Manhauling and Leadership. Life and Death Leadership Lessons from the Race to the South Pole


scottmanhauling2I just finished a fantastic book about the race to the South Pole that happened over 100 years ago. You may be familiar with Shackleton and his incredible story of survival, but this story is primarily about the other two principal explorers in this  epic battle for adventure supremacy, Roald Admundsun and Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

Scott was from England. Scott believed England always did it better. England was perhaps 25-30 years past the peak of it’s colonial power, and was trying to hang on to it’s world dominance. Amundsen in contrast, was from a tiny country, Norway, on the cusp of it’s independence. He believed he could learn from anyone, and spent months with a remote tribe of Eskimos near the North Pole to learn how to survive in the extreme cold. He learned how to dress, build igloos, even how to create a thin layer of ice on the runner blades of sleds by spitting on them, varying the thickness of the ice with the weather. It turns out that one of the most important lessons he learned, was how to use sled dogs. It seems only logical to us today that one would use sled dogs to pull sleds in the extreme cold over ice and snow, but at that time, the use of dogs was new technology (to everyone except the Eskimos). The use of skis for Polar Exploration was in its infancy as well. The old school of thought was to “man-haul.” This meant strapping leather harnesses on men, and having them haul sledges over the ice and snow, up mountains and over crevasses. It seems crazy, but this was the accepted practice for Polar Explorations, especially those from England. In fact, Scott thought there was something glorious in “manhauling.”

“In my mind no journey ever made with dogs can approach the height of that fine conception which is realised when a party of men go forth to face hardships, dangers, and difficulties with their own unaided efforts…Surely in this case the conquest is more nobly and splendidly won.” -Captain Scott

Somehow Scott thought it was almost cheating to use dogs or skis. It had to be done the way they had always done it, by “man-hauling.” You must understand the scale of this madness. It was nearly 1500 miles to the South Pole and back from their main camp, with over 10,000 ft of elevation gain. Four men to a sledge, pulling 9-10 hours each day, step by step, in subzero temperatures, for months on end. Amazingly, both teams made it to the South Pole, Amundsen arriving more than a full one month ahead of Scott.  Amundsen was meticulous in his planning. Leaving supply depots as he went, Amundsen religiously marked his supply depots with flags pointing to them for miles on either side of each one. He only allowed his team to do cover 15 miles each day, which most days only took 4-5 hours, pacing themselves for the long journey. They took blizzards as a sign from God to hunker down and rest.

“I may say that this is the greatest factor—the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.”  -Roald Amundsen

Captain Scott in his arrogance did not plan ahead. He gloried in improvisation. He took only the bare minimum amount of supplies, leaving no margin for error. His dumb luck only encouraged him in his arrogance. His team would manhaul in any weather, manhauling for 10-12 hours on most days, sometimes covering only 1/2 the distance that Amundsen and his team did. They wore ill-equipped English clothing that trapped in the sweat which then froze to their bodies, with boots that froze to their feet, literally. Although Scott and his team eventually made it to the South Pole, on their way home, fatigue and lack of planning finally caught up with them and they could not find one of their supply depots only a few days journey from their home base. They died together in their tent, freezing to death only a few miles from supplies that they could not find.

 Here are a few leadership questions I culled from this story:

  • Am I more like Scott or Amundsen? 
  • Do I take the time to plan well or do I enjoy flying by the seat of my pants?
  • Am I overconfident because of past success? 
  • Am I resistant to new ways of doing things? Am I forcing my team to manhaul, when there are obviously new means to do it? (Work Smarter not Harder) 
  • Do I somehow glory in heavy lifting; in “suffering for Jesus?” 
  • Do I have a teachable spirit? Am I hungry to learn?

Lots of good food for thought here, but I’ll leave you with one final interesting tidbit from the lives of Amundsen and Scott, perhaps the most surprising fact of the story. Both men had the same mentor. That’s right, a man named Fridtjof Nansen. Both men greatly admired this legendary Norwegian explorer and in some ways each wanted to be his successor. The big difference was that Amundsen listened to Nansen whereas Scott, ignored his mentor’s advice to bring “dogs, dogs and more dogs.” And that was perhaps indicative of Scott’s greatest downfall. His arrogance and overconfidence eventually cost him his life and the lives of his team.

Are you listening to the people in your life who are pressing you to change? Or do you continue to manhaul, causing both you and the people around you to suffer needlessly?

~Mark

 

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Is your teen suffering from “Affluenza?”


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Lawyers for a teenager in Texas whose blood alcohol was more than three times the legal limit when he crashed into a group of people, killing 4, claim the teen was a victim of “affluenza.” Having grown up in a home where he was coddled by his wealthy parents, he developed a sense of entitlement and poor judgement, they theorized. His defense team even produced an expert witness who claimed the 16 yr. old was a victim of “affluenza;” spoiled to such an extent that he had never before faced legitimate consequences for his actions.

Dr. Richard Ross, professor of Youth Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a legend in youth ministry circles, spoke on this very issue this week, in a Ted-Talk style presentation to the Youth Ministry Executive Council (YMEC). ymec2014

Dr. Ross contends we are raising a nation of wimps, with parents who have removed all consequences from their children’s lives. We have reared a generation who all got a trophy for participation, where everyone’s always a winner, and where the possibility of failure has virtually been eliminated from their lives. Helicopter moms of university students will even call professors to argue grades for their adult children. Is it any surprise then, when asked the question, “Are you an adult?” that 50% of all 25 yr olds responded definitively, “No.”

As parents of two young men, (now 19 and 22), my wife and I have learned that failure can be a fantastic teacher, if processed appropriately. In fact, some lessons, can only be learned through failure.

