The legendary Shane Winser at The Royal Geographical Society´s Expedition Advisory Board honored me by asking if I could lecture at the Explore Weekend 2013.
“Absolutely, I said, but about what?”
“Can you talk about failure? she asked.”
Sure I said and since her wish, I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about the issue. She of course knew about all my failures on every level of my life. Personal and professional. And, in fact, I really believe failures make you not only a better explorer, but more important, a better human being. I believe this should be the goal for all of us. In fact, big and small failures changed my life to the much, much better! Both as an explorer and as a human being.
There is of course a lot of small issue failures on all levels, choosing the wrong piece of equipment and ending up in problems, both those are just part of the every day life as an explorer, so I won´t deal with them, but the bigger one´s. For example I have a very good friend in the same line of business like myself. Initially everything he touched turned into gold and success. I was very happy for him, he put in a lot of work and a lot of brainpower and things worked out better than for most people. Somewhere along the line, a slight arrogance developed for the slightly worse and suddenly, doing what he loves the most, a great mistake was done. He´s reputation took a good beating and he was far too harshly treated by the normal know- it-all:ers and for a brief moment had to change career. He´s back into doing what he loves again since a couple of years back and believe me, since this happened, he is even a better person than before and his is once again, the humblest of them all. A great failure on either the professional or personal level is hard to stand when it happens and when you are into it, but there´s no doubt you become a much more bearable human being. This happened even to Steve Jobs!
Let me tell you my own story. I was this guy I just wrote about once upon a time. Anything I wanted to do, became a reality. I became too confident, too arrogant and to a certain degree, unbearable. Along the way I failed as a human being and pretty much lost everything. My value was nil on all levels. In pain I threw myself into a life of finding love and direction and came across many fantastic human beings who taught me a variety of lessons. Mainly, sort out your issues and move on. I put my heart into it as the only way I know, with my full life. Along the this path I realized I just need to do what I know best, explore. On a plane to Oman I read the on board executive magazine and whilst browsing the flight routes around the world, I suddenly realized that there was a definite great trip to be done between the eastern point of Oman and to the Western point of Mauritania. So, I told myself, I will do that on camel and try to build a bridge between the Islamic east and the West.
After having taken this decision I spent 5 months in Oman preparing in every way plus trying to get the funds needed to do a really, really big Expedition. On all levels. The journey in itself and the media. Most of the time it did seem possible to do. I needed a really big sum of money and initially I did get all needed help. Somewhere along the preparations I realized I needed to learn Arabic, so I choose to go to what was considered one of the most dangerous countries on earth, but also, the place to learn the best spoken Arabic, Yemen. On the plane going there, realized I would never be able to do this big trip I was planning. I felt empty, useless, hurt and suddenly realized I probably also choose Yemen because I might get bombed out of existence.
Yemen changed my life completely. First of all, I didn´t expect that countries like Yemen existed, especially not in the Gulf where most other countries are exceptionally boring in comparison. Yemen was full of life, not a boring second and just …wild! I fell in love with it and its colorful people immediately. And, the morning after I arrived I met the most positive force of my life. Just the minute I thought I was dead forever inside, she turned up as a whirlwind and with heart and brains bigger than anything I have ever come across.
We realized we had both gone to Yemen in search of something lacking in life. And found it. So we decided to do the trip together, but realized that as strong as the wish to ride camels from east to west, was the wish to become parents. The incredibly much loved Eva Belquis (In honor of the Queen of Sheba, who´s Arabic name is Belquis) Katherine Hedvig was born a year later and we both realized that the planned expedition was impossible. The Arab Spring arrived at the same time as a full statement of its impossibility. Our economy was a disaster due to these two facts, but love makes wonders and a year and a half later we returned with Eva, to a country pretty much in war, with mortar fire being part of life, to Yemen. They all loved her and we had absolutely no problems a all. I did a trip with camel from Zabid on the coast to the capital of Sanaa. It was pretty much considered impossible, but it happened. A few months later I returned myself to do an even more impossible trip with camel though the Al Mahra desert with Al Qaeda being all over the news. Pam stayed at home, pregnant with daughter number two, Scarlett Sardana. She hasn´t been to Yemen yet. But to Siberia as a 6 months old.
I couldn´t have done the Yemen expeditions without all those failures as a human being. It needed a person with the right attitude and humility to life. Failures is a must to grow as a human being and to be able to do exploration which makes a difference.
So just get out there and fail. Over and over again. And learn from your mistakes. It is the best way to go!