As part of the research for my next collection I’ve been reading a lot of stories of adventures, explorers and triumph in the face of adversity. As I was reading these stories it became clear to me that a lot of the lessons these brave people learned were actually pretty applicable to my life as a creative business owner. Anyone who has taken the leap to create their own business, whether it is big or small faces daunting landscapes, embarks on crazy adventures and needs to summon all reserves of bravery. So what can these famous, and not so famous, explorers who changed the shape of the world as we know it teach little old us!
Try, Try & Try Again
1769 Samuel Hearne was commissioned by the Hudson’s Bay Company to walk due North from Prince of Wales Fort in Canada to the shores of the Arctic Ocean, a round trip of more than 3500 miles to places where no European had ever travelled. He left the Fort on 6 November 1769 with four travelling companions and headed out in the icy wilderness, after just three weeks they were ambushed and had their food and guns stolen. They just about survived the trip back. Two months later he set out again, only to have the same thing happen, except this time he had his tent and coat stolen as well. Close to starvation, he was rescued by a tribe of Chippewa Indians who helped him back to the Fort. But even this didn’t put him off, a mere 12 days later he set out again – third time lucky – and he did eventually find the Arctic Coast and helped to start mapping the North West Passage. So what can we learn from Samuel Hearne? Try, try and try again – he wasn’t put off, even in the face of death and even when given the chance to take the easy route he returned to his quest. He was determined to see his adventure through and didn’t let a few bumps in the road put him off.
In 1785 Thomas Daniell was a landscape artist in Surrey, England, he was good at what he did but was hard-up and out of work. He saw an opportunity in the new desire for paintings of life in India so took a massive gamble and travelled the 6,500 miles to Calcutta. He his nephew and apprentice William, who travelled with him, were industrious and determined and during their nine years in India they travelled the length and breadth of the country, they sailed up the Ganges, they travelled on elephants with the British Army and journeyed into the the Northern mountains. Everywhere they went they got out their folding tables and easels and made astonishing paintings that they sent back to England. By the time they themselves returned there in 1794 they had amassed a fortune of £43,000. So what do Thomas and William teach us? Thomas was a smart chap – saw an opportunity, a gap in the market and put himself on the line to take advantage of it. He couldn’t have known that it was going to pan out so well, when he left England he was taking a huge risk, relying on his gut instinct, his skill and his ability to capture what people wanted. An opportunity was presented to him and he grabbed it with both hands and rung everything he could out of it, in turn changing his life forever!
Staying Flexible & Unburdened
In 1860 Burke and Wills set out from Melbourne in Australia to chart the 2,000 mile route to the Northern coast of Australia, at that time the desert heart of Australia was uncharted and unknown to European settlers. They set out from the Royal Park in Melbourne on August 20th 1860 to a huge fanfare, the expedition was huge the 19 men took with them, 23 horses, 6 wagons and 26 camels, these were weighed down by enough food to last two years, a cedar-topped oak camp table with two chairs, rockets, flags and a Chinese gong – the equipment weighed as much as 20 tonnes! One wagon broke down before they had even left the park, two more broke down less than 5 miles later. They struggled so much along the route that they periodically had to leave things behind – sugar, lime juice, guns and ammunition, still it took them over two months to travel just 470 miles – a distance the mail coaches managed in just a week. Burke and Wills did eventually make it to the North shore but lack of food and monsoon rains ravaged the expedition’s return journey and only one man, John King made it back alive. Burke and Wills are Australian heroes, it took huge bravery to even attempt to cross the outback then and their expedition paved the way for many more but you can’t help wondering if they had travelled a little lighter maybe they would have made it back alive? So what do this intrepid pair teach us? Don’t get bogged down with things your business doesn’t need. You can start a business with almost no money and very little equipment so maybe burdening your your young enterprise with bank loans and credit isn’t a smart idea. Think carefully about everything you take on and try to stay nimble and flexible – that’s the best thing you have over the big guys after all!
History is full of stories like these, people who took a chance, grabbed an opportunity and did what everyone else said was impossible! Just because your personal adventure might be close to home and involve less foreign travel and risk to life and limb, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t approach it in the same way. Award yourself one of the badges if any of the stories above resonate with you.
Do you know any other adventure stories, historical or modern, that have something to teach us or have inspired you?
‘Brightly-coloured designer nerd’ Sam Osborne is a fan of all things bright and colourful! She splits her time between running her own successful homewares and accessories label, licensing her unique prints & patterns and creating smart branding and design for fellow small business owners.