Ben Saunders: Acting Without Certainty
- Completed the longest ever polar journey on foot
- Third person in history to ski solo to both the North and South poles
- Three-time main stage TED speaker and a TED “Master Storyteller," featured in the New York Times bestseller, TED Talks: The Official Guide to Public Speaking
- 23 years of experience at the frontlines of climate change, and now an active investor in early-stage climate technology businesses
- Engages and inspires through a journey that demonstrates that "No one else is the authority on your potential"
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The challenges of leading, performing, and executing at the highest level — and in uncertain and unpredictable climates — are familiar terrain to Ben Saunders. The ability to navigate and overcome fear, self-doubt, loneliness, and adversity in pursuit of unusually ambitious goals is what makes Saunders a record-breaking polar explorer, and a speaker whose story resonates with audiences around the world.
While the achievements of this world-leading adventurer are deeply inspiring, it is the hard-won life lessons etched within each voyage — and a career totalling nearly 5,000 miles on skis and more than a year spent in complete isolation in the harshest environments on the planet — that prove most valuable and applicable to his audiences. Faced with leading teams — and motivating both his people and himself — in some of the world’s most unforgiving and unpredictable conditions, Ben has learned the necessity of growing through failure, how to control the controllables, and that acting without certainty is the key to unlocking individual and collective self-belief.
Ben’s achievements are at the outer limits of human endeavour: he organised and led the longest human-powered polar journey in history; a 108-day return journey to the South Pole on foot that spanned 1,800 miles, the equivalent of 69 back-to-back marathons, dragging 440lbs (200kg) of food and supplies in his sled. Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, Saunders describes this unprecedented journey as “a tough camping trip,” with humorous and understated reflection that make him a perennially well-received and engaging speaker.
In addition, Saunders is the youngest person to ski solo to the North Pole (spending 72 days alone on the Arctic Ocean in conditions recognised as “the worst in 25 years,” and holds the record for the longest solo Arctic journey by a Briton. He has also climbed in the Nepalese Himalayas, worked as an instructor at the John Ridgway School of Adventure, and continues to compete as a cyclist and marathon runner into his forties. He is a worldwide ambassador for the Scouts and works closely with the UK youth development charity British Exploring Society.
From the main stage at TED to small screens around the world, Ben is a sought-after and acclaimed keynote speaker. Labelled a ‘master storyteller’ by TED, his three main-stage appearances at the conference have been viewed more than five million times. Through his real-time journal entries, stunning visual content, and earnest reflection, he takes audiences into the unknown. Whether he’s speaking to global corporations or pioneering start-ups, in-person or online, his honesty, humour, and humility enable people to find often surprising parallels between his experiences and their own. (As Ben points out, he “spent more time in spreadsheets than on skis for twenty years”.)
With an intimate knowledge of both the wonder and the fragility of the natural world, Saunders is a powerful advocate for its future. It is a thread which runs through the expeditions he leads, the stories he tells, the future pioneers he mentors, and through his next chapter as founder of Kintanna Ventures, named after a remote Antarctic peak, and a business that identifies, invests in and accelerates pioneering climate technology start-ups.
Thriving in the Toughest Conditions. Record-breaking polar explorer Ben Saunders’ story is ultimately one of achieving highly ambitious goals in the world’s most challenging, hostile, and unpredictable environments. For more than two decades he has built and led world-class teams — selecting and managing individuals that he can trust with his life. He credits his survival — and his success — with some fundamental, hard-won lessons that are almost universally applicable, in business, in leadership and in life, which he shares in this hair-raising talk focusing on overcoming any challenge on the path to success.
The Importance of Honest Communication. When Ben Saunders looks back on the scariest, hardest, and bravest challenges he and his teammates have faced on daring expeditions to the world’s most unforgiving environments, he thinks about how communication has been the key to overcoming the obstacles in front of them. In this talk, Saunders offers business leaders and their people tangible examples for how to remove the barriers to open communication, streamline collaborative effectiveness, and create a culture in which asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather a vital hallmark of a high-performing team.
Controlling the Controllables. Operating and performing in the polar regions over two decades, Ben Saunders has learned the futility of expending his own precious and finite energy and attention on elements outside of his control. He gives audiences a compelling insight into the value of optimizing physical, emotional, and psychological energy — both individually and collectively — through an immediately applicable masterclass on the vital importance of focus. During a period when emotional and psychological reserves are under greater strain than ever before, Saunders’ story has a unique capacity to motivate an audience to remain present, positive, and purposeful.
