In 2016 I, along with three teammates, completed an unsupported and unassisted full ski from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole. It took us 43 days to cross close to 1000km and I became the 4th Canadian to achieve this goal.
The journey to the South Pole was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I would even say it was harder than climbing Everest. On Everest, you have support from your Sherpa team and you have many rest days at pretty comfortable camps. When skiing to the South Pole you have no assistance and no rest days and all camp chores are completed by you and only you.
The mental aspect is also very difficult. On Everest you are dealing with stress, anxiety and fear, but only in small bouts. Travelling to the South Pole does not present the same level of stress and anxiety, but the sameness and complete isolation make it difficult to deal with mentally and emotionally. The first 7-10 days are spent wrestling with your mind to figure out how to not go crazy. After that you fall into a trance like state and just march on day after day.
Your body also takes a beating due to the extreme cold and the repetitiveness of the motions for hour after hour and km after km. Your ankles, knees, hips, back and shoulders start to ache from the constant and repetitive motions of skiing. You get blisters on your feet from the boots and on your hips from the harness. Any weakness in muscle, bone or joint is quickly exposed and preyed upon until you are eating pain killers like M&M’s.
As I was making my way across Antarctica I was thinking to myself that this was a pretty outrageous undertaking and this started to formulate a keynote presentation in my mind. My Everest based Learning In Thin Air keynote has been very popular and I felt I could add to this success with another keynote based on my South Pole expedition.
As I skied I thought about the key factors that allowed me and my teammates to achieve the outrageous and I came up with 7 of them.
If you want to achieve the outrageous you need to…
1. Be willing to do what others are not willing to do
2. Know “what’s in it for me”
3. Create a routine
4. Be emotionally intelligent
5. Find the fun
6. Build in recovery time
7. Celebrate the milestones along the way