulled from it. Here was the biggest:

In 1911, two teams of adventurers started out on their quest to be the first ones in modern history to reach the South Pole. Both teams faced an uncertain and unforgiving environment with extremely low temperatures and high winds – all without the fancy gear we have today. In their preparations, each team took a different approach.

Roald Amundsen
Amundsen prepared for his trip by living with natives in a similar environment, the Inuits, to learn about their clothing and transportation practices. He also planned three times the amount of food necessary and set a very specific pace on the trip and training regime leading up to the trip.

Robert Scott
Scott, who was of similar age and experience level to Amundsen, used the motor sleds he was used to for transportation, of which froze in the harsh temperatures. His men wore windbreakers that did not allow for ventilation and froze their sweat leaving his men freezing. He also wanted to avoid carrying extra weight so he didn’t bring additional food. On good weather days, they doubled their pace, leaving them exhausted and spent on poor weather days.

Amundsen reached the South Pole 34 days before Scott’s team and returned to safety while his competitors lost their lives in a terrible storm.

No matter what, we will always live in an uncertain and unpredictable environment.

So the question is, are you an Amundsen or a Scott?

How to train like Amundsen:

  1. Understand there is uncertainty we cannot control
  2. Reject the notion that forces outside your control will determine your results
  3. Train and prepare with fanatic discipline
  4. Be creative in your ability to adapt to your environment
  5. Be productively paranoid – Keyword being productively. This does not mean you walk around scared and are afraid to make decisions. It means you continually ask yourself “what if,” to stay ahead of the ever-changing environment.

So there’s no recipe to share today, just a story of two men who approached the unpredictable forces of nature in two very different ways and the lessons we can learn from them so we also thrive no matter the circumstances.