W.I.N. Lausanne, Switzerland
I was invited as a key note speaker celebrating the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day for W.I.N. (Women’s International Networking) – in Lausanne, Switzerland March 10-11. Click read full article the full report!
Inspiration from the coldest place on Earth:
Polar explorer Liv Arnesen speaks at an IMD-WIN event
Liv Arnesen was the opening speaker at an event IMD organized with W.I.N, the global women’s leadership organization, on March 10-11. The event explored the topic of women in leadership.
What have you dreamed of achieving in your life? Following polar explorer Liv Arnesen’s advice, dreams, be they big or small, in business or not, shouldn’t be taken lightly. At the opening presentation for the IMD and WIN event (#IMDwomenWIN) on “Women in Leadership – The Competitive Edge,” Arnesen spoke of how a dream inspired her pioneering expeditions.
At just 12 years old, she imagined conquering Antarctica. “Norway is a small country and is well-known for legendary explorers. Instead of growing up with typical fairytale heroes, we often heard stories of legendary explorers.” During a dream sharing exercise in school, Arensen told the class, “my dream is to ski to the South Pole.”
But that was during the 1960s. “I’ll never forget the reaction. Was I stupid? This was a boy’s dream. It was impossible.” It would take many years for Arnesen to articulate the dream again, but she didn’t let go.
In 1994 Arnesen set off to make international headlines by becoming the first woman in the world to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole. The 1,200 km (745 mile) expedition took 50 days to complete.
“Everyone thought I’d come back from the trip completely exhausted. But, the closer I got to the South Pole the more energy I felt, and that just continued to grow.”
A former high school teacher, Arnesen decided to channel that energy towards education. In 2001 she teamed with American explorer Ann Bancroft and became the first women to sail and ski across Antarctica. Together the two women created http://yourexpedition.com/, a project aimed at educating today’s youth on global issues such as inequality, climate change and lack of drinking water.
After achieving such extraordinary feats, Arnesen draws parallels to the world of business. “Everything starts with a dream and many things that happen in an expedition also happen in companies and organizations.”
Arnesen outlines that we all have comfort zones that exist between our known skills and areas that challenge us. She says it’s necessary to balance between skills and challenges; relying too much on just skills creates boredom and stressing too many challenges leads to burn out. “To make life fun and challenging you have to push yourself, but find the right safety zone.”
Planning her expeditions was also much like planning successful business projects. “We have to imagine every possible worse-case scenario to anticipate the unknown.”
In addition, partnering with Bancroft taught Arnesen a lot about the value of team building. By covering logistics together, the two explorers were able to understand that each had different personalities and ways of making decisions. Much like in business teams, they learned to remind each other of their differences and compromise in order to achieve their goal together.
Speaking in front of audience of more than 250 business leaders, many of them women, Arnesen also emphasized the importance of coping with defeat. “Women are often too hard on themselves, not looking enough at what they did achieve.” She draws on an emotional moment when she had to abandon a climb to the top of Mount Everest due to altitude sickness. She stresses defeat is a matter of how one defines it and putting herself in danger did not qualify as a defeat.
And for those who still hold an old dream near, Arnesen is an example that it’s never too late to act on your dream. She was 41 when she journeyed to the South Pole solo. And she will be 59 in 2012 when she sets off, again with Bancroft, on a new and bigger project. The two will lead six female explorers, one from each continent, on an 80-day trek to the South Pole.
Their goal in the expedition is to raise youth awareness of the scarcity of fresh water and they plan to reach more than 50 million. Speaking from experience, Arnesen says the explorers will need to think of the greater purpose in order to keep their minds off the cold and obstacles.
“We’ve recruited our team based on their ambitions. These are all women that want to make the world a better place.”
LNWIS co-founders Lila de Soysa (ETTU) and Brigitte Zufferey(FIM) with Liv Arnesen and Sarah Lewis (General Secretary of the International Ski Federation)