A Live Donkey is Better Than a Dead Lion.

Preparation vs hard work, and why a live donkey is better than a dead lion.

"I thought you would rather have a live donkey than a dead lion." - Sir Ernest Shackleton writing to his wife in regards to an aborted arctic expedition.


Some of greatest feats of human endurance have not taken place on a field or in a race, but across the land in the spirit of discovery. During the early 1900's, polar explorers raced to be the first to the North and/or South Pole. A lack of experience and understanding of Arctic conditions, often combined with the dangerous ingredient of ego, resulted in immense human suffering. In the end, survival was often the only remaining goal of these early expeditions. In 1909, approximately 100 miles from the South Pole, Ernest Shackleton turned his polar team around upon realizing he did not have the supplies and endurance to make the final push to the Pole. Though he set a new 'furthest south' record in the process, he barely survived the journey. 


The hardest choice is often not to push on, but in shutting it down. In the moment, there is a sense of heroics (ego?) in sacrificing yourself in the pursuit of a goal. The fear of having to admit that you did not accomplish what you originally set out to do compounds the pressure to keep on. This is not to underplay the importance of being tough- a basic requirement of success, but we should not pay for momentary toughness with the currency of long-term success.


When the South Pole was finally reached by Roald Amundsen in 1911, the trip was described as relatively smooth and uneventful (despite extreme temperatures and conditions). Why? Because he and his team had done their training; they were well prepared for the journey. 


The next time you find yourself in a struggle, maybe the right question to ask is, "Am I properly prepared for this?" rather than saying "I need to work harder." 


-Antonio Gonzalez

Tri Town Bicycles



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