Sir Ranulph Fiennes – 6 lessons from an Extraordinary Adventurer

Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, OBE is the world’s greatest living adventurer according to the Guinness Book of Records.  Fiennes has visited both Poles on foot, circumnavigated the globe, run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days (at the age of 61), and this year climbed Mount Everest at the age of 65.  He continues to find and achieve the extraordinary despite undergoing heart bypass surgery five years ago and having lost the ends of several fingers to frostbite (legend has it he amputated the ends himself in his shed with an electric saw).  So what are the secrets of this extraordinary adventurer?

 1.     Have a vision

Fiennes is a visionary.  He conceives astounding feats and then sets his mind to achieving them.  He has built a life and career doing the extraordinary.  Fiennes does not limit his thinking or ambition and truly believes everything is possible.  Once a vision is fully formed, he starts finding a way to make it happen.

 2.     Plan carefully

Prince Charles has sponsored several of his expeditions and described his circumnavigation of the globe as “a mad and suitably British enterprise.”  Fiennes disagrees and outlines the importance of meticulous planning, preparation and practice, adding ”These expeditions are very carefully planned and entirely feasible. Now if you were talking about, I don’t know, hopping to the south pole on a pogo stick – that would be mad. But not what I do.”

Fiennes devotes enormous amounts of time working on his mental attitude and developing his physical abilities to allow him to successfully achieve the extraordinary.  He gets the very best support teams and equipment to give him the best chance of success.  His planning is second to none in the world of exploring.

 3.     Face your Fears

Fiennes had never undertaken mountaineering until his late 50s due to vertigo and “a morbid fear of heights”.  During his life he has faced many of our most common fears head on: fear of failure, fear of isolation, fear of death.  His example in climbing the world’s highest mountain shows what is possible when you don’t let your fears hold you back from taking on new challenges and extending your comfort zone.

 4.     Keep on Trudging

During his recent Everest expedition Fiennes was asked what kept him going.  He simply replied “I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and trudging forward, thinking that there is no end point to the journey”.  Fiennes’ fierce determination comes from living in the moment rather than fixating on the end goal.

 5.     Never Give Up

Fiennes had two aborted attempts at Everest before finally conquering the peak.  In 2005 on his second attempt, Fiennes suffered a minor heart attack during his ascent.  He refused to see these attempts as failure and spoke of his “bull-headed determination” being key to finally completing a successful attempt.

 6.     Inspire others

Fiennes expeditions are all designed to support charitable organisations.  He pushes himself to help others less fortunate than himself, raising millions for good causes.  Fiennes is also a highly-sought after motivational speaker and shares his experiences with thousands of people every year.  Fiennes achievements are bigger than his own personal glory and this drives him to push on where others might give up.

So what can you learn from Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, OBE?

  • Create your vision – what is your next extraordinary project or achievement?  Don’t box yourself in or limit your ambition.
  • Plan carefully – take the time to prepare properly – what skills do you need to develop, who can support you, what are your specific goals?
  • Face your fears – what thoughts and fears might stop you?  How can you overcome them?  The right mental attitude is essential to increase your chances of success.
  • Keep on Trudging – Stay in the present and focus on the next step rather than fixating on the end point.  Give each small step your full focus.
  • Never give up – an unsuccessful attempt is not a failure.  Take time to work out what you learnt and what you’ll do differently next time.
  • Inspire others – share your vision and achievements with others and inspire them to do the extraordinary.

Related posts:

  1. Less is More Extraordinary – Terminator Salvation
  2. Extraordinary Support – A Dad Less Ordinary
  3. Extraordinary Effort – Sweat the Small Stuff
  4. Gandhi and Gareth– Extraordinary Commitment
  5. Extraordinary Passion – Find your Purple Cow


  1. Casey L. Carlson
    July 16, 2009 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Personally I like the inherent connotation of a “mad enterprise”. Wouldn’t it be exciting to consider your own career aspirations within that context? Essential to Fiennes success are both the creativity of his goals and the discipline in his approach. Thank you for recalling and applying Fiennes experience.

  2. Matt Pritchard
    July 27, 2009 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Such a good word on living intentionally, Phil. Thank you! You’re a good man.

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