Lessons entrepreneurs can learn from history's greatest adventurers

Business is an adventure, as entrepreneurs across the globe keep telling us. If that’s the case, what can entrepreneurs learn from the world’s most famous adventurers and explorers?

Amelia Earhart

Perhaps the world’s most famous female adventurer, Amelia Earhart was the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Much can be learned from her passion, determination and perseverance but one of the greatest things that entrepreneurs can take from Earhart is her attitude toward risk and failure.

“Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it,” Earhart wrote in a letter to her husband ahead of her 1937 attempt to circumnavigate the globe. “Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”

Despite the fact that Earhart’s attempt ended in her disappearance, her attitude to failure is one that many entrepreneurs should adopt – seeing it as a challenge, rather than the end of the road.

Amy Johnson

One of the most influential and inspirational women of the 20th century, Amy Johnson was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930, as well as setting a string of other records throughout her flying career.

However, she started her career as a typist for a firm of solicitors. It wasn’t until one Sunday afternoon at a loose end she boarded a bus that took her to Stag Lane Aerodrome in North London. Captivated by the biplanes she saw taking off and landing, she started to spend her spare time at the aerodrome.

Johnson’s story serves as a reminder that entrepreneurs should never be afraid to try something new. Whether that’s as significant a pivot as going from a typist to a pilot, or something smaller within the same industry – Johnson’s achievements show that deciding to make a change can lead to much greater things.

Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary’s ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 would never have been possible without the right team around him. The expedition was led by Colonel John Hunt, and consisted of a 350 porters, 20 Sherpa guides, and just 10 climbers.

During the climb, Hillary had made a deliberate effort to develop a good partnership with Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa guide who would become his partner in the summit attempt, according to George Band, another of the climbing party. “It paid off,” Band told National Geographic. “Hillary and Tenzing were the logical second party for the summit. But this was not determined at the outset, only during the course of the expedition as it evolved.”

Hillary’s relationship with Norgay shows entrepreneurs the importance of having a good team around you – and investing time in getting to know them. 

Neil Armstrong

Long before he became the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong was interested in flight and aircraft, and had a drive to be at the forefront of the field. According to a New York Times obituary, he told his biographer that he was disappointed when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947 when Armstrong was just a teenager.

“I was disappointed by the wrinkle in history that had brought me along one generation late,” he said. “I had missed all the great times and adventures in flight.”

Of course that wasn’t quite true – Armstrong became a test pilot of aircraft, undertaking several flights at 4,000 miles per hour, before eventually becoming an astronaut and going down in history as the first man on the moon. None of which would have happened if he hadn’t had that passion – so take a leaf out of Armstrong’s book and maintain your passions, even if other people beat you to it.


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