I have to say, today’s letter is a little difficult to write. As the Mentor, I can’t tell you how many heroes I’ve helped, and how many villains they have had to face. And I think it’s safe to say at this point that I’ve seen it all: sure, the first ten times or so you see a fire breathing dragon or evil wizard you quake in your boots, but after a while, you know it just comes with the territory. But after all these years, there’s one villain I’ve come to fear more than all others—one enemy that still strikes terror in my heart, no matter how many times I’ve had to face them down.
In fact, I’d go so far as to call this enemy my archrival. They’re the real evil mastermind behind all the other villains I’ve faced, pulling the strings behind the scenes. And every now and then, I find a hero who sees through the plot—who sees through the dangers and distractions of their immediate situation and sees the real villain behind it all. And nowhere do I see that more clearly than in the story of one of my favorite real-life heroes—Shackleton.
Shackleton had set out to explore the Antarctic, but his ship ran aground on an iceberg, and he gradually came to the realization that they were stuck. He knew he faced many monsters: the biting cold, the dwindling supplies, the decaying ship slowly being crushed by the ice. And yet in the midst of facing all of those things, people said this about him: “Of all their enemies— the cold, the ice, the sea — he feared none of them more than demoralization.”
That’s the kind of hero Shackleton was—one who understood the true enemy they were facing. He understood the real issue wasn’t the ice, the snow, the cold, or the elements. He already had everything he needed to overcome the obstacles they faced. The real challenge was to keep everyone on track, to keep the spirits of all uplifted, or else the real enemy would sink in: demoralization. Demoralization that says we’re stuck, there’s no way out, there’s no hope. Demoralization that says there’s nothing you can do about your circumstances. Demoralization that says you should just roll over and stop trying.
So when you find yourself facing insurmountable odds, fighting extreme circumstances, or backed into an inescapable corner—remember the real enemy you’re fighting: the attack on your own morale. Because sometimes, the only thing you need to endure is that little spark of hope, the belief in your own endurance.
May the road rise up to meet you!