My Lessons from the Arctic

I just recently returned from a trip to Iqaluit the capital of Nunavut in Canada’s north with an amazing group of friends from YPO.

Reflecting on my short time in the Arctic what really stands out is the contrast between the extreme conditions and environment, and the humility and gentleness of the Inuit people and their culture.

It was truly a trip I will never forget from Throat Singing and eating Narwhal whale and seal stew, to hiking to The Hudson’s Bay outpost built in 1670, driving ATVs over the rugged land and watching the Northern Lights.


Now that I am back home, sitting in my office, here are 3 lessons from the Arctic that will serve me, and I trust that they can serve you too.

#1 What’s right in front of you?

Going to Iqaluit had never crossed my mind until it was put on my radar. It was right in front of me, but I had never actually taken the time to pay attention to it.  This is reflective of so many other things at work and in life.

Is there an opportunity that’s right in front of you? That you are overlooking? Or maybe it’s something that you are taking for granted? 

Here’s a chance to: stop, acknowledge and do something differently.

#2 “If you sweat you die” – Keep it simple

We had some amazing speakers. Sgt Yvonne Niego an extraordinary leader and female role model who shared her stories of growing up in Nunavut and of her journey within the RCMP. Joe Frey, a geographer and scientist who spoke about his knowledge of the Franklin Expedition and his experiences of being a part of this summer’s recovery. Geoff Green who is a champion of our earth and founder of Students on Ice and Paul Seamus Hogan who was a winner of The Polar Challenge a grueling 4 week race in the Magnetic North Pole.  Truly exceptional people.

(As an aside, if you have teenagers I would highly recommend researching Students on Ice, where teenagers are part of a 2.5 week floating classroom full of international students doing research and experiencing the Arctic or Antarctic.)

It was something that Paul shared that really stuck with me.

“If you sweat you die”.

This simple statement got me thinking about “What am I making more confusing than it needs to be?”.

What can I simplify in my life to bring me more joy or peace?

How about you?

#3 The Gift of Leaving Your Routine

It doesn’t have to be something extreme like traveling to the Arctic, but there’s so much value in consciously doing something different within your regular day or routine life. It can be as simple as heading out for a walk during your break or tonight, inviting someone new for coffee or signing up for the class you’ve been meaning to take, etc….

Just do it purposefully.

The Inuit people relied on each other to survive and thrive because they couldn’t do it alone.

Nor can we.

This is the exact reason that I create these posts, to be a weekly reminder that the details around us won’t change, it’s just how we choose to navigate them that will.