Ben Saunders

Record-Breaking Polar Explorer, TED ‘Master Storyteller,’ and Climate Tech Advisor

  • 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
  • Striking visuals, engaging stories and relatable, immediately applicable lessons for life and for business; tailored for main stage keynotes and virtual events
  • 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 often in complete isolation, are familiar terrain to Ben Saunders. Navigating and overcoming self-doubt, loneliness, uncertainty, and adversity in pursuit of a goal 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 — totaling 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 some of the world’s most unforgiving and unpredictable conditions, Saunders has learned the necessity of growing through failure, how to control the controllables in fast-changing environments, and that acting without certainty is the key to unlocking individual and collective self-belief.

His achievements are at the outer limits of human endeavor: he organized 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 the type of 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 recognized 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, Saunders is a sought-after and acclaimed keynote speaker. Labeled 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, humor, and humility enable people to find often surprising parallels between his experiences and their own. (As Saunders 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 cofounding partner of Kintanna Ventures, named after a remote Antarctic peak, and a business that identifies, invests in and accelerates climate tech innovation.

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Speaker Video

Ben Saunders: Acting Without Certainty

Ben Saunders: How To Get Seemingly Impossible Things Done

Ben Saunders: Staying Positive in Times of Doubt

Storyteller and Polar Explorer: Ben Saunders

Ben Saunders: "Welcome to The Scott Expedition"

2018 London Showcase Recap

To The South Pole & Back—The Hardest 105 Days Of My Life

Ben Saunders: The Importance of Failure in Success

Staying Motivated and Resilient in Isolation. In many ways Ben Saunders is the ultimate ‘remote worker.’ On his record-breaking solo expeditions, he has to perform at the highest level while several thousand miles away from his colleagues and team that he has to be willing to trust with his life. This physical fragmentation – rich in logistical and psychological challenges – is something businesses and their leaders the world over have been plunged into in recent times.

This new normal is what makes Saunders such a valuable, timely, and relevant speaker. Drawing on his experiences – of more than a year spent cumulatively alone in the Arctic and Antarctica – he shares his hard-won lessons on sustaining resilience, personal motivation and emotional wellbeing when the chips are down.

Making Honest Communication Easy. “The more remote you are, the more your ability to communicate openly, honestly and frankly becomes a lifeline.” Understanding how human truths can be hidden behind digital platforms – and knowing first-hand the harmful impact this can have on high-performance teams – Saunders offers business leaders and their people tangible examples of how to remove the barriers to open communication, and to streamline their collaborative effectiveness.

Controlling the Controllables. In an era when global headlines have painted a challenging, unpredictable, and seemingly insurmountable outlook, Saunders 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.

Operating and performing in the polar regions over two decades, he has learned the futile nature of expending his own precious and finite energy on elements outside of his control. “The fear at a cloud pattern signalling a storm, or the anger at a persistent headwind are a waste of energy. They are factors and variables that I cannot change.”

During a period when emotional and psychological reserves are under greater strain than ever before, Ben’s story has a unique capacity to motivate an audience to remain present, positive, and purposeful.

Dealing with Change and Overcoming Adversity. Saunders has had to adapt to operating environments that are constantly in flux. Fighting against these vast natural forces is hopeless; success and survival depend solely on his ability to flex with them.

In the depths of his longest-ever expedition – nearly four months in Antarctica – Ben made the decision to call in an air drop of food as hypothermia and exhaustion threatened him and his teammate. He describes a sense of failure in the moment, but also a vital decision he now views as the proudest of his career – made in the face of adversity, and an object lesson in the importance of being willing to ask for help.

Investing in the Journey, Not the Destination. For the majority of his adult life, 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. “I used to see success as a finish line – achieving your goal. A literal threshold at some point in the future. To me now, success looks more like continuing to strive well. In business, of course, there is no finish line.”

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.

Exploring the Pioneer in All of Us. On expeditions in profoundly ­­hostile and uncertain climates – where the best-laid plans invariably and inevitably dissipate ­– Saunders has had to improvise with severely limited resources. This metaphorical scenario is being faced by businesses around the world, and there is no better qualified guide in this crucial test of leadership.

Being the Only Authority on Your Potential. As a master storyteller, and supported by spectacular visuals, Saunders takes audiences on a journey from uncertainty, fear and self-doubt, to eventually raising the bar in one of the most demanding fields imaginable. It is a life journey that gives evidence to his belief that “impossible is just someone else’s opinion”, that unravels the mysterious roots of perseverance, and delivers insight on how to make the best use of the traits and potential we all possess, but all-too-rarely employ to their fullest.

His story of self-belief (a human quality Saunders views as “a muscle – you can only make it stronger by stretching, testing and challenging it”) is fused with practical and applicable lessons on “getting difficult things done in difficult environments”; selecting and managing teams, preparing meticulously, knowing when to pivot – or to seek help, and fulfilling individual and organizational potential, no matter how steep the odds.

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