Investing in the Journey, Not the Destination. For most of his adult life, polar explorer Ben Saunders was driven by a singular ambition: to be the first to complete the Antarctic journey that had defeated Sir Ernest Shackleton and Captain Robert Scott — 1,800 miles on foot to the South Pole and back. The achievement of this goal after more than a decade of focus and sacrifice forced a rewriting of his own definition of success. At a time when the inclination to yearn for a sunnier future is palpable, this remarkable story of the expectation and the reality of achievement is compelling, essential listening that will inspire any individual or team to achieve incredible goals.
Being the Only Authority on Your Potential. An acclaimed storyteller who wows audiences with captivating visuals, Ben Saunders takes groups on a journey from uncertainty, fear, and self-doubt as he navigated gruelling expeditions across some of the most unforgiving corners of the globe, eventually raising the bar in one of the most demanding fields imaginable. His own life journey gives evidence to the belief that “impossible is just someone else’s opinion.” Audience members remain at the edge of their seats as he unravels the mysterious roots of perseverance and delivers insights on how to make the best use of the traits and potential we all possess, but all-too-rarely employ to the fullest.
His story of self-belief is fused with practical and applicable lessons on getting difficult things done in difficult environments, building and managing teams, preparing meticulously, knowing when to pivot, and fulfilling individual and organizational potential — no matter how steep the odds may appear.
A Unique Perspective on Climate Change. In 2004, Ben Saunders skied solo from Russia to the North Pole, a 600-mile, 72-day expedition on foot across the floating pack ice of the Arctic Ocean. No one has been able to repeat this journey since, largely because the Arctic lost nearly 10 billion tonnes of ice in the 19 years that followed. Saunders has spent more time in the polar regions than many career climate scientists, and has witnessed the decline of the places that have shaped him. He is a passionate advocate for sustainable business and the solutions that will tackle climate change and regenerate our damaged ecosystems, and is currently launching his first early-stage climate tech investment fund, Kintanna Ventures. In this talk, Saunders underscores the importance of sustainable business strategies and highlights the ways in which organizations can benefit when they operate for the good of the environment.
WOW, WOW, WOW, he was fantastic! The feedback was great. He did a great job of connecting his travels to lessons learned and related it to business. We will have him again!
I just wanted to sincerely thank Ben for a brilliant closing keynote, everyone absolutely loved it! He was amazing and it was a perfect end to our day.
Well done and thank you to all of those involved in the planning for the NEU Day. I understand it went very well and Ben Saunders’ talk about his adventures in a tough environment was inspirational. It might just get me through the rest of lockdown!
Hey Ben, I wanted to say thanks for your talk during the WEX annual meeting. Much of what you expressed hit home as a 43 year old guy myself. I appreciate you not going corporate buzzword crazy like most past speakers and for going deeper into your true experience.
I wanted to personally thank you so much for that talk! Everyone was smiling, laughing, texting, emailing, you name it – just saying how fantastic that was. I know you have probably heard it a million times, but you really are a great, super articulate, and engaging speaker. It was a real pleasure to listen to you speak to your journey and the personal insight gained through the years. I have a feeling next time we have a live meeting (hopefully sooner than later, after these lockdowns!), everyone is going to want to fly you in just to hang out with us!!!
It has been the most inspiring talk ever by any speaker I have listened to. Thank you so much. It has been very motivating
Thank you very much for joining us yesterday and delivering your outstanding talk against Achieving the Impossible. Really good presentation, lots of humour, down to earth and good life lessons. I’ve had fabulous feedback from across the organisation – both relating to the stories you told, things that people learnt about polar exploration history, and frankly that you were such a nice guy! A highlight of the day.
One of the best presentations I've experienced. Ben's talk was absolutely brilliant. I was riveted to my seat just listening to him.
As a company we have come across many inspirational and entertaining storytellers and Ben Saunders is among the best. Adventure, humour, thrills, despair, achievement and success all packaged into a highly compelling and very well delivered speech.
Personally I was completely absorbed, but more importantly, I have rarely seen this audience so captivated by a speaker before. When we booked you I was a little apprehensive about how you would be received by our diverse, demanding audience, but my doubts were immediately allayed by both the content and the delivery. Your talk was the highlight of our event.
I just wanted to convey my thanks to Ben for speaking at our Ambition Nation event yesterday morning. It was great and we have had some amazing feedback. I personally got some great takeaways about self belief and simply the power of that alone.
You gave us all a wonderful start to the day and your story and experiences resonated so well with the nursing leaders in the room. You have inspired so many of us to understand our own selves and be in charge of our own potential. Whilst reinforcing the significant value of team work based on trust, even when it is a team of two along with the passion to reach your goal amongst all the odds.
Ben was fantastic. We were blown away by what he delivered. His segment was one of the favorites across the entire event. We heard nothing but glowing feedback about his story. Thank you for suggesting him!
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