I set out, last week, to write a post on the death of Henry Worsley–a 55-year old retired British Army officer who was attempting to be the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unaided. An ill and exhausted Worsley gave up the quest a mere 30 miles from his goal, after a journey of 913 miles over 71 days. He was airlifted to a hospital in Punta Arenas, Chile, where doctors discovered he was suffering from bacterial peritonitis (infection of the lining of the abdominal cavity). Despite undergoing emergency surgery, Worsley died soon afterward.

On the one hand, Worsley’s fatal attempt underscores two things: first, that there are still adventure “firsts” still out there to be conquered, and second, that the risks of those adventures are still very, very real. But also noteworthy in Worsley’s saga is that at the beginning of January, he stopped at the Amundsen-Scott research station at the South Pole, where he could have gotten medical supplies or treatment, or other supplies.

Because Worsley wanted to preserve the “unaided” part of his trans-Antarctic quest, however, he intentionally refrained from taking any kind of assistance. (The first trans-Antarctic crossing was accomplished in 1957-58, Norwegian Borge Ousland successfully crossed it solo and unaided in 1997, but used a kite to help pull his sledge, and in 2012, a meteorologist named Felicity Aston successfully skied, solo, across Antarctica (like Worsley was attempting to do), but received two supply drops along the way.)

It’s impossible to know whether, had Worsley taken some assistance or been evaluated there, he might have survived, or even finished his quest. But having help available and turning it down does complicate how one views or classifies Worsley’s endeavor. [click to continue…]

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“Why Doesn’t Everybody…”?

For years, I have joked about this iconic question, usually posed by innocent people who do not have any first-hand experience with the (fill-in-the-blank) topic they’re asking about. Lane’s rule of thumb: If everybody doesn’t do something … whether it’s start their own business, renovate their own house, or own a polished-aluminum airplane … there’s a reason, and it generally has something to do with the risk, cost, or work involved.

Much as I love working for myself, I understand quite clearly why everyone doesn’t do it. And although I support any passion-inspired entrepreneurial effort, I’m also the first to caution that following that road is not the easiest option in life. According to a post I wrote back in 2009, some 70-85% of venture-capital-based entrepreneurial efforts fail. But a new study that’s just in the process of being published has a different–and far more encouraging–perspective on the risks of trying an entrepreneurial enterprise.

Gustavo Manso, Associate Professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, used results from a 33-year longitudinal study of 12,686 people who were ages 15-22 when the survey started in 1979, to determine how much of a risk or cost those who had attempted an entrepreneurial venture really paid. (The group was interviewed annually up through 1994, and every other year since then. The last year they were surveyed was 2012.)

After “restricting the analysis to [a] nationally representative [group] of 6,111 individuals,” and then subtracting any people who did not work, Manso came up with a survey sample of 5,415 people. He then looked at the income differences of those who: a) worked a salaried job their whole careers, b) tried an entrepreneurial effort and then went back to a salaried job, and c) tried an entrepreneurial effort and remained self-employed. To try to make the comparisons as even as possible, Manso also tried to pair people across all three groups who had similar characteristics in terms of demographics, educational attainment, cognitive ability, self esteem, and belief in self-determination vs. external factors (chance, fate and luck), in terms of how their life would turn out.

The results were surprising … but then again, not surprising, once I thought about it a bit more. [click to continue…]

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Are Mid-Life Crises Inevitable?

by Lane Wallace

I began my new year (the 7th one writing this blog!) with the unexpected treat of dinner with two friends I’ve known since I was 12 years old. In truth, they are the only friends I’ve known since I was 12. But I know I’m lucky to still have something in common and keep in [...]

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Intrinsic Gifts in an Imperfect World

by Lane Wallace

The holiday season, as delightful as all the lights and decorations are, can actually be a tough time to feel happy, because we’re bombarded on all sides with images of “perfect” lives and holidays–and we humans, it turns out, depend quite heavily on comparing our lives with others when we decide how happy we are. [...]

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Misunderstanding Passion

by Lane Wallace

Anyone who’s read much of my work knows that I’m a big believer in the power of passion. I’ve even began researching a book on the topic (it’s in the queue, after I finish my current project on the power and importance of voice).
Having said that, I’m also well aware that the word “passion” is [...]

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New Adventure: Underwater Flight

by Lane Wallace

Although I’ve had more than my share of physical adventure in my life, most of my posts and discussions on this blog have to do with bigger life adventure, and the questions, issues, and decisions that influence our professional and personal paths. When the opportunity presents itself, however, I still have a passion for physical [...]

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Jon Stewart’s Lesson for Other Professionals

by Lane Wallace

Last night, Jon Stewart signed off as the host of The Daily Show, his award-winning late-night talk/variety/political satire and critique show, after a run of 16 years and almost 2,600 episodes. For starters, that represents a prolific amount of creative output. (By comparison: the popular television show Cheers produced only 275 original episodes, Friends produced [...]

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Is “Meaning” Really Meaningless?

by Lane Wallace

I talk a lot, on this site, about the importance of purpose and meaning, especially in terms of how to weigh conflicting life decisions. I devoted two posts in December (More Evidence on the Power of Purpose and Community and More on the Importance of a Meaningful Job and Path), in fact, to the the power [...]

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In Search of Greatness, Part II: The Laws of Nature and Trade-Offs

by Lane Wallace

When I was growing up, my father repeatedly told me that I could be anything I wanted to be, if I wanted it badly enough. It was wonderful aspirational encouragement, and I love him for being so supportive of my dreams. But in truth, he was only partly right. No matter how badly I might [...]

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In Search of Greatness Part I: Mt. Everest Then and Now

by Lane Wallace

Compared to the thousands recently killed in the cities and towns of Nepal, the 18 climbers and Sherpas lost on Mt. Everest in an avalanche caused by the first of recent earthquakes there is a small number. But it still rates as the worst annual death toll so far on the mountain, topping even last [...]

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