[Image accessed on 20 July 2014. http://www.lostateminor.com/2011/01/24/job-ad-for-shackletons-1914-south-pole-expedition/] 

What would you do if you picked up a newspaper or found this advertisement online?

Would you answer it?

Probably not.


According to the story, this advertisement was placed by the great explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton to recruit men for his grand attempt to be the first expedition to cross the Antarctic continent and travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean - on foot.

What on EARTH does this have to do with LES MILLS GRIT SERIES®? Stick with me a bit longer...

Over 5,000 applicants showed up to interview with the great explorer. He selected only two dozen or so men to sail with him aboard his ship, the Endurance, towards Vahsel Bay in the Weddell Sea from South Georgia Island on December 5, 1914.

They departed later than planned because World War I started. As a result of the late start, the ship was stranded in ice in the Weddell Sea in January 1915.

By February, he ordered the crew to abandon ship and camp out on the ice until the warmer Spring weather arrived in September.

The ice began to break when Spring arrived, creating intense pressure on the ship and it began taking on water. Shackleton ordered the ship permanently abandoned.

By November, the ship had sunk beneath the ice. Shackleton and his men floated on a large ice floe, hoping the sea would carry them towards an island.

In April 1916, when the floe began to break apart, they were forced into the three lifeboats they had saved and spent five days on rough seas until they landed on uninhabited Elephant Island.

Running short on supplies, Shackleton immediately took five men and set sail for a whaling station on South Georgia Island. They spent 15 days at sea before arriving at the island, but were forced to land on the uninhabited side because of a storm.

He took 3 of the men and crossed the rugged, mountainous island over the course of the next 36 hours. They marched 29 miles before they reached civilization on May 20, 1916, and sent a boat to pick up the remaining 3 crewmen on the opposite side of the island.

He planned the rescue of the remaining men on Elephant Island and after several attempts, finally reached them on August 30, 1916.

Shackleton's expedition failed. Miserably.

What does this colossal failure of an Antarctic expedition have in common with us as LES MILLS GRIT SERIES® coaches?

Quite a lot actually:

Like Shackleton, we take a small group of people on a journey that others might see as crazy. These people entrust us to get them to the end of each class - and ultimately, their fitness journey - safely and successfully.

This requires a unique set of leadership skills, and we can learn a lot from Sir Shackleton.


1. Be prepared - Shackleton was a seasoned explorer and a trained naval officer. He spent his whole life practicing his profession. He brought the tools needed to complete the mission.

Similarly, we can never settle for complacency and must always be prepared. Preparation comes from training hard, staying educated, and knowing our workout plan. Good preparation means we can walk into each workout confidently.


2. Adjust to the environment - Shackleton's initial goal was to cross the Antarctic, but when weather stopped the expedition prematurely, he turned all efforts to survival. Instead of giving in and allowing his team to die, he developed a series of plans to get them to safety.

With each challenge that arose - a sunken ship, being trapped on an ice floe, landing on an uninhabited island, landing on the wrong side of South Georgia Island, etc. - he adjusted his plan and stayed committed to the end result.

We know what our goal is when we start each class, we have our plans, but once the class begins, all bets are off. We have to adjust based on what we see in front of us. If a member is struggling with the technique for a particular move, we can't ignore it. We have to adjust our coaching to what's in front of us.


3. Believe in your team - When things were at their worst, some members of the group started to criticize Shackleton. The ship's carpenter, Harry McNish, openly clashed with Shackleton while they were waiting for the ship to thaw out. But Shackleton didn't hold that against him and even chose him to go along with the small crew that sailed to South Georgia Island because of his unique skills.

Likewise, there will be times when people want to give up and get down on themselves. As coaches, we have to step up our game by staying positive and helping the team visualize the finish line - even when they don't believe it exists.


4. Be generous - In the freezing cold with no timetable for rescue, food and clothing were incredibly valuable. Shackleton knew that little kindnesses could help his team persevere.

When his photographer lost his mittens, Shackleton gave him his and ended up getting frostbite in his own hands.

In another instance, team member Frank Wild was ill, and Shackleton gave him his one biscuit allotted for the day. Wild later wrote in his diary: "All the money that was ever minted would not have bought that biscuit and the remembrance of that sacrifice will never leave me."

In much the same way, the meaningful connections that we establish with our teams go a long way. Take the time to know your team. Avoid drive-by coaching and show them that you don't just care about their workout - you care about THEM.


5. Never give up - By all accounts, Shackleton's enduring confidence in his plan and his unwavering leadership kept his team from losing hope.

At the end of the entire ordeal, almost 2 years after they had set sail, Shackleton got his entire crew home! Not one life was lost despite the incredible conditions, and his crew had so much faith in him that many signed on for his next expedition!

We want our LES MILLS GRIT SERIES® team members to BELIEVE - in us, in the program, in the journey - and to continue to renew their memberships on our teams.

If we show them the results that they want, connect with them in a meaningful way, and represent the program as great role models, our team members will keep coming back time and again.

It is only then, that they reach their true destination.


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