What Can the Shackleton Expedition Teach Us About Men and Dating?

Mar 21, 2022



The recent thrilling discovery (at least for history buffs like me!) of the Shackleton Expedition ship the "Endurance" reminded me of an anecdote about the planning of that trip that can teach us a lot about men and the male archetype. 


Years ago I was watching a PBS special about the Shackleton expedition, and when I heard the text of the advertisement Shackleton placed in the newspaper when searching for men for the trip, I was aghast. It read:


Men wanted for hazardous journey to the South Pole. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.


 I was thinking, “Oh my gosh, I would never reply to such an ad. He made the job sound horrible!” But then again, I’m a woman. Feminine energy tends to value peace, safety, and security.


In writing about Shackleton in his 1944 book Quit You like Men Carl Hopkins Elmore discusses this ad and the response it received:


Sir Ernest Shackleton when he was about to set out on one of his expeditions, printed a statement in the papers, to this effect: ‘Men wanted for hazardous journey to the South Pole. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.’ In speaking of it afterward [Shackleton] said that so overwhelming was the response to his appeal that it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him.


The fact that Shackleton received an overwhelming response to such an ad (to the extent that it is featured in the book The 100 Greatest Advertisements of All Time, no less) reminds us of an important tenet of male energy. A strong feature of male energy and the male archetype throughout history, legends, stories, and movies, is that of rising to overcome a worthy challenge.


“But I want to meet a special man, not explore the Antarctic, so what does this have to do me?” you might ask.


The overwhelming success of Shackleton’s ad demonstrates the truth that men in their masculine energy will take great interest in rising to the challenge of overcoming worthy obstacles. Men find challenges interesting. The flip side of this is that sometimes men find a “sure thing” or a “convenient” option boring.


Women who wish to meet a special man do themselves and men a great disservice when they try to remove all the obstacles to make it easy (too easy) for him to see her. Examples you might relate to of women making it too easy for a man to see them include canceling or rescheduling plans with your friends or family in order to be able to go out with him, accepting a date on a night that’s not convenient for you in order to match his schedule, mentioning that you have two tickets to an event (saving him the time/trouble/money of planning a date), or offering to drive to his area so he doesn’t have to drive to yours.


Men need a certain amount of challenge to feel alive, and find great reward and satisfaction in testing themselves, proving themselves, and ultimately finding themselves worthy after accomplishing a challenge.


In more recent illustration of this principle, my beloved late father would go on hunting or deep-sea fishing trips from time to time (which is ironic because I’m vegan but that’s another story). When he would return, he would regale my mother and me with the stories of how the rough seas on the backside of San Clemente Island during a fierce storm nearly capsized the boat, or how he got stranded in the wilderness thirty miles from the nearest road in the Canadian wilderness and he wasn’t sure he’d make it out alive. My mother and I were horrified and wondered why he would keep going on these trips, because they sounded so miserable to us. But then we noticed that when he would tell us how hard the conditions were, his eyes were twinkling like the electricity was on too high. In other words, he was in his full glory rising to the occasion and overcoming these challenges, and would return feeling energized and happy. He never had the same twinkle in his eye or pep in his step after outings that were routine, safe, or easy-going.


Too often modern women approach dating or relationships with almost a “motherly” energy of “Here, let me do it for you, I’ll make it easy, I’ll make the plans, I’ll do the legwork.” They think “helping” achieves a better or faster result. It’s the opposite. If you have found yourself dumped, ghosted, or with men who won’t commit, ask yourself if you have made seeing you too easy and convenient.


Men need to feel a bit of Jospeh Campbell’s concept of the hero’s journey in order to fully feel alive. When you proceed slowly and let him prove himself to you, and let him be the one to remove all the obstacles to seeing you by himself, you both win. You protect your heart by taking your time to get to know him before getting close physically or emotionally, and he gets to experience the best within himself of rising to the occasion to really earn those moments when they finally happen.


I love a win-win.


When in doubt, remember that Shackleton ad and know that a worthy challenge can bring out the best in a good man. Never remove an obstacle between you and a man. Allow him to think of a way to address the challenges himself and you will both be better off for it. Remove an obstacle for him and a man tends to quickly grow bored; he may lose interest in you, typically then moving on in search of someone that presents more of a challenge. Remember that men find challenge interesting (and some would say, a necessary ingredient for living their best life).  


 - “Coach Cori” at the Love Academy for Women


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