3 simple endurance lessons from Ernest Shackleton

Ernest Shackleton

World-class explorer Ernest Shackleton is one of those guys who puts your outdoor pursuits to shame. Unless you’ve bagged the world’s tallest peaks, or sailed the roughest seas, it’s safe to say you have nothing on Shackleton.

Shackleton’s noble pursuits in adventure history have been well documented.  He is perhaps best known for the unfortunate events which transpired during the failed Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

So who better to receive endurance advice from than a man whose ship became wedged in an Antarctic ice floe, leaving him and his crew stranded for months on end?

1. When the going gets tough, the tough make light of a difficult situation.

“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.”

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition was a mission rife with difficulties from the get-go. Shackleton could have very easily said, “you know what guys, screw this, you’re on your own.”

But he didn’t. He made sure each and every man made it home alive, despite the circumstances. He worked through each challenge in small increments, instead of focusing on the big picture.

You’re going to face your share of difficult situations. It’s up to you to approach it as just another obstacle to overcome.

2. Quitting is easy.

“If I had not some strength of will I would make a first class drunkard.”

How easy is it to give in, crack open a cold one, and cry about the fact that you were unable to accomplish the task at hand? Answer: Very.

Shackleton recognized this early on. Giving up while stranded on a vast sea of ice with no rescue in sight would have been the easy thing to do.

And while I’m sure he would have loved to become a first class drunkard at times during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, he stuck it out as any good leader would do.

3.If you’re going big, always plan for success.

“Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.”

You can kick, crawl, scream, and thrash your way through a difficult situation, but what does it matter if you come out a loser in the end? Shackleton was focused on results, even if it meant redirecting his superhuman effort towards saving lives in a survival situation.

You can’t just go through life with maximum effort and nothing to show for it. Figure out a way to achieve results.



      1. When I read a book about it, the carpenter was one of those guys whose brain was just wired right for it. He could look at a piece of wood, look at where it needed to be fitted, and then just shape it perfectly, first time out. No measurements, he just saw what needed to be done.
        For some reason (I don;t recall what), Shackleton felt slighted by the carpenter, and when all was said and done, and the glory was being portioned out, the carpenter got the shaft.

      2. I admire a skilled craftsman with uncanny abilities like that. It really is a shame Shackleton felt slighted by his carpenter. In all fairness, Shackleton’s ship did hold up in solid ice for quite some time before sinking due to intense pressure.

        Do you remember the name of the book? Sounds like a good one.

      3. Pretty sure it was “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing. I’ll see if I still have it to confirm when I get home.

  1. I dunno – I kinda think his hair had something to do with something – he really is more of a part on the side guy – I mean look at him he’s a striking fellow – it would make a big difference but it’s all good.

    So number 2 I thought meant making light – making fun…laughing which is pretty darn good advice and I see in number 3 he has a sense of humor. so at first I was disappointed in number 2 and number 3 evened it all out

    So really what I am trying to say is good post – very motivating and I think it’s time to learn some more about this guy…. that says a lot because I am not all that into new guys of late – but I am not giving up…

    🙂 Peace

  2. Ernest Shackleton is my hero. I think his whole expedition is a symbol of who he was, what was at his core, etc. Those events are so life defining. There are certain things in our lives that seem to really show what we’re made of. obviously most people aren’t challenged to this degree, but sometimes emotional challenges can be just as grueling.

    And thanks for dropping by my site! It’s not always so serious, I promise. : )

    I like what you have here. I’ll be back!

    1. Shackleton was in a different league. He seemed to operate on a higher level than most folks. Glad we connected!

  3. Scott and Shackleton, both contemporaries but with such different methods of leadership. Scott never got on with Shackleton, and they had to organise separate expeditions. I’ve read both biographies. Incredible explorers.


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