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« the Amundsen factor #2 | Main | mastery »
Sunday
May082011

the Amundsen factor

"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

The equipping of an expedition is paramount, and, just as important is the mastery of the correct use of that equipment. I suggest that equipment fetishism, though, which is common among successful explorers, serves also as a very important tool for refining the visualization of a successful expedition. The successful explorer visualizes every eventuality before making his journey. He prepares for every eventuality and is ready when something untoward happens.

But this visualization is only possible when there is a single, clear and unloaded objective.

Humans, typically, load objectives. You’re going shopping- why not drop into the library too, and while you’re at it post a letter and see what is on at the local art centre. That’s called being efficient, and, in ordinary circumstances, it is efficient.

The householder who leaves his house to buy one item and then returns, only to leave a few hours later to buy another is mocked for his or her inefficiency.

But that is precisely the skill needed for successful exploration. The natural ability and desire to unload an objective.

Loading objectives is at the heart of good business practice. While you are waiting for X, do Y. Multitasking is a skill all housewives and all chefs need.

Not explorers.

Unloading an objective may have to be learned if it isn’t natural. Everyone will push you to have multiple objectives for your journey: scientific, charitable, geographical. You must resist this by resolutely unloading each sub-objective until your basic goal is revealed.

When you load an objective you divert energy and resources elsewhere. The essence of an expedition is that 100% of all resources are needed for the main objective. There is never any slack. This is true of any first time journey, and trebly true if no human has made this journey before.

Without the feeling of 100% commitment to the objective the will wavers, excuses appear and multiply. Look at any failed expedition and you will observe a loaded objective leading to a chain of small accidents culminating in either disaster or giving up.

All big accidents start with an unexceptional chain of small accidents. That these can accumulate is due to attention being elsewhere, diverted. Elsewhere because the main objective is being relegated while a secondary objective is being pursued.

Nothing is ever conquered on the fly. You make a simple plan with a single objective. You then visualize all the stages necessary to achieve this objective. You run a mental what-if for each problem you think up. You use equipment for each stage as a way of making the visualization real. Working on preparing equipment- as Amundsen’s men did with their boots and sledges not only builds familiarity, it also builds a strong mental image of the planned journey and its eventual success.

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