ESOP Association Blog

Record-Breaking Explorer Ben Saunders to Keynote EO2021

What kind of inner strength does it take to traverse the most remote and unforgiving places on Earth, alone and thousands of miles from nowhere? Legendary explorer Ben Saunders knows. And we’re honored to have him with us for the opening day of Employee Owned 2021 to help kick off our conference with his inspiring and motivational insights.

Spend a little time with Ben Saunders and you’ll be convinced that anything is possible, no matter how difficult the challenge. A record-breaking explorer, he has spent that last two decades leading polar expeditions. He has traveled more than 4,500 miles on foot in the polar regions, and is one of only three people in history to ski solo to both the North and South Poles. He holds the record for the longest human-powered polar expedition in history, traveling 1,795 miles from Ross Island on the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. That’s the equivalent of 69 marathons in a span of 108 days, all while pulling more than 400 pounds of food and gear on his sled!

In discussing his accomplishments, Saunders says he’s fascinated by “human endeavor in the broadest sense of the word. I’m driven by a desire to educate, inspire and enable others to live more adventurously, and to make the most of the 650,000 hours or so that we each get on this planet.”

During so much time spent in the harshest environments and climates on Earth, with the nearest human being thousands of miles away, moments of self-doubt and anxiety are sure to occur. How did Saunders deal with all these pressures while being able to maintain his focus on his ultimate goals?

Ben Saunders’ experiences are highly relevant to ESOPs today, especially as so many of our members are coming out of long periods of isolation and still face many challenges and uncertainties. We hope you’ll join us in Las Vegas to learn from and be inspired by Ben as he shares his thoughts about life and reaching the very limits of what is possible.

Like all of us, Ben Saunders spent a great deal of time in lockdown during the depths of the pandemic, and saw many parallels between his previous experiences and what the world was going through. In a recent blog, Ben shared five lessons for business leaders that he learned from his adventures:


Fill the Gap With Humility – “The more remote you are, the more your ability to communicate openly, honestly and frankly, becomes a lifeline.”


Make Honest Communication Easy – “Communicating with genuine openness and honesty – particularly for a leader – can be hard, which is why, in an era of isolation and anxiety, narrowing the gap between suppression and expression is crucial.” 


Control the Controllables – “Personally and professionally, it pays to be mindful of where and how you are committing your energy. Are you applying your bandwidth to actions within your control, or are you hemorrhaging this finite and precious source in channels you are powerless to affect?”


The Destination is the Journey – “I used to see it as a finish line – the accomplishment of a goal. I now see it as continuing to strive well.”


There is a Pioneer in All of Us – “On my expeditions – with only the limited resources I could haul in my sled – when best-laid plans dissipated, I had to improvise. Businesses around the world faced this same scenario, and I have been inspired by the many examples of ingenuity among audiences I’ve met through a webcam and a screen.”


What’s most fascinating about Ben Saunders is not just his accomplishments, but the lessons, self-actualization and personal growth he has accumulated along the way. These traits, combined with his abilities as a master storyteller (according to TED, where he has spoken three times), make him the ideal keynote speaker to open this year’s Employee Owned conference. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to hear from such a unique leader and person, so register today!

Ben Saunders will be giving his keynote address at 3:30 p.m. (PT) on Wednesday, November 10. In addition, Ben will also be speaking at a breakfast with our CEO Series participants, and will also be joining us for a dinner with UPENN CEO Leadership Program Alumni.