Explorers Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott competed to be the first to lead their teamon an expedition to the South Pole in October 1911. The 1400 mile trip was challenging, and temperatures often reached 20 degrees below zero even during the summer. The terrain was uncertain and unforgiving. The modern communication we rely upon was non-existent. If things went badly, rescue was very unlikely. Amundsen led his explorers to safety and victory, but Scott’s expedition led to defeat. The difference in the leaders’ expeditions was wisdom.
Amundsen spent years rigorously preparing for the journey. He learned how to handle polar conditions, and he lived with Eskimos to learn how they survived, what they wore, and how they moved. He studied every possible scenario. Amundsen designed the entire journey to reduce the likelihood of chance events. He carried enough extra supplies to be able to miss every single supply depot and still go another 100 miles, but Scott risked running low on supplies. Amundsen stored three tons of supplies for five men; Scott had only one ton for 17 men. Amundsen brought four thermometers, but Scott brought only one. Amundsen used sled dogs, based on the wisdom of the Eskimos. Scott used unproven motor sledges and ponies. The sleds failed, and the ponies died. Amundsen was famous for his “20 Mile March” wisdom, having a set distance the team had to travel daily no matter the circumstances. Scott let the weather determine when his team moved. Amundsen trained his body and mind with rigorous discipline, but Scott’s preparation was limited. He made plans based on his own intuition and opinions, not on direct research of the environment he was entering.
On December 15, 1911, Amundsen and his team reached the South Pole. They planted the flag and went right back to work. They reached home base on January 25th, the exact day he planned. Eight months later, a British reconnaissance party found the frozen bodies of Scott and his last two teammates in a snow covered tent just eleven miles short of his supply station. The entire team had perished. Scott’s lack of wisdom led to defeat.
There was a pretty big difference between the two explorers right. Amundsen was much better prepared for the journey than Scott. Why was he more prepared?
- He spent years preparing himself and his team – Always remember that to take on something important, something big we have to prepare for it. We have to practice and work on our skills. So whatever we want to do in life start preparing now. We are always preparing for something, when we stop growing and preparing we often miss opportunities or make critical mistakes and failures.
- He also learned as much as he could about the South Pole – This is a reminder for all of us to always keep learning and growing. The most successful people in life are the ones that are life-long learners. So just because you are out of school doesn’t mean you stop learning. Keep reading books, keep studying things you are interested in. Keep stretching yourself. There is always something new to learn.
- He planned for chance events – He knew that there were lots of things out of his control, like the weather. He had to be flexible when things went wrong. No matter how much you plan there are always things that can go wrong. Life has lots of ups and downs, so we need to prepare for those things by making wise decisions and having some backup plans. Amundson packed extra supplies and took more than he needed in case things did not go as planned. In life things often do not go as planned, so prepare to be flexible.
- He talked to people that knew more than he did, the Eskimos – We can also learn a lot from other people that have gone before us that are older or more experienced than us. Ask questions and learn from people that have been doing the things we want to do. Where I work at a church we go to other churches that are bigger than us, more experienced than us and ask them questions and try to learn what is working for them.
- He had a system and was disciplined – he planned to go 20 miles every day no matter what. He learned what worked then he stuck with it and followed the plan. Self-discipline is important because we often have to do things we don’t enjoy. To accomplish good things in life we need to work hard, stay focused and stick with it.
- Amundson used wisdom to succeed – Wisdom is accurately applying knowledge and clear judgement to life situations
The Bible has a lot to say about wisdom. King Solomon – wrote most of the book of Proverbs. That’s a great place to start in seeking wisdom. If you haven’t read Proverbs start today. Make is a practice to read through the 31 chapters of Proverbs a couple of times a year.
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