About fear and courage with polar explorer Marek Kamiński

I’ve met a parachute jumper recently. When I asked him aboutadrenaline, he just laughed and said that at 150 jumps a year there isnone. Do you fear less or more than before?(Are you fearful Or fearless?)

It depends on your lifestyle. If you have one type of activity like parachutejumping and you repeat it 150 times, then of course you fear less. But really, feardepends on what you’ve got to lose. That’s the basis, because if you havenothing to lose, there is nothing to be afraid of. When we have something to lose,we fear! so I have to admit that now, I fear more.

It depends on your lifestyle. If you have one type of activity like parachutejumping and you repeat it 150 times, then of course you fear less. But really, feardepends on what you’ve got to lose. That’s the basis, because if you havenothing to lose, there is nothing to be afraid of. When we have something to lose,we fear! so I have to admit that now, I fear more.When I was going to the North Pole and South Pole – the Artic and Antarticregions were the most important things for me. You could say I had nothing tolose and I even accepted I could die. Now, as I have a family, children, somewealth I started worrying that I might lose it. The longer a man lives the more afraid he is.

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How can we practice courage?

You have to overcome barriers. You shouldn’t think too much. I mean… youshould focus on here and now, and not on negative or worst case scenarios. Onone hand when I have a barrier to overcome and I feel fear I always take it apart,divide it into smaller chunks and see if it’s really that dangerous and then I give ita try.How can we practice courage? By doing things we’re afraid of under somecontrol, e.g. you can do a tandem parachute jump. If you’re afraid of people, trytalking to them to see that it doesn’t hurt. People are afraid of many different things. Things like mountains, sport,parachute jumps are luxuries that we buy and we only think we’re afraid of them.Real fear is the fear of what is here and now, it’s the fear of life.

To practice courage we need to find the meaning of life and stick to it. When we’re afraid of something, we can trust our intuition because it’s good thatwe feel fear. There are many dangerous things out there in the world which canend badly. But you should ask yourself: is this fear justified or not? Is it worthbeing afraid? Courage doesn’t mean you do anything that crosses your mind.That’s often stupidity. Courage is about realizing that there is something moreimportant than fear. There are things which are more important than fear andthen it’s worth overcoming this fear. How did I practice courage?

I did dangerous things in my life but I always gained the necessary experience and know-how before doing them. Of coursesometimes it was a rollercoaster ride. I could have died, but I was lucky. There
are also extreme situations when exhaustion is so great that it switches off thefear. A man does things which can end badly and he survive

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Joe Simpson a British mountaineer says that he loves difficulty but thehates danger – so he has always tried to be on the side of challengesand not danger 

Exactly.

How can we help people on the team who are afraid. Because it’s onething to deal with it yourself and yet another to deal with people whoare afraid. What can we do to reduce fear so that they can do things despite being afraid? 

There are many ways of working with fear. First is communication, information.Secondly: treating people like partners – forgiving mistakes, accepting that whensomeone does something for the first time, they make mistakes. To ensure thatpeople are not afraid of making mistakes because the fewest mistakes are madeby those who do nothing. It’s crucial because fear of punishment paralyzes people.

And in an extreme situation?

It depends. Setting an example. There is a bookby Schackleton – Schackleton’s lessons. He said that he always kept those whofeared the most close to prevent the fear from spreading and to motivate. Youmust be close to these people without judgment because judgment only deepenstheir fear

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And what helps during the expeditions

It’s a good idea to give examples from your own experience: it’s bad today, buttomorrow it can change for the better. There is no point in extrapolating anythingon the basis of this moment.Normal help: Once we were coming back from a summit in Greenland, we stillhad 11km to the base camp when the weather broke down. Two people werecompletely exhausted, could not pull the sledges anymore, so I took some of theload, motivated them by saying that the camp was near. When someone sees the gesture of help, it motivates him. Your own example,conversation, communication. I’ve experienced it myself many times. I was in theDolomites on via ferrata where there are many unsecured places and I was therewith a guide. We talked, he told me it wasn’t as bad as it seemed.Encouragement, kind words, helping hand is what counts. And you mustn’t ignorethe fear of the other person, but rather try to get in their shoes and understandwhy they’re afraid.
People are afraid of flying. These are irrational fears that are difficult to overcomewith logic, but you can’t ignore them. Try to get to the bottom of these fears.Sometimes a person succeeds and moves on, and sometimes they just stop intheir tracks and say they’re not going to continue – they’ve reached their limitsand that’s it. If it happens you need to evacuate this person. Motivate as long asyou can, but understand that there are situations when motivating the personwho is afraid requires so much energy that it puts the rest of the group at risk. If that’s the case, let go.

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I would like to ask you about your peace of mind… Where does it comefrom?

I can be moody sometimes as well but generally I believe that by keeping calm Idon’t waste energy on useless things. Negative emotions, judgments – they drainour energy. I’d say it’s an energy preservation rule: don’t waste energy, save itfor when you really need it. In our civilized world we have very few reasons tolose this peace of mind – we create negativity, we drain ourselves unnecessarily.I try to stay calm – it gives strength to live your life

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