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Through Endurance We Conquer

Fortitudine Vincimus “Through endurance, we conquer.” — Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Family Motto

It had been one month since they had been shipwrecked and now literally found themselves on thin ice. The crew of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, looked to him as their trustworthy leader. Each man knew what they had signed up for on this expedition — to cross the 2,000 mile Antarctic continent meant their very lives were at risk and this was part of the deal. [1a]

“The Boss” as they fondly called him had exhibited optimism in the face of a growing sense of peril, and they fed off his energy. Even in the midst of their dire circumstances they grew stronger; as author Alfred Lansing wrote of the crew:

And for all the trials and discomforts, these weeks of primitive living had been peculiarly enriching. The men had been forced to develop a degree of self-reliance greater than they had ever imagined possible. [1]

In an isolated world of deadly cold, danger and discomfort they had been tested. They could have cursed fate, complained and given up. Instead under Shackleton’s watch they responded by growing their endurance. And their endurance kept each one of them alive for their eventual return home. Here’s how you can conquer through endurance when facing trials in your life.

Do Something Hard

“Think of pain as a sort of baptism. When you try it again the next day, it will be much more manageable.” — Scott Carney, What Doesn’t Kill Us [2a]

In today’s society, it seems we are around 99% intent on doing what is easy and makes us happy and 1% seeking what is hard and challenging. Whether it’s having our groceries delivered, constantly streaming and binge watching entertainment or living within a perfect indoor climate 24/7, odds are we are more likely to be comfortable than uncomfortable (I say this understanding that poverty and hunger in some cases across the world and the US are certainly not this way — but for many of us in the US this is the reality).

In his book “What Doesn’t Kill You” author Scott Carney shared this on stress:

Human biology needs stress — not the sort of stress that damages muscle, gets us eaten by a bear, or degrades our physiques — but the sort of environmental and physical oscillations that invigorates our nervous system… For example, a plunge into ice-cold water not only triggers a number of processes to warm the body, but also tweaks insulin production, tightens the circulatory system, and heightens mental awareness.”[2b]

Go for a brisk walk in the cold. Max out some push-ups. Wait five extra minutes before you have that first sip of coffee in the morning (ok now we’re pushing it!). Do something hard today to build your endurance.


I am writing this post right now in bed with the flu. I was going to attempt to push through it but the warning signals went from yellow to red to ludicrous speed so I’m finally slowing down. We were not made to go on forever like the energizer bunny. If we don’t stop and recharge from time to time we will no question burn out and end up miles away from where we are today.

Winston Churchill took hot baths and painted to fill his tank as he knew he would need his energy to face great challenges as a statesman and leader. Jesus went up on a mountain to pray. What can you do that will fuel you up rather than burn you out? Find the time on your calendar, even if it’s three weeks out and mark it down now. You won’t regret it.

Your Internal Compass

Another famed explorer, Captain James Cook, is known for creating a map of 130 islands across 2,500-miles of ocean. However, he did not rely on his Royal Navy compass alone — Cook was helped for nearly 20 months by a Tahitian chief named Tupaia who day or night could tell the Captain the exact direction of his home island. [3]

So where is your home island? Do you know by heart how to get there? Even when the storms of life come? If we don’t know where we want to go then it is senseless to move in any direction.

Take your job for example. Why do you work? Is it simply to make money? Likely it goes beyond that, at a minimum to support yourself and/or your family. Perhaps you enjoy the relationships or challenges. But if you have no purpose for your job other than stamping the time card, you will have a hard time maintaining your endurance.

Find your home island - sharing the Gospel, helping your family thrive, making the world a better place, whatever it is for you - and make sure you’re going in the right direction. Knowing that you’re moving closer to it will energize you to endure the challenges ahead.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that love (for God and those around us) is a great home island when he writes to the Corinthians:

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13‬:‭7‬ ‭NLT‬‬


Shackleton and Cook teach us as modern endurance seekers to grow by doing something hard, recharging and making sure we follow our internal compass home. Remember these today as you Lead with Love!

[1] Pg 108-109, Alfred Lansing, Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

[2a] Page 62 Scott Carney, What Doesn’t Kill Us

[2b] Introduction pgs. xxii-xxiii Scott Carney, What Doesn’t Kill Us

[3] Page 24, Scott Carney, What Doesn’t Kill Us


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