“Low Wages. Bitter Cold. Long Hours of Complete Darkness”. Sounds Like a Great Job!

I was at a meet up the other night for founders of startups in San Francisco.

At one stage I was speaking to 5 or 6 young guys (well a lot younger than me) and suddenly an awkward silence fell upon the group. So I decided to ask them all the following questions:

If you could meet up with any famous person from history, who would it be? What is it about that person that inspires you?

Perhaps you might want to think about how you would answer that question.

I’ve asked this many times before – while running training courses and team building exercises and so over the years I have been able to predict the types of answers I will typically receive from people willing to share their responses openly. They range from Julius Caesar, to William Shakespeare, and from Mozart to Martin Luther King.

One of the young guns standing opposite me took a sip of beer and then confidently said, “Ernest Shackleton“.

I smiled – not because I found his answer amusing in any way. But simply because I could see the blank or confused looks on the others’ faces. It was as if they wanted to ask “Who the hell was Ernest Shackleton?“, but given that it was a group of (smart) entrepreneurs, nobody dared to even utter a word!

The Antarctic explorer“, he continued.

When I asked him what it was about Shackleton that inspired him, he simply replied, “He dared to take risks“.

Nice response – after all this was a gathering of entrepreneurs.

But he didn’t just leave it at that.

Shackleton put an ad in a newspaper hoping to find a group to accompany him to the South Pole that simply said: ‘Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages. Bitter cold. Long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success’.”

I kid you not. This guy knew the wording of a newspaper ad that had appeared in the early 1900’s verbatim.

I was impressed.

But his response really demonstrated the importance he placed on taking risks.

Risk taking is not only a trait typically found in an entrepreneur. It is also one which anyone considering a career change or even a new job would need to possess – and more importantly be able to articulate (quite possibly with an example) during a job interview.

The idea of knowing what is really important to you (and why it is important to you) both personally and professionally will really help you be able to formulate your core values, which will in turn help you understand whether a particular organisation’s values are in line with yours.