Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

March 24, 2020

How To Find A Way Or Make One.

“Inveniam viam aut faciam.”

That was supposedly Hannibal’s response to his generals’ advice that crossing the Alps by elephants is impossible. It means: “I shall find a way or I shall make one.”

Call it hustle or the grind or doing whatever needs to be done — it’s up to you to figure things out. Rarely does life bring you a rescuer.

Great athletes train their muscles to respond with extreme precision even when the rest of their body is fatigued. A great golfer will often practice a particular swing hundreds of times per day and thousands of times over a year to create a memory for the muscles that make that swing work.

As the golfer perfects the tiniest of details that allow him to place a golf ball wherever he chooses, the muscles that flex and twitch in that process are strengthened.

The better the practice, the better the performance.

Over time, the same muscles are exercised and strengthened. And the golfer develops a subconscious superpower.

Even when tired and stressed, his muscles take over automatically and do what they have been trained to do. He doesn’t need to think about it. He doesn’t need to obsess about it.

He doesn’t need to wonder what’s going to happen. It is almost automatic.

The same is true for the Olympic pole vaulter, a seasoned Southern Baptist preacher, the right forward on a championship soccer team, an elite sales professional, and an amateur runner. 

Deliberate practice creates a subconscious superpower. When things get tough, the body puts on auto-pilot what it has trained and prepared and planned to do.

Which is why it is so important that you develop the right muscles. The right automatic response.

How you practice and what you practice becomes your go-to move when you’re under extreme pressure. 

When things get tough, and you’re backed into a corner, you’re going to respond automatically. 

Despite how self-aware you think you are or how intellectually agile you might be, when things get tough enough you will automatically revert back to muscle memory. 

One of those muscles needs to be hustle.

Fred Smith, a brilliant business thinker, was given a failing grade by his Yale professor because his idea for FedEx “wasn’t feasible”. Today that idea has become a massive corporation that employs 400,000 employees and generates $50 billion per year in revenue.

R.H. Macy, who had a dream to “Be everywhere, do everything, and never forget to astonish the customer”, went broke seven times trying to make that a reality. His department store would be a permanent fixture in New York City.

Robert Goddard, perhaps the smartest astrophysicist in the world, engineered two hundred failing ideas for rockets before he got one to fly into space. His mistakes cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Henry Ford, who transformed business innovation, went bankrupt five times before his automobile manufacturing idea started working. His creditors took everything from him along the way.

J.K. Rowling, the highest-selling author of modern time, shopped her book thirteen times before a publisher would take a look at the first Harry Potter book. That series of books would end up selling 450 million copies.

Hard work. Tenacity. Determination. Resolve. Sweat. Blood. And tears.

You won’t make it if you don’t know how to grind. You won’t come out a winner if you don’t know how to hustle. If you aren’t committed to doing whatever it takes to achieving greatness.

  • When you face repeated failure, you have to hustle.
  • When you get told “NO”, you have to hustle.
  • When you face financial ruin, you have to hustle.
  • When success is unforeseeable, you have to hustle.
  • When conventional wisdom says “it would never work”, you have to hustle.
  • When you are tired and beat down, you have to hustle.
  • When no one believes in you, you have to hustle.
  • When you have nothing else to give, you have to hustle.

Like an elite performer, your default decision in the middle of trouble to hustle and grind is what determines your ultimate destiny.

“Inveniam viam aut faciam.”

“I shall find a way or I shall make one.”

For Robert Peary, it was his life motto. And the words inscribed on his tombstone.

In 1881, he joined the US Navy Civil Engineers Corps, a job that sent him to Key West, Florida on one of his first assignments to do the impossible — build a new Navy Pier that other smarter, more experienced engineers said couldn’t be done.

Most would’ve balked at the request, citing other engineers’ experience or environmental conditions.

For Peary, it was a chance to prove himself and launch his career.

With a bit of ingenuity and hard work, he pulled off the impossible—and saved the US Navy over $675,000. He found the way.

After that, they sent him down to Nicaragua to serve as the chief assistant on a surveying expedition — where he became obsessed with the idea of becoming the first man to reach the North Pole.

But he realized that to be the first, he would have to be different. Radically different.

So in 1886, he convinces his superiors to let him take an extended leave of absence to journey into Greenland to prove America’s superiority on the global stage.

On his first trip across the tundra, he broke every rule in the book.

Peary studied the ways of the native people at a time when experts were convinced that the Inuits lacked any practical Arctic know-how, despite having lived there for generations.

He learned to hunt for food while traveling, instead of ignoring the local animals.

He understood the value of animal skin clothing, wearing deerskin parkas, bearskin pants, and sealskin boots.

He would make a way on his own terms.

He and his team built igloos as they went, instead of carrying tents, to reduce the cargo weight they’d have to transport.

He formed an elite dog team to pull the team’s sleds, instead of having his own men pull them like every other explorer.

He walked in front of his team, charting the path forward instead of driving the team from behind.

And his radical plan led him to be the 2nd man to cross the entirety of Greenland.

But in the late summer of 1891, an accident almost ended his life as he ventured further north. An ice block wedged under the rudder, lurching the ship to one side, pinning down Peary–and snapping both of his shin bones in his right leg.

