Adventurer Peter Van Kets’ inspiring story and the techniques he adopted in order to complete three gruelling physical feats – rowing across the Atlantic (twice) and skiing to the South Pole. Most of the techniques were psychological and relate to targeting success elsewhere in life wherever challenges present themselves. An easy and undemanding read. Likely enjoyable for those who enjoy adventure and self-improvement techniques. The style wasn’t horrific but it’s not a masterpiece either.
Caring, Commitment and Positivity
Before his pairs rowing expedition he and his partner promised each other two things: 1) that they would look after each other more than they looked after themselves and 2) that they would prepare to win.
In high-stress conditions, people can become insular and selfish yet they don’t necessarily take very good care of themselves because they can become so consumed by the problem at hand. Actively deciding to care for the other person more than oneself creates a much more powerful partnership, where each person is honestly depending on the other for survival and is a concept that relates to all important life partnerships – a degree of selflessness is required.
So many people fail to strive for their goals because they are paralysed by the fear of failure. Deciding to win creates a self-reinforcing cycle of positivity and confidence where it becomes easier to suppress the fear of failure.
Routine, rewards and delayed gratification
During his solo race across the Atlantic (against a limited number of similarly nut-cased contestants), Peter rowed in alternating 90-minute rowing and 90-minute rest intervals for 76 days. This is incredibly monotonous and boring. Routine was, however, critical in order for him to achieve his goal. Chunking the race allowed him to create manageable sections and sticking to the routine created daily confidence that the final goal will be achieved if one merely takes the same steps again. Peter refused to sleep late at almost any stage in case complacency set in, which may have lessened his resolve. In order to persist with his monotonous journey, Peter earmarked rewards and delayed gratification by revelling in these rewards after difficult shifts. The rewards were usually something as insignificant as a snack but reinforcing the psychological association between effort and delayed gratification was powerful.
Dedications dissolve self-pity
Another method to scale the personal self-pity and physical pain of difficult challenges were dedications. Peter used to dedicate his daily efforts to a loved family member or friend, calling them via his satellite phone before the shift to tell them why he respected them and that he would be rowing for them for the next session/day. The conversations were often quite emotional and profound, leaving Peter with powerful motivation for the sessions to come as well as a distraction from his continual pain and exhaustion.