5 Lessons I Learned From An Ice Dog

5 Lessons I Learned From An Ice Dog


When you spend your life doing what you were “born to do,” your life will become a constant adventure.

I have just returned from my latest adventure to Finland. Since I have spent more time in Finland than any other country beside the United States, I have grown to love the culture, the weather, the food and the interesting quirks of the Finnish people. During my few dozen trips there, I have presented in over 20 cities across most of the country, but there was one area of Finland I have always wanted to see: Lapland.

Lapland is the northern-most section of Finland. Since this area lies within the Arctic Circle, it is commonly visited by the Finns in the summer. But there are some brave souls that show up during the winter to experience what the word “Arctic” is all about. This past week, I was one of those adventurous, and perhaps crazy, people.

After presenting and visiting TFW facilities in the Helsinki area, my hosts took me to the airport. I had no knowledge of exactly where we were going or what we would be doing. All I was instructed was to pack for “really cold and dark” conditions (cold because it is usually well below zero degrees and dark because there is only sunlight for a few hours a day this time of year.)

The runway at Kittila airport was covered in so much snow I would be afraid to drive my car more less land a plane on it! This airport was so small we got out of the plane on the frozen tarmac (which was the northern most point on the earth I had ever laid my feet!) and had to slide on ice to collect our bags.

We drove to our cabin and got in by shoveling away about 3 feet of snow. We immediately started getting dressed and I followed the Finns exactly how to gear up for the Arctic tundra. The way they seriously checked me over and over to be sure I had enough layers, the proper boots, gloves, hats and face mask, I knew we were going to be challenging ourselves in some dangerous weather.

A guide picked us up in a serious snow vehicle and after a thirty minute drive, we were dropped off essentially in the middle of nowhere. Standing on the edge of a forest, another person emerged from the darkness and told us to follow them into the trees. We walked for about 20 minutes with the only sounds were the crunching of snow under our feet and the occasional howl of a wolf somewhere not far away (which by the way was a little alarming).

We finally made it to a cabin nestled deep in the woods and we stepped inside to the welcoming warmth of a fire and some traditional salmon soup and hot fruit drinks. I still had no idea what we were about to do, but at least the soup was count as a good “last meal” if we didn’t come back!

After eating, we exited the cabin and were met by another person that walked us deeper into the dark woods. As we walked, the crunching of the snow started to by overcome by the howling of the wolves. Since no one was alarmed, I tried not to be too, but didn’t know what was ahead. Then, we came to a clearing which contained pens of 100’s of snow dogs. That is when I realized we were going dogsledding!

We were brought to a dogsled by the guide and spent 30 minutes on instruction of how to drive, brake, push and control the sled. Due to the speed of the lesson (and my complete inexperience with a dogsledding) I was even more nervous as we went over to select our dogs.

When we got close to the cages, something very interesting happened. The dogs were relatively quiet, but when they saw us and the sleds, they started barking like crazy. Each dog was trying to out bark the other and standing between the cages of hundreds of barking dogs it was almost deafening (and intimidating.) At first I thought maybe the dogs were aggressive and were barking at us because we were strangers. But when I asked the guide what they were doing, that is when I received the best lesson of the day:

The dogs were barking because they wanted to be chosen to run!

Since these dogs are born to run, pulling a sled is what they enjoy doing most. Even though it was warmer in their dog houses, they were going wild begging to be one of the lucky few to get out in the freezing cold to do hard work. This may sound strange especially if you really don’t understand the power of doing what you love.

We hooked the dogs into the sleds and as we were getting last minute instructions, the dogs went even more crazy. They just wanted to run so bad, they were barking to let everyone know it. The moment we started, however, the barking stopped and they pulled us through the forest at a comfortable speed for a surreal experience.

As I was mushing through the forest, helping to push up hills, brake on the downhill portions and watch out for tree limbs and deep snow, the idea for this email hit me:


Those dogs let me in on a great lesson. Shouldn’t you be spending your life doing what you were born to do? When you woke up this morning, did you leap out of bed knowing you would do whatever it takes to spend the day on work that exactly matched your skills? Are you barking as loud and hard as you can to make sure you get the job?

If you are not waking up barking “Pick me!” to the universe perhaps you need to spend the rest of 2017 reflecting on what it is you want to do. Even if you find that thing and decide to really go for it, however, there is still work to be done. In addition to the first lesson that you should be spending the last weeks of 2017 to discover the area you love, there were 5 other lessons I received from these ice dogs that can help to make 2018 the year of your uphill climb:

1. You can’t pull everything by yourself.

In order to reach your dreams, you will need a team. Build a great team around you of like minded people and be ok with having to occasionally ask for a little push for help.

2. You have to know when to put on the brakes.

If on your path to greatness things get a little too out of control, you have to be smart enough to pull back and reset. Make sure to take time to recover in order to push even harder.

3. If you are going to stop, don’t stop for too long.

One thing is starting, but the real secret is in finishing through. Seeing things to completion takes consistent effort and too many or too long of breaks will stop your momentum.

4. Put your head down and don’t worry what other people are doing.

Once you get going, you have to do the necessary work. Instead of worrying about other people’s progress, make sure you focus on your own.

5. Pick the right leaders to lead your team.

The speed of the leader controls the speed of the sled. Our sled was slower because the lead dogs were slower. Make sure your mentors and sources of information are always pushing you ahead at the right speed.


Have you experienced the exhilaration of completely focusing on your true passion?

Did you spend your energy this year on what you love to do?

Take the rest of this year, gear up and decide, “What are you barking for?”

Yours in Strength,