How do you deal with setbacks? Do you let them reduce you to an emotional wreck, barely able to continue with your normal routines of work, business or domestic tasks?
Or do you accept them for what they are, temporary course corrections, lessons that you did not get that one quite right? Time to try a different approach, different technique or even a new direction. Do you let adversity stop you or overcome it and build your resilience?
On 27 February, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, British explorer and super achiever, had to abandon his attempt to lead the first expedition to cross Antarctica during winter. He had severe frostbite in his hands and was airlifted to Cape Town for medical treatment.
I remembered that he was, like me a Baby Boomer, my first thought was that he must be really disappointed as this was surely the last shot at this challenge for a man his age.
That led me to do some research and discover that Sir Ranulph Fiennes has had some monumental failures and setbacks. But he has conquered more huge endurance challenges and achieved more goals in his lifetime than most people could even begin to imagine.
Failures that would stop a lesser person in his or her tracks were merely minor hurdles to him. Amongst others:
- Failed in his attempt to walk solo and unsupported to the North Pole.
- Failed in a similar attempt to the South Pole.
- Had to abandon his first attempt to climb Mount Everest.
He had other setbacks including being fined and discharged from the elite SAS army unit for an escapade involving explosives.
All of those become insignificant when viewed against a huge list of successes.
Just a few major ones:
- First Polar circumnavigation of the world using surface transport only.
- First traverse of the North West Passage in an open boat.
- Oldest Briton to reach summit of Mount Everest at age 65.
- Only person ever to have reached North and South Poles and summit of Everest.
- Ran 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days at age 59.
- Author of 19 Books.
- Raised over 14 million pounds for charities.
There are many more achievements listed on his Wikipedia page.
It is incredible that he completed the 7 marathon challenge only 4 months after surviving a heart attack and double by-pass surgery. As a ultra-marathon runner and heart attack survivor myself, to me that is an absolutely stunning achievement and one which gives hope to all heart attack survivors.
In a statement after arriving in Cape Town for Medical treatment to his frostbitten hands before returning to Great Britain, Sir Ranulph did not complain about being unable to complete the expedition. He merely mentioned his disappointment and how he was now focused on helping the team back in the UK raise $10 million for the charity Seeing is Believing. For more information on the expedition, visit the website at The Coldest Journey.
There are three very important lessons in this story.
- Huge setbacks do not mean failure – just lessons.
- The bigger the goal, the bigger the achievement.
- Even a heart attack does not have to stop us doing incredible things.
If you live in the Northern regions of the Northern Hemisphere and like me are affected by the February blahs, sunlight deficit disorder, cabin fever or whatever name you give it, don’t let it get you down.
No matter how bad our own problems might seem, no matter how big the challenges facing us, as this story shows, there is always someone who eventually succeeds against all odds despite failures and setbacks along the way.
Wishing you success.