7 Lessons From the World's Greatest Explorer

05/12/2015 12:54 pm ET | Updated May 11, 2016

Recently, I had the pleasure to interview Sir Ranulph Fiennes - the world's greatest living explorer - for Spartan Up! The Podcast. Fiennes has an arsenal of backbreaking, boundary-pushing, life-risking, hard to believe stories; the type that transport you right to the very places he triumphed over. From a heart attack on Mount Everest to establishing world records, from discovering a lost city to amputating his own fingers for survival, Fiennes inspires.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Last month, Fiennes successfully completed the Marathon des Sables - the toughest footrace in the world The race is a six-day, 156 mile journey through the Sahara. Of course, after hearing his stories, that doesn't seem so bad; even for a 71 year old.

Below are seven lessons I learned from the World's Greatest Explorer.

1. Success is what you do next.
There are those who look back on past successes and rave about them. Then there are those who succeed and think, "what's next?" Those who are great learn from the past while always thinking ahead. "You are only as successful as your last movie," Fiennes said, quoting Spielberg.

2. Every significant action needs a reason.
Why does a man risk his life mapping a totally unknown area? For Fiennes it was all about his reason - his wife. Virginia "Ginny" Fiennes was a fearless British explorer and the first woman ever to receive the Polar Medal. "In 1972 my wife decided we would be the first to [explore the North and South Pole] in a single journey without flying one meter of the 52,000 miles," Fiennes said. "Nobody was grittier than her."

Find your reason, and it will be your inspiration to keep going even when you are convinced you can't go on.

3. Do something today because you may not be able to tomorrow.
Know that when you put off an opportunity until tomorrow, it may not still exist - whether it's applying to a job, completing an assignment or asking someone on a date. Take it from an explorer who describes his job as "a lost art."

Fiennes defines an explorer as someone who "maps a completely unknown area, which unfortunately means that after the advent of polar satellites, you can't anymore. But we were there five years before polar satellites."

4. Try going around the obstacle.
Fiennes recommends that the best way to deal with risks is to avoid them. He's become an expert at utilizing the strength not only of his body, but his mind. "We became good at not going over obstacles but going around them. Rather than [going straight at them] we have a cup of tea and work out how to go around them."

5. Do something that has never been done.
If this concept seems daunting, that's because it should. Whatever is your job in life, whatever project you are currently working on, aspire to do something completely original. There is so much that has yet to be done.

Fiennes won records and gained fame, but his goal was simply to challenge himself. Fiennes stated: "It isn't a challenge if it's been done before by human beings."

6. Ignore the wimp in your head.
The true meaning of grit is ignoring the whiny wimp in your head who says, "No more." Often we spoil the wimp and give it what it wants, but the skill to silence that noise will make all the difference. Grit means "keeping at it in a rather unintelligible manner" Fiennes said. "It's necessary sometimes if you find you are really up against it."

7. You are never too old to face your fears.
This is hard to believe: the World's Greatest Explorer was afraid of heights all his life. At the age of 60 Fiennes realized fear was irrational and decided it was time to overcome this obstacle. "I thought I'd confront it...obviously the place to confront it is the tallest mountain which is Everest..." It took Fiennes three attempts and a heart attack to make it to the top.

Spartan Up! The Podcast can be found at, on iTunes, Stitcher, and YouTube.

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