The TITAN Arctic Challenge
This past week on the TITAN Arctic Challenge I had the opportunity to drive the ice roads to our most northern community that you can drive to in Canada – Tuktoyaktuk.
It was a journey fraught with danger, cold weather, unpredictability and frankly, a lot of miles.
We departed southern Canada in mid May knowing that we had several thousand kilometres to get under our belts quickly in order to be one of the last groups to ever drive the ice roads to Tuktoyaktuk, a remote Inuit hunting and fishing village in the far northern reaches of Canada.
The project, TITAN Arctic Challenge was in actual fact a driving project with Nissan. Promoting the hashtag #TITANarcticchallenge was going to keep their social media department happy and we were to put two Nissan Titan XD trucks through their paces on the way north to prove they had what it takes to compete with the North American truck market.
So off we want with all my pre-conceived notions of what the journey would be like – long, boring and flat. I thought I knew where I was going. How wrong I was!
Our first real port of call was the northern BC community of Terrace. It was really a service community for other smaller towns and villages in a remote northwestern corner of BC. Again, I had never been and I assumed Terrace was too remote for many people to want to live in and had a couple of nice mountains. Other than that I wondered why people would live there.
The approach to Terrace through the smaller community of Smithers in the Bulkley valley and then the Skeena River valley was astounding. Towering coastal mountains shimmered in the evening alpenglow as we drove in to what was in fact a bustling community.
I met with a friend who had moved back to what was her home town. She was enjoying spending time in the community again and shared a story with me that amazed me. Her grandfather was the first person to build a home there. He returned from the Gold Rush in the Yukon and looked down on a valley that had enough lumber to build a few homes and founded what we know today was Terrace. Now I had known this person for ten years but never knew that story.
For the second phase of the TITAN Arctic Challenge, we pressed on through remote and wild, rugged mountains, north in to the Yukon. Our initial destination – Dawson City, the gold rush town itself. I immediately fell in love with Dawson, a charming, eclectic city that oozed pioneer living, individuality and freedom from a system that binds most people. The community here was just different – and that was OK by me. We only stayed for an evening but vowed to return.
Next on the agenda was the Dempster Highway – which I had researched on YouTube and knew to be flat and boring. A long arduous 700km drive from Dawson City to Inuvik. How wrong I was!
The Dempster highway winds it’s way through the most stunning and beautiful mountain range I Have ever had the privilege of seeing. The Richardson Range is often confused with the Rockies but is really a sub-range of an Alaskan formation. In the arctic circle the permafrost ensures that the snow is maintained from the bottom of the valleys to the top of the peaks and so we were treated to approximately three hours of the most stunning white scenery you could ever imagine. My jaw was on the ground for the whole trip, dreaming of climbing, hiking and skiing trips in this extremely remote corner of the world.
We were now in to the final phase of the TITAN Arctic Challenge.
I knew all about that – or so I thought. 170kms of ice on the Beaufort Sea that would be exciting but featureless and we would end up in Tuktoyaktuk with 800 people who probably did not want to see us there. How wrong I was!
Our first spectators as we stepped on to the ice with the trucks was a pair of foxes sunning themselves on the northern bank of the road, simply watching vehicles pass them by. Driving up the McKenzie river we passed abandoned camps that had been used and were being restored for Caribou hunting. The ice retained a mesmerizing sea green colour as the sun on occasion lit up the bottom of the river bed for us. The road was busy but dull it was not.
On this day, the Arctic Ultra was running. A collection of hardy adventurers from around the world were trying their hand at running 350 miles in arctic conditions. The handful of tired runners that were still pushing to the finish in Tuk dotted the road as we cheered them on.
Just as I was beginning to wonder if we were lost or would ever get to Tuk a small cluster of coloured roofs appeared on the horizon. Prior to that, even standing on the roof of the truck all you could see was a white blanket of snow on the Beaufort Sea. We were about to reach the ultimate destination of the TITAN Arctic Challenge.
On arrival in Tuk, we were greeted by a few young children and their dog. The hamlet, primarily Inuit is focused on hunting Beluga Whales and Caribou. It was an immensely friendly community with people stopping us and asking if we needed any help. They proudly told us to tour an igloo which one of the local pastors had built for visitors to the town. In all, we were there for a about three hours, driving around, talking to a few people and exploring the remnants of a long gone oil and gas boom in the region.
I was completely surprised by the nature of this remote community. The destination was extremely special for me. I am not sure I would ever have a reason to visit Tuktoyaktuk again but I have a wonderful memory of being one of the last people ever to drive across the Arctic Ocean!
The TITAN Arctic Challenge truly was a big eye opener for me.
So you are probably wondering what my five lessons are for getting to where you want to go!
My Five Lessons On Getting To Where You Want To
Some of the points I learned on the TITAN Arctic Challenge are here, in no particular order:
1. Two degrees of separation In business there is a saying that it is all about who you know not what you know. The truth is, many of us spend so much time talking, we forget to listen. The art of conversation is cleverly crafted around asking someone questions about themselves and letting them answer. If I had done that with my friend I would have known sooner about her family history. In business the more you know about the people in your circle of influence the easier it is to get an answer to a question you may have. This of course would allow you to move closer to your chosen destination.
2. Don’t confuse the journey with the destination Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the destination we pay less attention to the journey. It is important to keep our eyes on the prize but frankly it is the journey where we learn and grow the most as leaders. I truly had no clue about the scenery we would be driving through even though I had done some research. In fact, all the team members were in the same position. We were in awe at the scenery as we drove north to Tuktoyaktuk.
3. Sometimes, you are just wrong! Lets face it we can’t be right all of the time. Being wrong simply presents an opportunity to learn and grow. Several times on this trip I was wrong in the planning phases and with my assumptions. While it was not critical on this trip in business making a wrong decision can be critical. The important thing is that you learn and adapt. You must learn to change a bad decision quickly. You own it, you made it, admit the mistake and fix it before it impedes your journey too much.
4. Give it 100% While this is obvious, it is probably the biggest reason for failure. So many business people are indecisive leaders. From #3 you can see that mistakes if corrected are not a problem – they are part of business. Being indecisive is a problem. If you do not commit to the plan 100% then you will fail. It is your plan – you had best be the biggest salesperson of that plan. The extreme example is the military. When an Officer prepares his or her orders and presents them to their leaders, they had better believe in their plan 100% or nobody will follow them in to battle with confidence. Likewise in business, your financiers, investors and subordinates will not be inclined to follow your lead.
5. Believe in good things When we initially left our homes, the ice road to Tuktoyaktuk was closed. We left in total confidence, believing in our plan and believing that the roads would be open. As we ventured further north the ice road did in fact open, however the Dempster Highway closed due to Blizzards. We left Dawson City for the Dempster at the same time it was closed. We did however believe it was going to open. By the time we arrived at the gas station by the snow gates there was a big line up of traffic. We sat down had lunch and by the time we finished the gates had opened and we were on our way. Would the gates have opened if we did not believe in good things? Of course they would, be would not have been there because we would have believed that leaving while the gates were closed was foolish!