Help Wanted: Visionaries and Dreamers-Safe Return Doubtful

While it has never been substantiated that the explorer and leader Ernest Shackleton actually placed this ad, these few short sentences have taken on a life of their own.  They read:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey.  Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful.  Honor and recognition in case of success.”

There are those in this world that run towards these types of opportunities and others that run away as fast as they can.  I’ve always been inspired by individuals that look beyond the here and now and issues of the moment to see and seize the opportunity to do something great. 

In Monday’s Leadership Caffeine post, I shared excerpts from the recent Jim Collins interview in Inc. Magazine.  Collins indicated his belief in the unique number of opportunities and challenges that we now face and he described his perspectives on why some people do great things during tough times.  In particular, he emphasized the difference between traditional career choices (“paint by number”) or careers as an adventure (“blank sheet of paper”).  Interestingly, in the article, he also indicated the difference between these two approaches, not in the context of risk, but rather as a difference in level of ambiguity.  

I long since determined that my career would be an adventure, and I’ve come to find comfort in my good friend, ambiguity.  It’s never far behind.  Along the way, I’ve learned a number of valuable lessons from several individuals that created some great works of art on their own blank canvasses.  

Lessons in Adventure and Ambiguity:

  • Fear of failure is a waste of energy.
  • The best prescription for dealing with a setback is to take your next step.
  • Always have a mission, because at the darkest hour, the mission might be the only thing lighting your path.
  • Sitting still is worse than dying.  Keep moving.
  • Sometime, a long time from now, it might be OK to look back on what you accomplished.  But don’t look for too long or you’re liable to step off a cliff.

I’m grateful to these individuals for their inspiration and for instilling a sense of adventure in my approach to business

Especially now in these times when those that are working are fearful of what’s next and those that are not working are fearful of the same, it might just be time to channel a little inner-Shackleton.  Perhaps it’s time to dust of those dreams of greatness, put aside your fears and get moving.

Students of history know that Shackleton’s journey met with many mishaps and challenges, yet remarkably, everyone returned safely, in large part due to the sheer will and perseverance of their leader. How strong are you? 

These are unique times best taken advantage of by dreamers and doers. 

The challenges are so profound and the opportunities so plentiful, that it is hard to look around and not see potential for greatness in every crisis. Perhaps now is your time to shine.  

What was it that you always wanted to do?  Tick tock. 



By |2016-10-22T17:12:11+00:00April 8th, 2009|Career, Decision-Making|3 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. […] Art Petty’s recent post this week titled : Help Wanted: Visionaries and Dreamer-Safe Return Doubtful Art refers to individuals who create great works of art on a blank canvas, they run towards […]

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  3. Michael Ray Hopkin April 25, 2009 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Art, this is one of my favorite topics of late. The book High Altitude Leadership does a great job of mixing adventure and leadership (written by a mountain climber and a business guru). I did a review at:


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