Allyson Lewis has written a terrific book called the Seven Minute DIfference - one of the best I have read in years. She has a powerful opening chapter on purpose that needs to be shared with others.
THE POWER OF PURPOSE:
Shackleton, one of history’s most daring navigators, was a man whose purpose
was to lead explorations of the earth’s unknown areas. In pursuit of that
purpose, Shackleton determined that he would lead an expedition to explore the Antarctic.
He knew that the area held a wealth of important scientific information, and
that such an expedition would be both historically and scientifically
significant. He had a vision, he had a purpose, and he had a burning desire to
accomplish things that no man had ever accomplished. Shackleton and a crew of 26 men (and one
stowaway) set sail from Plymouth, England, on August 1, 1914, aboard the
Endurance, a ship named for the Shackleton family motto “By Endurance We Conquer.”
After sailing around the tip of South America, the ship slowly made its way through the thickening ice of the Atlantic Ocean until the crew could see the Antarctic continent before them. Then, on January 19, 1915, the ship stopped completely as the huge ice floes that clogged the sea trapped it.
With no other perceived options, Shackleton decided to wait until the spring thaw. Throughout the long, dark Antarctic winter the ship was locked in place, the men stranded. As a leader, Shackleton knew that he must keep the crew’s spirits high or they would never be able to endure the horrible cold and loneliness of this desolate situation. He led the men in games of football and hockey on the ice. They celebrated holidays, sang patriotic songs, and raced their dog sleds in what they called the Antarctic Derby.
After ten long months, the ice floes began to shift; but instead of freeing the Endurance, they slowly crushed the ship and dragged her to the bottom of the ocean. The crew unloaded as many supplies as they could, salvaging food, life-boats, sled dogs, and supplies, then made camp on the ice floe that had crushed their ship. If you have ever felt trapped by circumstances beyond your control, adrift, or crushed by the shifting changes of the world around you, you might have some concept of the challenges facing Shackleton and his crew during these agonizing months.
Again, Shackleton stepped forward as a leader. He gave his men his word that the would return every one of them safely to England Again. He did not allow them to consider the possibility that they would fail. Shackleton assigned daily rotating duties to the men, to keep them all engaged and actively at work on achieving their purpose. He reminded the men frequently of their return voyage, and he kept their dreams of home always vivid in their minds. He asked the men to describe their homes; the counties where they lived; their wives, children, parents, and friends. He treated the idea of a successful voyage home as a foregone conclusion, and made the goal of achieving that dream the driving force behind every crew member’s work and purpose.
12, 4 months after the breakup of the Endurance, the ice floe on which the men
were camped broke free and drifted within 30 miles of tiny Elephant Island.
In a courageous dash, Shackleton and his crew boarded their three tiny lifeboats and sailed for the relative safety of the island. Amazingly, al three boats landed safely. Although they were able to shelter in the inhospitable place, the only source of food on the island was its flocks of penguins. Shackleton knew that without vegetables, he and his men would contract scurvy and die, and he was determined to avoid such a horrible conclusion to their venture.
So, in a
22½ foot lifeboat named The James Caird, Shackleton and five of his men set out
to make the whaling station on South Georgia Island, a 25-mile-long strip of land 800 miles away, across the open and stormy sea.
With nothing more than a compass to guide them, Shackleton and 5 other crew
members accomplished one of the greatest navigational feats in history and landed on the southern coast of
the Georgia Island on May 10, just 17 days after
tiny crew over uncharted mountains, through an icy rushing stream, and down the
30-foot drop of a waterfall, Shackleton successfully reached the whaling station within 36 hours
after landing on the small island. Then, after 4 months of repeated efforts to
return, Shackleton successfully sailed back to Elephant Island and rescued his remaining 22 crew members. When he landed back on the island,
105 days after leaving, he was amazed to find that all of his men remained
alive. As Shackleton had promised, he and his men realized their dream; all of
them returned to their homes in England.
Shackleton and his crew formulated common goals, and made sure that every choice they made and every action they undertook specifically moved them closer to those goals. They drew upon their strengths to survive throughout enormous hardship. Shackleton’s core belief in a single, powerful dream guided them.
This story of courage and survival teaches so many les- sons. What circumstances are crushing you? Are you making concrete plans to overcome them? Are you reaching out to your “crew” for encouragement? Are you wiling to do what- ever it takes to make it back alive?
One of the most telling parts of Shackleton’s story is his family motto, “By Endurance We Conquer.” Too many people simply give up. Take courage, persevere, and never be afraid to follow your dream.