5 Lessons Learned From Reading “Endurance”


“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.” ~Sir Ernest Shackleton

I can’t even begin to tell you how powerful a read this book was. Endurance reads like a novel. An epic novel where the author will be forever remembered and trilogies like lord of the rings will be made from his work. But, alas this book is a biography, a true story. One that also serves as a self help book. If you are or care to be a leader of any kind, read this book.

It’s not that cold.

No matter how cold you are. It’s not that cold. It’s not -20 degrees Fahrenheit — clothes soaking wet — sleep on ice cold! I recently woke up in the Rockies with ice on inside of of my windshield after having tossed and turned all night and having to cover my head with the covers to stay warm. I was in the middle of reading Endurance and knew that I couldn’t complain. I woke up to an 18 degree day, completely dry, and on a bed of wood and foam. What could I really complain about?

Hire the right people.

Even if your not an employer, if you have to form a team of any sort, select the right people. The key to this is make sure they are there for the right reason. Not too long ago I did conducted performance evaluations with my employees. One of the employees, the youngest of the crew answered the question “Do you like your job?” with “Yeah. I mean, as long as I don’t find anything that pays better.” I should have fired him on the spot. He was on my team for the wrong reason. Within a couple months time he put us in a difficult situation by “no notice” quitting on us to take another position… one that paid more.

Keep a journal.

If you ever want your story to be told, keep a journal. The only reason this best selling book exist is because Shackleton and his crew, not only kept a detailed journal during the expedition, they made every effort possible to preserve them.

I have an incredible memory and can recall a story from my childhood with complete detail but when I read my old journals, I don’t have to remember anything it’s all there. And, if anyone else were to read them they then could also tell my story.

As a leader, sometimes you have to tell your troops things they don’t want to hear.

One more than one occasion, after traveling on foot for hours on end or even days, Shackleton had to say the words, “We have to go back.” I cringed everytime this happened and couldn’t imagine having to be to one to give that command.

Even though I bitched and complained, I always admired the leaders in my life who gave me honest — no BS commands and responses to my inquires. This is a leadership skill I may be lacking in.

Never give up.

If you truly desire to have or achieve something, do not quit until you have it. The key is that you really have to want it. In Shackleton’s case, he really wanted to live. Not only this, he wanted his entire crew to live. He did not stop till it was so, although I feel most men would have.

Imagine a movie where the hero endures the most harshest of experiences, faces death, and the possibility of never seeing his family again. Yet he persists and comes out on top. Now, imagine this happening 10 more times! This how this story unfolds. Just when you think the story and conditions can’t get any worse, they do – again and again. Regardless, Shackleton pressed on until he got what he wanted.

OK so, never giving up when it’s a matter of life or death seems like the logical thing to do. What about real life? When situations aren’t so extreme. Are there some instance when we can quit? Certainly. When you are doing something you don’t really want or striving for a goal that’s not yours, you can quit. You have to really want it. When is is truly something YOU want, do not give up.

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