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Making Crazy Work: What happens when Unstoppable meets Uncontrollable?


There’s an extraordinary clarity that comes with stepping away from city life and into the remote pioneer wilderness of Antarctica. It’s good for the soul and good for busting paradigms around our role on the planet.

Bobbing around in the icebergs for a week gets you thinking about the impact we have on the world and how we might hold ourselves to a higher standard. Over the next week I’d love to share three great business lessons I learned on the ice plus some of the incredible scenes from The Unstoppable’s fantastic voyage.

Lesson 1. How to respond when Unstoppable Meets Uncontrollable

“Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.” – Thomas Edison

I had spent so many weeks anticipating how it would feel to stand before a colossal glacier or wander amongst gentoo penguins that I forgot to think about what it takes to actually get there. It turns out that getting to Antarctica is not a given by any stretch of the imagination. Circumpolar currents generate an extreme weather environment that have sent many casual enquirers home and delayed serious explorers for days, weeks or months at a time! Given that we were intending to get in and out in little over a week, that exercise required more than a little bit of luck.

As we sat on the runway in Punta Arenas after two days of weather-watching and one failed attempt to fly to our rendezvous point, it occurred to us that we might be about to be sent home and that, despite the planning, dreaming and investment, it wasn’t going to happen at all. Unless we got a break in the prevailing fog, our pilots couldn’t safely land us on King George Island and we would never board our ship, the Sea Adventurer.

As luck would have it, a tiny window opened in the clouds and we took our chances jetting across the Drake Passage to King George Island. Almost two hours later and just minutes from touching down the weather closed in and we were forced to return to Punta Arenas in Chile! No sooner had we returned and refueled than another narrow break opened in the fog and our pilot decided to chance a second attempt.

After our successful landing (phew!), the weather window closed rapidly and sent all travelers on expeditions behind us home for the next seven days. But thanks to a little perseverance, some skill on the part of our pilots and plenty of good fortune, we were in!

This eight-hour ordeal reminded me of our inherent position as entrepreneurs; that with even the most brilliant idea or purpose, we can be completely sideswiped by perennial uncontrollables, such as market forces. Like the weather on our trip, these Uncontrollables are often unpredictable, unplacatable and unresponsive to even our most ardent platitudes. True tests of character for any entrepreneur! Like Edison said, when this happens it is not the time to be discouraged but to look for a different opportunity to forge ahead.

All this drama and we were just getting started! Later this week I’ll share what I learnt during a hairy encounter with King Neptune as we sailed across the Antarctic Circle.

Paul traveled to Antarctica on The Unstoppables: Fire & Ice expedition to discuss innovation, disruptive strategies and the need for a better business model with like-minded entrepreneurs. If you’d like to know more, contact us today