Embracing Adversity

Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton placed an ad in the London Times in 1912, seeking volunteers for his expedition to the South Pole.

Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful; honor and recognition in case of success.


As the story goes, five thousand men lined up the next morning to volunteer.


What were they seeking when they raised their hands, I wonder? Adventure? Reinvention? The chance to be part of something bigger than themselves? An opportunity to be brave? A way to stand out as being different to their mates?


It strikes me that the things you need to consider before journeying to the Antarctic have a lot in common with how you should prepare for a journey of creativity.


In both cases you have a goal in mind, but to get there you need to traverse a lot of uncharted territory. You forge ahead as best you can, knowing you will encounter obstacles you haven’t planned for (because you didn’t know they existed).


There’s no guarantee of monetary reward and you’re in constant danger of being plunged into obscurity.


Yet if you’re a creative explorer, you persevere. You learn to love the adventure. You look forward to what you can learn from the challenges and you learn to embrace adversity.


The difficulties you face are the exact reason not everyone sets out on an adventure like yours.

But if you can weather the storms, the rough seas and survive the periods of darkness you will come out the other side with something to show for your effort.


You raised your hand and accepted the call to embrace a creative mission.


You took on that mission, and though others gave up, you saw it through to the finish.


We acknowledge that.


It takes courage to face that sort of adversity. But as the writer Steven Pressfield says, “The payoff for a life of adversity is freedom.”


There is freedom in being an artist. You set your own rules. You create your own definition of success. You can literally write your own story.


But don’t expect it will be easy. And don’t do it for the recognition, or for the rewards.


Do it for the honour.


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