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I was delighted to meet Ann Daniels recently. She looked fantastic in purple dress and matching high heels, in contrast to her normal working outfits on the ice. We were both shocked to discover hours had passed while we were talking. My only concern about telling her story here is that while it can inspire any of us to take on greater challenges, it’s quite likely that a few of us will just want to lie down at the thought of what she has achieved! Also these are only a few highlights. I also had the chance to have a sneak preview of her book which I hope she publishes soon as I know you would love to read about her in more detail. [powerpoint whitewaterwomen.eu/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/world-first-5.ppt 490 400] Click here to download original file (Please pass this on to anyone in your organisation who would be in a position to authorise the amazing sponsorship opportunity that this first would make) Growing up, Ann didn’t do particularly well at school until eventually she realised she was bright and could succeed so pushed herself to get good results. Under pressure to get out and get a job, she was working at Natwest before her 16th birthday. With no clear aspirations, she did well, moving up the organisation. She asked to do banking exams but was told she didn’t need to, while her male counterpart was given day release to study. Often working at the level above her pay grade, training someone a grade above, then going back down to her own level, she was not being promoted. Eventually she ‘found her voice’ asked for promotion and started to progress faster. Hoping for children, after a series of surgeries she opted for a limited course of IVF treatment. Told that if they returned 3 embryos she had a 17% chance of a single birth, she agreed to all three and became pregnant with triplets. Immediately she felt very strongly that she didn’t want to lose a single one. She loved her pregnancy and eventually gave birth to her three babies. Leaving the hospital a well – meaning nurse said, ‘Having a baby isn’t easy. Accept that, with three, you won’t cope’.  That decided her! Without nannies, but with lots of planning, schedules and strategies, Ann just decided to cope and enjoy her babies. These experiences give big clues to Ann’s coping strategy –a pragmatic, determined approach to dealing with life’s challenges. When the triplets were 18 months old, Ann’s husband heard of a project involving ordinary women being given the opportunity to walk to the North Pole in a World record attempt. He suggested she apply, as she was always envious of his adventures in the navy. Ann was very nervous. When her kit list arrived she had none of the equipment and couldn’t afford to buy it but by begging and borrowing from friends she assembled what she needed. 200 women applied – many were outward – bound instructors. She was the only one who knew nothing! On Dartmoor, the weather was dire. Carrying her rucksack, shoulders in agony for 10 hours, Ann hated it but she chatted to people, offered to do all the rotten tasks and so stood out. Asked to think what it would be like when they reached the North Pole, she really caught the dream. After 4 days on Dartmoor, training with the SAS, getting one hour’s sleep at a time, amazingly, she began to love it. Finally, there was a road race competition.  While everyone else paced herself, she decided to really go for it. She won! She was picked for the first leg of the expedition – always the hardest- but a real honour. That gave her 9 months to train. Life became manic. Friends taught her to read maps and pack a rucksack. When her children slept she trained in the back garden, skipping, running circuits or had an hour down the gym each morning while the babies were in the creche. The house was a tip! The media latched on to ‘Mother of triplets goes to the North Pole’. Needless to say, she has had to endure criticism from both the media and other women for having left her children to complete the trip. She knew the children were with their adored grandparents and that she would be away 90 days out of 365. The rest of the time she would be with them full time. When they reached the Arctic it ‘blew her mind’ and she knew she had found what she was meant to do. As a city dweller she saw that it was nature at its best. Her next adventure involved putting together an all female team for the South Pole. No women’s team had yet done the whole journey rather than a relay so that was the next challenge. More women had been on the moon than had been to the North Pole. Five of them set off eventually after funding was finally raised. It wasn’t all easy though! With temperatures of minus 30-40 for the first 27 days, dropping to minus 60-70 due to the wind chill, storms which prevented them getting the tent up for shelter, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, deciding whether to pee in your cook pot before or after you ate in it (before, by the way), members of the team being injured and having to leave for the sake of the rest, it was vital to keep focusing on new targets all the time – what had to be done next, the goals that had to be met. One particular fear concerned the immersion suits they dreaded wearing. Challenging their fear by donning the suits to cover thin ice, one of the party went through into the ocean. They mastered the fear and saw the suit as a tool, nothing more. Even on the penultimate day of the journey to the Pole it was still not definite they would make it so they cut back on any unnecessary activity and pressed on, Union Jack in hand. They came excitedly to the last ridge, navigating with watch and sun, then used the GPS as the ground is constantly moving in open water. The planes were coming. They were getting desperate when suddenly their island moved into position over the exact North Pole. No-one had ever, in 6.3 billion years or would ever again, stand on that piece of ice in that exact place. The news hit every front page and deservedly made the News at 10. Meantime in her personal life, Ann was in a new relationship. The triplets were 9 years old. Having warned her partner of her inability to have more children, she was investigated for a suspected cyst only to find herself pregnant. Her daughter is now 8 years old. When she calls the children from the ice, they are never too bothered about what she is up to – much more concerned with stories from their own lives. Ann has been a Pathfinder for scientific expeditions, leading the whole team ensuring that they achieved the right pace, collected the scientific samples and were in the right place for the best photography. They hit every target. She has had 5 polar bear encounters. Ann was wearing a beautiful silver polar bear necklace the day we met. Ann knows she has always been good at assessing and taking risk. However, like so many other women her confidence has not always kept track with her achievements and she has doubts about whether she is good enough. When asked to be a guide, she realised she had done more than anyone else. She continues to work on her personal barriers. While very confident in the ice world, she is still building her talent in the corporate world, learning to project her passion and belief. Ann’s advice for life:

  • Don’t whinge about what you can’t do but look at what you can
  • When people tell you you can’t do something, just try harder
  • Always have a plan and keep going till you achieve your goals
  • Find the best in everything
  • Don’t compare with others’ success – look at what you can do, see what is important to you and do it
  • Believe in yourself and be the best you can be
  • As women, it is up to us to make the changes in ourselves
  • Don’t be afraid to fail, keep pushing new boundaries

The qualities you need to succeed:

  • Determination
  • Bloody mindedness
  • Pragmatism
  • Having a vision
  • Clarity about what is important
  • Resilience- don’t do stress just plan to achieve your goal

I was a bit concerned about the large suitcase and rucksack Ann was carrying when she left our office, but when she waved away the offer of a taxi I remembered that there aren’t many taxis at the North Pole . . . . and this was one determined, wonderful woman. The next big challenge: No woman has ever gone solo to the North Pole. ‘Now is my time’ she says. Her aim is the world record. Ideally, if she can raise the sponsorship in time, she aims to go in February 2012 – Olympic year. If it takes longer to raise sufficient finance in time she may have to wait till 2013 when she will be 47. In this context, age does matter she says so she only has a two year window. So we all need to get our skates on and do what we can to ensure that Ann gets corporate sponsorship!

We’d love to hear from you!