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Inspiration, Will, and Forethought

July 30, 2017

It’s never too late to have another try.

Life, business, and polar discovery can all be described as an ongoing chain of decisions, each devolving from the results of those that have gone before.

Sometimes an unanticipated upset overtakes and dooms even the best-laid of plans. But as some of the explorers’ life stories can prove, even complete disaster may not mean the end. The very best example of this can be found in Douglas Mawson’s escape from the very jaws of death. Weakened by starvation and accidental poisoning, alone since the deaths of his two companions many miles from their base, dangling by his knotted harness between the icy blue walls of a crevasse on a vast and empty snowfield—if anyone had a right to surrender to the elements, to give it all up as a lost cause, he did.

And yet, he did not. Inspired by the words of a suddenly remembered poem, he fought back. He summoned the last of his dwindling strength to give it one more try, and managed to climb to the surface. And from that small success in the face of doom, he made his way back to base camp, and eventually to recovery and a remarkable career in polar discovery.

The lesson here is: Even the worst of disasters that can befall an enterprise or a life can be met with courage and determination.

But there is another: Sometimes the simplest of forethought preparation can be the key to survival. Mawson’s drive to live would have come to naught, had he not also, beforehand, prepared for such an eventuality. He had earlier taken the trouble to place knots spaced along his harness, to provide handholds. To make it possible to climb his way out of a crevasse.

Inspiration, will, and forethought—any success depends on all three working together.

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