The pursuit of excellence

'To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.'  Oscar Wilde


How often do you find yourself lost in a daze, deep in thought, idealising the life you feel you should be living, or the person you ought to really be…yet ultimately never really commit to these thoughts in order to live a truly authentic life?

I recently caught up with Justin Packshaw MBE, a man who has based his life’s purpose on facing this challenge head on, in the world of exploration. This mindset has placed Justin at the summit of Mt Everest and at both poles, amongst other incredible adventures. If not at the frontline of outdoor adventure, Justin sees himself as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and is currently the co-founder and CEO of the award winning luxury fashion label, De Roemer. Alongside running De Roemer he talks worldwide to businesses, corporations and other organisations on ‘The Science of Achievement’ and ‘Leadership’.

Captivated by this approach to life, I recently caught up with Justin to get an insight into a mindset that constantly strives for excellence. This is what he had to say.


1. As a motivational speaker you show people that individuals are capable of great things. Is that part of why you take on these adventures?

Yes it is part of the reason and certainly more so as I get older. I talk to businesses, organisations and schools all over the world on the‘Science of Achievement’ so the subject fascinates me.

Extreme expeditions are an incredible backdrop to show individuals and teams, what their true potential is, more often than not, igniting something in them which will have a dramatic effect on their outlook of life. What does that really mean though? 

My read on it is it is all about being your best, wanting to learn, to improve, to feel good, to walk tall, to strive for excellence.  All are true sentiments and powerful war cries but this can be very difficult to do sometimes. We know that these are all important aspects of us developing and yet sometimes they are almost too tough to start. In my experience having been a soldier, a professional sailor, a keen adventurer and running my own business is that everything is possible and all you have to do is ‘believe’ and get involved. Just start. Never forget that humans are meant to excel and when one starts realising how capable one is and how adaptive the human spirit is, you will realise that anything is achievable. Throw in a bit of determination and persistence and you will have a fairly good chance of reaching any of your goals.

When I look at some of the leaps of faith that I have taken in my life which have ended up shaping my destiny and often enriched my soul they have all come down to a few key points. I have always tried to ‘dream big’ and being the youngest of four children I had to develop a‘can-do’ attitude quite early on and this has really helped me overcome a lot of the obstacles that life can throw at you. Success does not come easily and one will always have to be tenacious, so set goals, work hard and have as positive a spirit as possible. Really. Positivity and enthusiasm will get you a very long way and they are wonderful characteristics in anybody, so harness them. Around all of this try and do everything really well and be your best. Make yourself the very best that you can, obviously this will take dedication, graft, resilience and discipline but the results will have you soaring like an eagle.


2.    How do find your life helps to motivate people?

This always surprises me but then I have had a life ‘less ordinary’ and it has given me an interesting perspective on lessons learnt and I have been extremely fortunate as I have learnt from some of the world’s best. In a nutshell though, I feel that people relate with my story as we all want to go and explore and human endeavour is so appealing. As I said in the last question, it is important for everyone to realise that everything is possible and all one has to do is follow ones dreams and just get involved. Life is short and you just have to get stuck in and start fuelling your soul with the things that are important. Remember to have fun along your journey, always have a conscience and make sure you look after this magnificent planet of ours.

All of us have the ability to find that something special deep inside when it matters most. It is not a transient, chest-beating form of motivation that fades when the going gets tough, but is the unique magic of the human spirit that sustains us, the discovery of that core drive, which keeps us going through the darkest times; an instinct to achieve and a quiet strength that pulls us through to the other side. The realisation that no-one is super-human is integral to motivating yourself correctly. Know that we are all fragile but understand that as humans we are built to excel. The right kind of motivation is about finding that little bit ‘extra’; the vital word that defines the difference between something ordinary and something ‘extra’ordinary.

I am also a huge advocate of teamwork. Everything in life is so much easier when you have people you trust around you. I have been lucky enough to have sampled the very best of this as a soldier, in many of my adventures and as a professional sailor. Good teamwork is all about honesty, friendship, protection, respect and loyalty and if you can create these, everything is possible.


3.    A lot of people would consider you lucky to have an opportunity to dedicate your time to these bold adventures. How did you make this your career?

Simple answer is belief! To be honest though, it is not really my career as my day job is running my fashion label, De Roemer which I own with my very talented wife, Tamsin de Roemer. However, my alterego is properly happy when I am in some remote corner of the world testing my wits and viewing nature full-on! Philanthropy is a big part of what I believe in too and my expeditions now generate fantastic awareness and money for important social and environmental issues so they have almost become a business in themselves as we have raised millions of pounds so far.

As I have said before, it is vital that you incorporate thing’s in your life that fuel your soul and I have been lucky enough to have been able to do this. It’s a story about knowing that the harder we try and the more of our heart we put into things that matter to us, the luckier we all become. And that actually we make our own luck. It is about not being afraid to be close to those around you, and about every persons’ ability to make a positive difference to someone’s life, no matter how big or small. It is all about belief in yourself, belief in your teammates, belief in the world around you, and belief in a cause.

With a fair wind behind your success will come to you and is all about thinking on your feet, coping with change, coping with conflict, believing in the strength of your team and being determined enough to see the tough times through. It comes at every stage of a journey, not just at the end. The celebration of small victories is just as, if not more important, than the celebration of a final goal. These small celebrations maintain and inspire motivation, teamwork and morale.

Remember, you only have one life and it is imperative that you really pack it in. Live it hard, give it your best shot, have fun and try and do things that make you happy.


4.    What's next for Justin Packshaw?

There is much going on at the moment and I have two exciting trips planned for next year. The first is a motorbike trip in East Africa and the second is a trip back to South Georgia in the Southern Ocean to do a diving expedition. We are also super busy at De Roemer and I am also writing a book, so life is certainly not dull!