I ran into this quite interesting trivia while reading The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. By the way, it is a very good book, I highly recommend it.
At the very end of the last chapter, the writer tells the story of Ernest Shackleton, who led numerous expeditions to Antarctica in the early twentieth century. Before one of his expeditions, the explorer famously posted a recruitment ad with the following words:
“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.”
5000 men showed up.
These couple of weeks I have been hearing about people jumping ship, switching companies, changing loyalties.
While I cannot make any comment about any of them, I can share about what is happening in my own company, and how it might be relevant to the one you are leading/working with now.
We are a growing company. We’re learning everyday, and we are definetely not there yet.
With the addition of The New Direction policies we made this year, our commitment to not accept just any client, the enormous competition in the market, our hit and miss strategies, and our own pledge to keep the standard, to keep true to ourselves, the journey has been a lot like the one Mr. Shackleton is describing: cold, dark, dangerous, and without a guarantee of success.
But more and more people are hopping into this ship. Then and now, great, smart, fully capable people are dedicating themselves to this journey. Even now: rockstars, people that I’ve admired for a long time are offering themselves to join us.
What can we learn from this?
Well, if you’re promising people Bogor, Semarang, or Surabaya, then maybe only a few will show up. Mediocre, play-it-safe, I’m-outta-here-as-soon-as-I’m-finished people.
But if you’re promising people Antartica: that unconquered, mystical, never-before-stepped-on-by-any-other land on the edge of the world, you’ll be surprised by how many great men and women will show up on your doorstep.
I agree that money is definetely very important, and we humans will want the most comfortable situations in our lives.
But the road to Antarctica will never be that way. It will be dark and cold and dangerous with less money then the other well-mapped, well-known journeys.
Great people and especially great leaders don’t work only for the money, but for the great journey and the unreachable continent. Riches and gold is sweet no doubt about that, but for passionate people, they look more than that.
But remember, this is no ‘free-pass’ for leaders: Promise people enough without actually keeping them, and soon you’ll find yourself talking on an empty ship.
Fortunately for us, the air is getting cold and we’re starting to see icebergs passing our ships, and we can see the land of ice is on the horizon. (Pssttt, coming soon next year).
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Funny to read the words of Mr Shackleton, since not long ago I’ve said almost the same thing at our big company meeting:
“We may not be the biggest or the most expensive company around, but I promise you this: Here we will always be honorable for who we are and we will always be respected for the work that we do.”
Again, thank you for the clients that believe in us and this journey, we won’t make it this far without your support.
And thank you, my able seamen. Thank you for always showing up 🙂