When parenting, you must resist the urge to protect your children from the natural consequences of their actions. Of course, there are times where wisdom dictates that you step in and keep your kids from drowning, but children must learn that there is a cause and effect to their actions. Christian parents especially tend to attempt to over-control their teenagers lives, to protect them from everything bad. But too much protection can actually harm your teenagers ability to succeed after they leave home, (if they ever leave).

Teenagers need to experience risk and reward, failure and consequences in appropriate ways. Richard Ross asks the question: “Where does risk and challenge exist in our society today for teenagers?” I agree with Dr. Ross. It is the reason I so believe in Adventure-Based Youth Ministry. Teens need to get out and experience the challenge of doing something outside their comfort zone. White Water Rafting, Rock Climbing, Kayaking, Hiking, Mountain climbing, Horse pack trips, Ice Climbing, Snowshoeing… Youth Dynamics and YD Adventures do all these things and more. I’ve watched my own boys grow in their confidence in themselves as well as deepen their personal relationship with God through adventure ministry. Let’s get our kids out from behind their screens, to experience LIFE and LIFE TO THE FULL!

~Mark

Read more about the story…“Teen paralyzed in ‘affluenza’ case to receive millions” by Todd Unger, USA Today, May 6, 2014

 

Some of my favorite quotes around the topic of Rest & Renewal


Enjoy!

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.”
John Lubbock

“Like a path through the forest, Sabbath creates a marker for ourselves so, if we are lost, we can find our way back to our center.”
Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives

“Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.”
Ralph Marston

“You are like a jar of river water all shaken up. What you need is to sit still long enough that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.”
Ruth Haley Barton “Invitation to Solitude and Silence” p 29

“When we live without listening to the timing of things, when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest – we are on war time, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: No living thing lives like this. There are greater rhythms, seasons and hormonal cycles and sunsets and moonrises and great movements of seas and stars. We are part of the creation story, subject to all its laws and rhythms.”
Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus

“Some of us learn from other people’s mistakes and the rest of us have to be other people.“
Zig Ziglar

Seriously, Why don’t we Rest?


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Why don’t we Rest?

I just got finished with three Rest and Renewal type events in April. I put on one for our 45 Staff (and their spouse if they’re married), hosted one for Youth Workers in the region (Soulitude), and finally, attended one (Solwatch) for my wife and I to fill our tank.

Why do I do it?  Because I truly believe in the Value of Rest and Renewal.

#1) Our culture does not know how to rest. People in ministry especially do not know how to rest.

#2) Youth Workers need a place to decompress – I want to help keep you in youth ministry longer. I don’t apologize for times of rest. You shouldn’t either. Ministry is hard. Rest and Renewal are essential to maintaining your effectiveness over time.

But sometimes I get the feeling that in ministry we feel like we can’t enjoy life. Like somehow we think our congregations wouldn’t be happy with us if they knew we were taking a vacation or something. Personally, I never took a vacation in the summer until I’d been in youth ministry almost 10 years. In retrospect, that was not just ridiculous, it was foolish.

I had taken a job at a large church, and the Sr. Pastor had told me no matter how much we grew, I would be the only youth pastor on staff and I needed to learn to utilize volunteers. A few years later I was running separate midweek services for Jr High and High School, running Sunday School for both groups and had Student-led campus clubs going on in all the area High Schools. I was speaking 4 times a week, leading worship 3 times a week, recruiting and training a team of volunteer youth staff for both groups, planning and running events and had no secretarial or other staff support. Crazy, I know. It all came to a head one September after three consecutive weeks of working 90 hours a week. Exhausted and feeling like a failure, I walked into the Pastor’s office and with tears in my eyes said “I’m not going to quit, but I can see the edge of the cliff from here.” That was my come to Jesus moment with burnout.

How full is your tank right now?

Full, ¾, ½, ¼, or Fumes

“How long have you been running this way?”

Let me remind you of a few things you already know…

God rested.

Genesis 2:1-3
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

He commands us to rest.

Exodus 20:8-11
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 31:13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.

Exodus 16:29  “Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath…”

Who is the Sabbath for? Reread that last verse again. For Him? No, for you. The Sabbath is for you!

So if God modeled rest & renewal, and he commands us to rest… then, why don’t we rest?

Ask yourself:

Why don’t you rest? In your world, what is it that prevents you from resting more?

All of Creation models rhythm & cycles; rest and renewal. The sun, moon & stars each have a cycle in relationship to the earth. The Seasons all have a rhythm to them: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring again. The tides ebb and flow. Each day, each week, every month, all year, every year; has a cycle. Bears hibernate, salmon migrate, birds make their nest outside my office wall every spring. There is a rhythm and a cycle to all of life. When you run contrary to that cycle; life runs rough; and it takes it’s toll.

But Jesus offers us rest.

Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

So, if your yoke isn’t easy and your burden isn’t light; then whose yoke are you bearing? And who put it on you? Because God didn’t. Was it you? Was it someone else?

Ruth Haley Barton has several works that have been of immense help to me with this issue.

From her book “Invitation to Solitude and Silence” she recalls a conversation with her Spiritual Mentor regarding her inability to rest. She told her,

“You are like a jar of river water all shaken up. What you need is to sit still long enough that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.” (p29)

Rest is Biblical. And it’s not just a suggestion, it’s a command.
Don’t apologize for a healthy pace. Model it for your family, model it for the other staff at your church, model it for other Christ followers. and model it to the teens you work with.

Don’t wait. Rest, Renew, Refresh. Recharge. There’s never gonna be a time where there’s not more ministry to do. Put something rest and renewal on the calendar anywhere in the future and stick to it. You wanna know the real key to longevity in Youth Ministry? Pace yourself, it’s a long season.

~Mark


This was at Soulitude just a few weeks ago with 40 youth worker couples… ask me if you’d like to join us next year!

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