Does Your Life Depend On It?

Posted on 24th March 2021

Those who have worked with me will know that I read a great deal and that recommending good books is an integral part of my coaching style. 

At the beginning of this year, I was looking for a suitable gift for a young man about to turn 21. I wanted to purchase a gift that marked this important transition and which would offer him a source of inspiration at any stage of his adult life. After careful consideration, I settled on 'When Your Life depends On It: Extreme Decision Making Lessons From The Antarctic' by Brad Borkan and David Hirzel. And, because I am always on the look out for books that might have something to offer my clients, I bought a copy for myself too.

I found the stories of endurance and survival enthralling and was particularly captivated by Douglas Mawson's story and the poem - The Quitter - that quite literally saved his life. I shared that story at a couple of networking events and saw how the desperate humanity of that one decision resonated with others beside myself.

An idea started to form in my mind and I decided to invite the authors to connect with me on Linked In. Within just a few minutes, Brad had accepted and we had started the conversation that would quickly lead to our first online event, 'When Your Life depends On It: Decision Lessons from Shackleton's Expeditions to Antartica'.

Those who know me well will tell you that I can be a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to technology, so the notion of harnessing these dark powers to create my own on line event was not one that would have occurred to me outside the surreal times of lockdown. The idea was, therefore, very much a product of the changes forced upon us all by the pandemic. But, because I was excited by the idea and - importantly - was very clear on exactly what needed to be done, I really didn't stop to worry about the challenges that would be involved: I simply made a decision to try - and acted on it. And, having connected with Brad, he and I then made another important decision; we decided very quickly that we trusted each other and that it might be fun to work together.

Did our lives depend on that decision? Clearly not. Might our future lives be shaped by it? Time will tell, but early feedback from participants suggests there is certainly scope for new collaborations.

The truth is - in ordinary circumstances - we are rarely faced with real life and death decisions. And yet, here we are in 2021, making potentially life changing decisions every day: Should we go out; should we wear a mask, wash our hands; should we get the vaccine. Quite literally, our lives and the lives of others depend on these very decisions.

Of course, not all decisions will be potentially life threatening - but it does seem, these days, in business at least, that we are being confronted with many more difficult choices: Do we place people on furlough, or lay them off; do we take out a loan, apply for a grant, or defer our taxes; do we attempt to diversify, or ride the storm and plan for a big relaunch?

Not all of these decisions will move us in the direction we hope - we may choose unwisely, or be hampered by a lack of information such that we find ourselves in unchartered territory. And, of course, the vast majority of our everyday decisions are still comparitively mundane - barely registering in our consciousness. Yet, one by one, they lead us towards our destiny, whether or not it is the place we planned to be.

As a coach, I am often privy to some of the most tricky decisions that people have to make. My role is to be a sounding board and to test the substance of those decisions against a broader reality. There are tools and techniques to help this process - but, in my experience, there is nothing quite so powerful as a story well told.

Of all the stories in the book, Brad and I chose Ernest Shackleton as the focus for this first event because it seemed to us that there are many parallels between his stories of leadership and perseverance and the challenges faced by many businesses in our strange pandemic world. The image, for example, of Shackleton's ship, The Endurance, stuck fast in the ice for many months then, finally, crushed beyond use by the relentless pressure acting against it, forcing the crew to seek another way out, is a striking metaphor for the many vibrant businesses that have been grounded by lockdown. And yet, the safe return of all crew members a full nine months after their ship was sunk, having survived monumental challenges of survival along the way, represents the epitome of human endurance, shining a beacon down the years to lend light to these dark days when our lives, and livelihoods, truly depend on the quality of our decision making.

For Brad and I, it seems that we did indeed make a good decision and we have already decided that we will be running this event again. Below are just a selection of testimonials we received after the first. If you would like to receive details of this and other events as they become available, give me a ring on 0333 444 9845 or drop me an email via my contact page and I will be in touch. You never know, your future life might just depend on it!

To contact Brad direct, please follow this link to his website,


"What an event! My team and I thoroughly enjoyed the engaging and motivational talk karen and Brad held about the Antarctic adventures of Shackleton and the sheer endeavour they showed to achieve their end goals. It was surprisingly relateable to modern business and how we have to adapt and change to the very VUCA world we now live in. We cannot wait to attend the next event and we encourage others to do the same." 
Stuart Danks, Director DM Recruitment

"A really passionate presentation delivered by Brad, linking the amazing Antarctic adventures of Shackleton and his crew with Brad's own travels and experiences to leadership best practice and courageous decision making. Between Brad and Karen the event was informative and thought provoking. Whilst the session was informal, the presentation was inclusive and there was opportunity to contribute and ask questions. I would thoroughly recommend this and any future sessions alike."
Marie Speight, Marie Speight Consulting

"I really enjoyed the webinar with Karen Carpenter and Brad Borkan. The session was well organised, insightful and informative. I particularly enjoyed the way the session wsa run to enable a balance of great content, and excellent discussion and attendee participation. I was able to connect with others in the virtual room, that I probably would have never crossed paths with which was great! Looking forward to attending more of Karen's events in the future."
Stephanie Henson, Director Six Ticks

"I attended 'When Your Life depends On It: Decision Lessons From Shackleton' Expeditions To Antarctica' with Karen Carpenter and Brad Borkan and left really inspired. Karen had been very insightful in bringing together a group of individuals big enough to comprise different ideas and perspectives, yet creating an intimacy which made it possible for everyone to fully engage and be heard. Brad has an in-depth knowledge about Antartica and the expeditions by Shackleton, and other explorers, which really came across in an inspiring and engaging way. karen used her reflective coaching style to help us reflect on the events of Shackleton and how his decision-making relates to us as professionals today. It was a skilfully managed balance between story telling and interactionwith the audience that made this a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile event."
Kristina Rosenqvist, Executive Coach

"I found the presentation told a fascinating story and at the same time made me think about both my personal and business life from another perspective and how decisions are made to shape those. I would recommend this to anyone."
Pete Savage, Deed Safe Wills and Legal Services

Back To Blog »
© Copyright 2024 Karen CarpenterWeb Design By Toolkit Websites