Book Notes: Endurance

Book notes on "Endurance" by Alfred Lansing.


I think anyone should read this book if they are interested in the titular concept: endurance. It all really happened. The book is rich with lessons - wrapped in a gripping narrative format based on the diaries, logs, photos, and interviews of the original crew.

What it's about

It's about something really simple: endurance and faith in its purest form. The journey of the Endurance crew through the Antarctic required tremendous (positive) mental attitudes towards a situation that would have made many give up.

The Endurance crew inspecting the stoppage.

I'm incredibly impressed not just by the technical and navigational feats by sea that him and the crew achieved, but really by the morale that was maintained throughout (with no small credit to Shackleton). It's one of the "happiest" shipwreck situations I've ever read about, probably in one of the most miserable set of locations you could be in.

The Endurance being crushed by the ice in the distance.

Values, lessons and notes

  • The importance of perseverance in the face of things that don't seem "fair" (just keep trucking). Identifying what is necessary and simply doing it.
  • Sliding down a cliff (literally) because it's the only option to survive, despite not knowing what's on the other side. In other words, not waiting for information you'll never get.
  • Keeping a positive mental attitude when the world appears menacing. Avoiding personifications of bad situations (e.g., "the world is just trying to kill me").
  • Upholding your responsibility to others around you. This wasn't only demonstrated by the leader, Ernest Shackleton, but by everyone else in the crew.
  • Extreme ownership mentality and helping your fellow man. Most of the people in the crew were very giving people.
  • Being dynamic and adjustable. Dealing with the world as it is, and not as you want to see it.
  • Numerous times where the crew had to change camps, readjust their plans, and adapt quickly to scary situations.
  • Tradeoff thinking, and seeing each problem as a set of options with comparative tradeoffs.
  • Shackleton was really good at this when making decisions, often very quickly and under threat of injury and death.