I can remember the moment clearly. I was on the 28th floor of an office tower, with views spanning across Melbourne on a crystal-clear day. This was one of the biggest pitches of my life. If I could nail this, it would be legendary and would open the door for one of the most impactful and innovative projects of my life. With me, was a team of experts in their respective fields, each who had been briefed and was prepared to present. Suits were pressed and shoes w;ere shined.
As our client walked in the room with a smile, I realised it was not just a few people we were presenting to, but a throng of executive leaders who were interested in the solution we had crafted. The board table filled up, someone was sent for more chairs from another room and people spilled out of the door, poking their heads around the corner to listen in. My heart was racing, palms were clammy but all the same, I loved every minute. A hush fell over the room and I savoured the moment that all eyes were on me in anticipation. Then nothing. A blank screen.
“You’ve got this” I thought to myself and pushed enter. Again… nothing. “It’s fine” followed by a mouse click didn’t help either. The presentation I had perfected over weeks wasn’t there. The parachute wasn’t opening. I could feel a silent scream rising inside. I had lost my gadgetry and I was starting to panic. As my colleague rose from her seat to investigate, I could feel I was going to lose my audience. Without the tech, what did I have left? How would I fill the space?
Described as a cross between Tinkerbell and The Terminator, at 5’3” and 59 years of age, the diminutive Rosie Stancer is a polar athlete and explorer. Amongst many other expeditions, Rosie has embarked alone on a solo expedition of 1000km with no resupplies and a sledge of 120kg to the South Pole. She smashed all previous records reaching the Pole in 43 days.
She has also skied, climbed, and swam across the frozen arctic ocean, alone for 84 days, setting another world record as the furthest solo expedition to the north by any woman.
Why does she do what she does? Rosie says that it’s not just about exploring geography, but rather what drives her is exploring her capability and potential. She is continually amazed by just how much she can achieve when pushed outside her comfort zone. When her body can no longer physically endure her circumstances, she describes her mind as picking her up and propelling her onwards.
An extreme example of this was on her solo treck to the North Pole. She developed frostbite and was quite lame to the point that she would make camp each night on her knees. Eventually she was confronted with the daunting task of amputating two of her own toes to continue. “In that reality,” Rosie says, “you do what is necessary to go on.” For her, what became necessary was the creation of an alter-ego; a surgeon who instructed her in a deep and authoritative voice while she merely executed his instructions. She simply says,“This spared me the squeamishness of it.”
This is not the only example of Rosie’s mental adaptability in extreme situations. She describes herself naturally as less of a Field Marshall and more of a Lieutenant, but of course, this is not necessarily what is needed in extreme and life-threatening situations. Rosie often finds herself listening to the deep and commanding inner voice of authority who instructs her actions when she finds herself in a tight corner. She has come to call this voice "The Field Marshall" who she describes as having come galloping to her rescue on several occasions.
I know the Field Marshall well.
It was on that day in the office tower in Melbourne that the Field Marshall came to my rescue. Before the panic could take hold, a voice somewhere inside said “Stop! You know this. You wrote this. You don’t need a slideshow… just talk about what you know.” Eventually the technical issue was resolved, and the slideshow flashed to life, but what won the business wasn’t the slide show. It was my knowledge accompanied by my adaptability and ability to rely on my instinct and inner voice.
Our inner voices can be our biggest asset and our biggest adversary. By bringing them to life, they can also be our greatest superpower. Have you noticed what your inner voices have been saying to you lately? Perhaps it’s time to reimagine the various characters these voices belong to and reflect on the value of their messaging.