The doctor said to pack it up. His exploring days were over.

They turned the ship around and headed home to let him find time to heal.

A few months later, he decided to compete against both his own men and Eskimos in a snowshoe race. He won.

Robert Peary would not go down without a fight. “Inveniam viam aut faciam.”

After six more years of exploring and preparing and planning, he gathered a team to help him claim the North Pole for the United States.

This time, he’d attack the North Pole by an entirely different means.

He would sail as far north as he could, trek to an abandoned outpost in northern Canada called Fort Conger, and then make their final push for the North Pole across the ice covering the Arctic sea.

His right-hand man Matthew Henson knew it was a risky plan, but Peary, racing against a Norwegian competitor with the same plan, pressed on regardless.

He and the team finally stumbled into the dilapidated wooden shack that is Fort Conger.

They were so close to success they could practically taste victory.

Sitting next to the warmth of the fire, he had, as he described it, “a suspicious wooden feeling in the right foot,” so he pulled off his boots.

Eight toes had developed frostbite. His legs were dead white from the knees down.

His toes needed to be amputated. Soon.

As he lay in a cot just a few hundred miles away from the North Pole with his dream and his toes gone, he scratched a phrase into the wooden wall: “Inveniam viam aut faciam.”

It was his lifeline to the North Pole. The one thing he could cling to. It was the fire that burned in his soul and kept him alive in the frigid Arctic.

After a month stuck at Fort Conger, the weather finally cleared and Henson led the team south — back to the ship with Peary strapped to a sled. He had crippled himself.

Again, the doctor told him his adventure days were over. 

But he wasn’t accepting that.

In May of the following year, he went further north than anyone else ever. And he did it on frostbitten, toeless feet.

He had to turn back though. It was another failure.

Five years later, he made his seventh trip to the Arctic circle with state-of-the-art transportation, an all-new strategy, and an all-new crew.

The Roosevelt, designed by Peary for this journey, could cut through ice with a 30” steel hull–the first in the world to do so.

He sailed the Roosevelt up to Ellesmere Island, putting him 300 miles closer to glory than any of his previous trips. He only had 450 miles to go.

He planned to cover those miles over the frozen Artice ice with a radically new system: 6 teams with right-hand men, 5 sleds, and more than 15 dogs per team would leapfrog each other and build igloos and set up supply outposts.

The plan involved each team dropping out one by one to make way for the 6th team, Peary’s team, to dash to the North Pole.

It was a genius plan. But nothing went right.

Temperatures regularly stayed in the -50F range. Sheets of frozen Artic water smashed together creating 50 ft high walls of sheer ice that Peary’s men had to hoist their massive 500lb sleds over.

But when the blocks of ice didn’t smash together, currents ripped them apart — stranding Peary from the rest of his team.

They were forced to turn back. Without supplies and their support crew.

They only made it back to the ship by eating their sled dogs, forcing the men to haul the sleds themselves.

It was disastrous. Peary was done. He quit.

He returned home to his family. The dream was over. For years, he would be a professor. His adventures were behind him.

Until he heard of others planning to make it to the North Pole.

He decided that he wasn’t going to let anyone else take what was his.

So in August of 1908, at 52, Peary made what he called his “last and supreme effort.” He determined he would get there or die trying.

So he loaded up the Roosevelt once more and set sail for Ellesmere Island.

The first day after they arrived, as they set out on the frozen Artic blocks, the sled broke down for Peary’s right-hand man Matthew Henson.

After spending a day fixing Henson’s sled, they noticed a dark cloud on the horizon — there was a huge gap in the ice ahead.

Overnight, the gap closed enough for Peary and his crew to navigate from massive ice block to ice block to get across the Artice water before they could continue.

Just days later, another huge gap opened up in the ice. This time, it was a quarter-mile wide and extending as far as they could see.

There was no crossing this one.

So they waited. And waited. And waited. For days, they encamped by the break, able to see the other side, but unable to get to their goal.

After days of waiting, the ice blocks closed enough for them to cross.

On April 1, 1909, Peary took  Henson and four of his best Inuit drivers and 40 of his fittest dogs in a mad, last-ditch sprint for the North Pole.

Five days later and a quarter-century after his first attempt, Robert Peary set foot on the North Pole. He had made a way.

After his death in 1920, the US Congress posthumously awarded him official congressional thanks, an honor once formerly reserved only for war heroes.

Teddy Roosevelt Jr, the son of President Theodore Roosevelt in whose honor Peary named his famous ship, said of the great explorer, “To me, Admiral Peary’s life is epitomized in the splendid lines from Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses: ‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’”.

He was a man wholly consumed by a mission. His purpose was unwavering.

He got knocked down. He lost friends in pursuit of his goal. He was critically wounded and suffered staggering hardship. He went broke trying to figure it out.

Yet he continued.  Unwilling to sacrifice his goal.

That could be you today.

You’ve been knocked down. You’ve been hurt. You’ve lost things that matter dearly to you — friends, health, money, and respect.

“Inveniam viam aut faciam.”  That’s your mission. Find a way. Or make one.

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.