Winning Concept – The 20 Mile March

Gwyn GillissWritten by Gywn Gilliss

Winning Concept – The 20 Mile March

Creating a Successful Marketing Campaign

I love reading about adventurers, explorers, those who dared to strike out and accomplish something major. Even if they didn’t change the world, their stories are worth hearing about… inspiring to say the least. And there’s a lot to be learned in reading biographies of these extraordinary people. You can apply their choices to your life as a Warrior- Actor.

For example, THE SOUTH POLE. A story of two adversaries. Amundsen and his counterpart, Scott, were both extremely courageous men, two very different (and probably difficult) personalities. Jim Collins, best selling author who wrote Good to Great, and Great by Choice, explores the personality traits of highly successful CEO’s and of each explorer. Because that’s what it gets down to in life- PERSONALITY. PERSONAL TRAITS.

WINNING isn’t about following the rules- It’s not a paint by number system to set up your personal life, your career, your challenges or your happiness. It’s about your basic nature and how you choose to deal with adversity. It’s about STYLE, PERSONAL CHOICES, PLANNING, THE WILL TO SUCCEED and PREPAREDNESS -understanding your business and how to conquer it. It’s about creating your own SYSTEM.

WHO won the challenge of discovering the South Pole and WHY?

Hiking to the South Pole some 650 miles through life threatening terrain, unlivable conditions (temperatures at 70 degrees below zero), incredible gale force winds, snow blindness, ice floes breaking up under you and blizzards – after an arduous sail to a dangerous harbor in the worst of weather -is a pretty major CAMPAIGN. So is a career in the Arts…maybe not as dramatic.

Polar Exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised.” Cherry-Garrard (young explorer with Scott)

Scott had style, personality, temperament but an unwillingness to be really PREPARED. He took a lot for granted -that his supplies would last- he planned just barely enough to get by IF ALL WENT WELL- that his ponies would survive (never testing to see if they could endure the cold), that his men could just keep going with innumerable delays, hardships, accidents and illness and that he himself would be “lucky”. He didn’t do any extra training seeing himself as a “fit” individual. He didn’t require extra training by his men. Nor did he do any trial run in extreme conditions. Not knowing exactly what he was getting into, he operated from an optimistic point of view which actually turned out to be arrogant and ignorant. His goal was scientific discoveries- Penguins eggs among other things.

They ran out food, got off course hundreds of miles, ran into bad weather (he called it “bad luck”), frostbite and snow blindness. The ponies “sweat” from all the labor of carrying the supplies and then froze to death from the ice on their coats. And the engines in his motor sledges cracked the first few days. So his men had to drag the sleds themselves for hundreds of miles. Not having a strict plan or daily “quota”- they hiked, rested, stayed in tents for days during blizzards- losing time, using up food supplies, losing morale. So they got behind, ran into more problems, starved and suffered. The expedition “went south” pretty fast. (bad pun, sorry).

Amundsen had a different personality- you might call him an A type or just maniacal. He was extremely cautious, paranoid, thorough, super-prepared and an intensely disciplined individual. He had lived with Eskimos for months to learn what it’s like being in extreme cold. (move slow, don’t sweat- it’ll turn into ice and kill you). He had eaten raw dolphin meat to see if he could handle it in an emergency if food ran out and that’s all he could kill. He studied the art of dog sledding and learned how to select the best dogs for the climate. They survive better than horses because of their fur and require less food. He planned on killing the weaker dogs to feed the stronger ones as they went along. They’re also carnivorous- ponies aren’t. For his own physical training, he biked over 2000 miles from Sweden to the Mediterranean to see if he could do it in a limited time. He planned 3 tons of food for 5 men whereas Scott had planned on 1 ton for 17. Amundsen set up black flags every few miles – easy to see in the snow in case they lost their way. He hid stashes of food and medical supplies every 10 miles. He even planned on getting lost and left supply depots miles in either direction of his planned path. He brought several compasses and thermometers to Scott’s one which cracked the first week out. “Bad luck”, Scott kept saying. Amundsen’s personality was stronger. His will was greater. His persistence unlimited. His knowledge very complete. His goal was reaching the pole more than scientific interest.


If the weather was good they would march 20 miles. If it was bad-there was a blizzard they would go 10-11 miles or as far as they could. But the rule was MARCH EVERY DAY- no matter what. He NEVER STOPPED. They averaged 15 miles a day. His men knew what to expect-they were focused. They were careful. So they never let up. They would have been left behind if they couldn’t keep up. Having calculated several mishaps and delays he still got to his destination on the EXACT day he had planned. Mission accomplished.

Amundsen got to the 90th degree latitude, claimed the South Pole for his King and trekked back to safety before worse weather moved in. His timing was perfect. His “luck” was being prepared.

Scott got to the same place months later -only to find his competitor’s flag and claim in place. But he had bad timing as bad weather was setting in and he never got back. They ran out of food, got lost, had no support system, no hidden caches of supplies, no hope. His body and those of the men left in his company – most had died off with incredible suffering- were found frozen to death 8 months later by a rescue team.

LESSON: Be prepared before you start any endeavor. Study, train and understand the terrain you’re facing. Know your priorities – Conquer your challenge with a SYSTEM. Expect the worse case scenario times 10 – have several back up plans. KEEP MARCHING! NEVER STOP!



Gwyn Gilliss is the Founder and Executive Director of TAM, The Actor’s Market, a marketing firm for actors. They provide monthly FREE seminars/teleseminars, FREE weekly marketing tips as well as access to top photographers, graphic artists and videographers who provide every marketing tool an actor needs. Gwyn’s acting career spans several decades during which time she appeared on and off-Broadway, in classical roles in American Repertory companies in over 18 contract and recurring roles in Daytime/Prime time TV, Films and dozens of network commercials/V.O.’s. As the foremost Marketing/Career Coach she is available to work One-on-One with ready-to-succeed actors.


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