Christian Long

Lewis Pugh: Swimming the North Pole

In TED Talks on April 18, 2010 at 10:54 am

Reflection by DERON M.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Lewis Pugh:  Swimming the North Pole

Have you ever tried to get someone’s attention? The first attempt probably didn’t work. What about the second try? Did you go “all in” the second time around to convince that person that your point is valid?

Lewis Pugh went all in.

An environmental activist from his childhood days in England on, Lewis Pugh has often tried to get the attention of world leaders to look into the concept of Global Warming. Pugh’s first pleas for world leaders to help create a more environmentally friendly planet fell on deaf ears. He would not quit. He continued to propose his ideas on Global Warming to anyone who could help to make a greener planet. Then, he got a crazy idea. He would swim one kilometer around the North Pole to show world leaders just how much ice has melted in a place that should be continually frozen over. Within a few weeks of his idea coming to his head, Lewis began an intense training regiment to prepare himself for this monumental swim.

After a year’s worth of training and preparation, Lewis felt ready to embark on his quest to swim the North Pole. He assembled a team of 29 people from 10 nations who all shared the same view as Lewis: Global Warming is for real and we are going to do something about it. A few days into the journey from Russia to the North Pole, Lewis decided to take a test run of his swim in the ocean. To use the language of today’s teens: This was an epic fail. Lewis lasted only five minutes in the -1.7 C water and came out with his hands almost completely frozen.

This is where the average person would give up. People didn’t listen to you the first time, they didn’t listen to you the second, and now your crazy idea has almost gotten you killed. Pretty easy decision, right? Just go home, sit on your couch, open up a bag of chips, and call it a day.

Lewis Pugh is not an average person.

Down on his luck and with his fingers still half frozen, Lewis received some well timed encouragement from his team. He was finally able to get back on his feet and continue to press on to achieve his goal of drawing attention to Global Warming by swimming around the North Pole. But why continue? Why try to press on? To be honest with you, I don’t have the slightest idea. It seems like an utterly stupid idea, to try to press on you had failed so miserably. The encouragement he received from his team and his desire to get the attention of world leaders gave Lewis the motivation to press on.

A few days later, Lewis took the plunge and never looked back. Eighteen minutes and fifty seconds later, it was all over. He did it. Lewis Pugh swam the North Pole. In some of the harshest conditions imaginable for a swim, Lewis was able to brave the freezing temperatures and accomplish his goal.

But what about his original goal? What about getting the attention of world leaders to focus on Global Warming?

Lewis got that done too.

Now everyone from world leaders to young children are listening to his view regardless of whether they agree or not. The point is that he has and their attention and more importantly their respect. Regardless of what you think of global warming, imminent danger to the planet or just another “green” fad, you have to applaud Lewis for going the distance to get the world’s attention.

He definitely has mine.


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