As I write this, the wind chill is -15° here in Tennessee.
Way way way colder than normal, but it just so happens I recently installed Ernest Shackleton into my mental congress .
Before diving into why he now forever gets to live inside my psyche rent-free, I want to recap the Gaggle of ‘You’ mental model as it is a cornerstone idea.
I have found it incredibly helpful and freeing to imagine my mind is made up of variations of Mitchell’s gathered around in a European-style congress.
Each character representing a different mood or feeling, much like the movies - Snow White, the Smurfs, and Inside Out.
Every thought passing through my awareness is generated from one of these characters.
Same voice, just coming from different parts of me.
There are external characters too.
Ones that come from childhood, culture, and content you have consumed.
These all have their own voice and unique list of should’s, but all take up some degree of mental real estate nonetheless.
The beauty of the idea is that you play a creative role in the makeup of this cast of characters (it is your movie after all).
Who gets to stay? Who has to go? Who are we inviting in?
Once you can wrap you head around this idea, it is liberating to imagine the possibilities and control you can have if taken seriously.
He is the most persevering man I have ever heard of.
He set sail back in the early 1900s with 27 other men to go to Antartica.
The goal was to be the first people to travel across the continent.
They never got to.
Instead, their ship ended up getting stuck (and later crushed) by ice.
They spent about 9 months waiting at their ship, hoping the ice would break up so that they could keep going.
Eventually, with a destroyed ship, and over 1000 miles from civilization, they had to set off on the craziest journey of survival in one of the world’s harshest environments.
Ernest had to see things through the most stressful conditions -
All while leading a team.
Out of all the terrible conditions, the one key to persevering was team morale.
The number 1 enemy to their survival was demoralization.
If a team member starting developing a toxic mind, Shackleton would assign them to be in closer proximity to him. He wanted to prevent the spread of this negative thinking and instead offer counterpoints to the cynicism or at the very least take the burden more upon himself.
It’s remarkable to think that even in this nightmare scenario, mind over matter is what it all boils down to.
If we’re smart, we can apply this in our own lives despite the contrast in scenario.
If his mind can get him through 500+ days in Antartica, I can adopt it for the problems I’m currently facing nowhere near that level of life & death.
“By endurance, we conquer”
This was Shackleton’s family motto.
For Shackleton’s stranded Antartica trip, it was either see it through or die trying. Death was 100% certain without always moving forward.
He embodied extreme optimism and passed this along to his crew. It was said that it could be felt in the air if you veered off from this type of thinking.
Apparently Shackleton would guilt you into optimism, which I appreciate.
They learned firsthand that the only way to endure serious struggle in survival conditions is to keep the spirits high - all else being useless.
After learning about Ernest and his team’s success down in Antartica, I instantly reserved his place in my mind as Head of Perseverance.
There’s no doubt that he gets to run that department.
The best part is that I don’t even need permission. This is world-is-your-oyster type liberation.
To take the greatest characters from history, and have them on your personal team.
Ernest did not achieve his initial goal.
He’s famous for handling failure in the greatest possible way and sticking out tough times like we’ve never experienced before.
That’s who I want on my team.
That’s who I want advising & influencing me for decades to come.
If you’d like a video on the Ernest Shackleton story, I found this one fascinating.
Turns out there can be a lot of overlap between building design and building a life. John Ruskin (unknowingly perhaps) tells us how to live life better.
It's never too late to stumble upon an underlying principle of reality. (Especially one that can be put to use immediately)