Apparently this is the ad that Ernest Shackleton placed in the London papers when he was recruiting team members for his now famous failed expedition to cross Antarctica on foot. If it is authentic, then is shows that Shackleton understood something fundamental about recruiting for high-risk / high-return ventures – the right motivation is more important than specific domain expertise. Note that he isn’t recruiting for “sailors with 15 years experience tying slip knots…” but looking for those who are motivated by the ultimate prize and willing to undergo intense personal hardship in pursuit of it.
Shackleton’s expedition is a great metaphor for entrepreneurship. There will undoubtedly be times when your start-up is stranded on the pack ice and, by definition, a start-up is all about sailing for help in a small boat in near freezing conditions. Couple of words of advice to those considering their own expedition:
- Don’t start the journey unless you are so passionate about the end goal (changing the world, revolutionizing an industry, seeing your technology in mass adoption…whatever) that you are willing to suffer “constant danger, safe return doubtful.” As others have pointed out before, if you understand “expected value” you probably won’t start an entrepreneurial career.
- Don’t start the journey unless those around you are completely on board. This is the challenge of starting a company when you have a family, mortgage and other obligations and haven’t already made f-u money. I have a friend who’s start-up stopped; wife didn’t speak to him for 72 hours. Reality.
- As the headline suggests, if you decide to start the journey, recruit fellow entrepreneurs. They will be the ones you can rely on to live through “long months of complete darkness” without starting a mutiny. In my personal experience, they will also be the ones with whom you will most want to share, “honor and recognition in case of success.”