12 Life Lessons from trekking 80 km across the Arctic


Last month, my co-director, Charles Riches, and I set off on the Arctic Circle Rat Race. It consists of 81 km across the snow in northern Norway and Finland. 

We traversed the frozen tundra using Fat Bikes, cross-country skis, and snow shoes, where daily temperatures rarely exceeded minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

If that wasn’t hard enough, we camped on the ice in small tents which had a distinct lack of creature comforts!

I’m pleased to report that Charles and I both made it across the finish line and enjoyed a well-earned celebration at the end. Reflecting back on the experience, I think there are a number of similarities with your financial planning journey.

1. Teamwork makes the dream work

The Rat Race support crew was world-class and was there to help and support us on every step of the journey. There were times that I needed them to fix a broken ski or grab a hot drink to warm me up, and they never let me down.

Surround yourself with the best people you can find to support your journey. I’d like to think that the Capital team is your financial support team—we’re always here to offer advice or words of encouragement if the going gets tough.

2. Preparation is everything

In personal finance, as in extreme adventures, it pays to spend the time and effort to be as prepared as possible. 

Organise your finances, update your Will and LPA, ensure your paperwork is in order, and be clear about your investment portfolio and the plan that supports it.

Leave nothing to chance.

3. 90% of stuff doesn’t matter

Sleeping in a tiny tent in the snow at -18 degrees tends to focus one’s mind on what’s truly important.

The financial media, investment ‘gurus’ promoting the latest get-rich-quick scheme, and social media – none of them matters in the end. 

Aim to focus on what really matters, such as how you want to enjoy your life and ensuring that you’re on track.

4. Doing hard things builds your resilience

I’ve experienced a few adventures, including climbing Kilimanjaro, and this was by far the toughest physical experience of my life. But I did it, and I know I could do it again. 

It takes courage to stick to your financial plan and stay invested during the temporary market declines. But knowing that all market declines are temporary and that they soon give way to permanent advance is what determines a successful investor from a speculator

When the tough times appear, just keep going.

5. Mind the Gap

When you’ve done 21 km across the snow and know you’ve still got 10km to go before you stop for the day, it’s easy to feel despondent.

In those moments, I’d turn around and see my footsteps stretching back as far as I can see and remind myself of how far I’ve already come.

Sometimes you can feel despondent about your progress. However, if you pause and reflect on the last ten years, you’ll be proud of what you’ve achieved.

6. Laughter is the Best Medicine

Despite the conditions and exhaustion, we found plenty of time for some real belly laughs. As I listened to some of my fellow Racers’ exploits over the years, I realized that I wasn’t the only person who could tell long stories!

Look for the funny moments in life and spend time with people who make you laugh.

7. Fit for Life

Your health and fitness are vital in business and life. Life comes at you fast, and you’ll need plenty of energy to handle the inevitable challenges. Do your best to maintain personal fitness whether that’s a round of golf, a game of tennis or a long walk.

‘If you don’t make time for wellness, you may have to make time for sickness’

8. You’re never too old

The group ranged from people in their twenties to some well into advanced middle age! I was the oldest finisher of the race, and that gave me a sense of quiet satisfaction.

Never think you’re too old to start a business, learn a new skill or embark on a new challenge. 

Age is just a number.

9. Appreciate the small things in life

When you’re trying to sleep in a tiny tent when it’s -18 degrees and blowing a gale outside, you tend to appreciate the small things we often take for granted.

A hot drink, a warm meal and a good night’s sleep will solve most of your ‘problems’.

Stop and look around you and be grateful for all the good things in your life.

10. Family is everything

I couldn’t articulate why I signed up for the Race, but deep down, I wanted to make my children proud of their Dad.

The look on their faces when I returned and hugged them tightly was worth every step I took across the ice.

11. Just Do It

Whatever you want to do, be, or achieve in life – commit to it.

Your goals should be driven by your actions, and anything you want to achieve demands that you take action—stop overthinking and just do it.

An ounce of action is worth a ton of intention.

12. Enjoy the journey

When I crossed the finishing line, I received a heavy bronze medal with the words ‘Arctic Circle Rat Race Finisher’ on it. It felt great to receive it, but I knew it was mainly symbolic.

The real prize was the experience itself.

In our rush to reach the finishing line, don’t forget to stop and ‘smell the roses’.

Life is a journey, and it should be savoured one day at a time.

Enjoy it!

Alan Smith

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