Lessons I’m learning from Ernest Shackleton
One hundred years ago, Ernest Shackleton led a voyage to Antarctica on his ship Endurance that turned into the most incredible journey of human strength and, well, endurance.
((Spoiler Warning! I’m going to try to keep it light on the spoilers but you will learn about what happens in the book through this post.))
I recently finished reading Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing (affiliate). What an awe inspiring true story! And the irony is not lost on me that I’m super excited that I finished a book, like that’s some sort of accomplishment, when the book was about men getting through the most amazing polar adventure filled with death defying feats of strength and (I’m going to say it again!) endurance. 🙂
Ernest Shackleton was a brilliant adventurer and also a astute observer of human nature. He was “an explorer in the classic mold — utterly self-reliant, romantic, and just a little swashbuckling.” I just love that description! The next time I want to do something or stand up for myself and others are giving me a hard time, I’m just going to say I’m swashbuckling and do it anyway, LOL.
Reading about him and the adventures of his men taught me quite a few life lessons. Not for the first time, I’m sure, and definitely not the last, but I’m not a quick student when it comes to learning to live life in a harsh world. I know I can apply these not only to my life, but to my homeschooling and my parenting as well.
Lessons I’m Learning from Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance
Demoralization of even a few members of a group can be the difference between a survivable experience and outright mutiny and misery. Spreading discontent was a sin of the highest order.
“Of all their enemies — the cold, the ice, the sea — he feared none more than demoralization.”
Unity of the group is of utmost importance in difficult situations. It’s OK to go to great lengths — proactively and intentionally — to keep people close knit and under (parental) control, including flattering people who need it and helping people feel important.
Having a clear cut task, no matter how potentially impossible that task may be, can be easier and more exhilarating than waiting and worrying without direction, doing nothing.
Five minutes with a person can tell you an awful lot about who they are. (Shackleton’s interviews for his crew rarely lasted longer than this and he was notorious for selecting compatible men.)
Almost anything can be endured with good humor, creativity — not just for survival but for entertainment — and quality companionship.
Fill your mind with beautiful poetry and meaningful books so that when things look grim your mind will capture snippets of wisdom or beautiful verses to hold on to.
Sometimes you need to separate the dogs to prevent fighting.
Sometimes those burdened with plans for every contingency fare worse than those that sacrifice total preparedness for speed.
Nothing is harder than having hope rise and be dashed, rise and be dashed.
Weeks of primitive living, of having to make do and learn how to make and use what is necessary, can be very enriching. Keeping productively occupied, combined with regular times of rest and relaxation, is the key to a good life no matter what the outside circumstances.
“They had been tested and found not wanting.”
If you have to give disappointing news, have something productive for the men to do immediately afterward.
Sometimes when you are in the dark, in a storm, when all seems lost, you are actually being blown to a better place.
Never lose hope.