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Alex is best known for his numerous expeditions to Everest and his climbing of the seven summits, the highest mountains on all seven continents.

Alex Harris

‘THE LONG WHITE NIGHT’

On the 17th of January 2008, Alex Harris became one of the first two South Africans to walk unsupported and unassisted to the South Pole. It was a journey that took 65 days and covered almost 1200 km. It was, in Alex’s words, “the hardest thing I had ever done”.

This was a journey in the same league as Shackleton’s or Scott’s expeditions. No expedition to the South Pole is easy, however, to do it unsupported and unassisted meant undertaking what is arguably the most gruelling thing a human could do.

For 65 days, Alex endured winds of up to 80 km/hr and temperatures of -40 C.  Carrying sleds of 130kgs, Alex and his partner had to cover 20 kilometres every day if they were to stand any chance of reaching the Pole before their food ran out.  To further complicate this already daunting task, Alex broke one of his skis on day 6.  Alex also had the inside of his left thigh frostbitten by high winds.

Finally, just when they thought they were on top of things, the largest front of the century settled over Antarctica and it snowed for 9 days!  Whiteout conditions prevailed, where visibility was zero and thick snow made it almost impossible to achieve their daily distance.  Yet somehow they managed to stick it through and arrive safely at the South Pole.

Tough journeys are a part of everyone’s life, whether it’s a trip up Kilimanjaro, a seemingly unattainable sales target, or uncertainly in our careers.  We all face them and we all have the ability to come through them but this requires setting intentions and hard work, as nothing comes about by chance.

Alex’s talk looks at the fundamental need to plan and prepare.  To fully understand the environment you are going to operate in.  Alex discusses the critical need to set realistic goals.  1200km on skis seemed an impossible journey, but when it was broken down into degrees of latitude, days and time… even one hour to the next… it became possible.

It’s the same for all of us.  Sometimes the goal is so daunting that it wears us down just thinking about it.  The trick is to distract yourself with the manageable tasks that occur daily, but to understand the power in these seemingly insignificant steps.  “We only got to the Pole by taking it one step at a time, and then combining them… day after day after day”.

Finally, Alex talks about the need to have a sense of purpose in our lives.  One of the most profound sensations after getting to the Pole, was the flight back.  For six hours, Alex stared out of the window at the snow below, trying to see some trace of their passing or a sign of how they had suffered... but there was nothing.  Their tracks had been blown away by the wind or covered over with snow.  In a sense, this can be our lives if we are not intentional, gone like a vapour.

Alex closes by discussing the deep and profound need all of us have to make a mark. To feel like our lives have counted for something.  This is where purpose comes in. When we begin to have a sense of purpose in our lives, we become more intentional and consequently more effective. Not only do our lives benefit but our teams and our organizations benefit as well.

Effective people make excellent people, and all of us were made with the capacity to be excellent!


What Do Clients Say?

“Alex will enthral any audience with his stories of conquering challenges.  His integrity and authenticity make him all the more captivating.  Most definitely the best motivational speaker I have ever encountered.  You are in for a treat – but then I am an unashamed Alex Harris ‘groupie’!”
Bernard Swanepoel, CEO Harmony Gold

“Your presentation was the perfect opener for our Alumni function…they found it very exciting and inspirational.”
Andrew Waller, Partner in charge - Deloitte & Touche

“The majority feedback from our staff is that they feel you are a fantastic speaker, you kept our attention and certainly I am sure you have inspired some of our staff to follow through on their own dreams, be it work or personal and aspire to their own heights.”
Sulveigh Ho, Intravel Manager – Flight Centre

“Alex Harris was extremely professional, passionate about his experiences and very motivational in his presentation.  Our members found him interesting to listen to and were very impressed with his attitude towards the achieving of success.”  
Richard Saxby, Managing Director – Murray and Roberts Civils


Duration: One hour keynote address

‘FACING YOUR OWN EVEREST’

"Everyone sometime, somewhere attempts to scale their own personal Everest, ours just happened to be the real thing."

Every so often, a story comes along that teaches us more valuable lessons than we thought possible - this is one of those stories.

At the time when the whole of South Africa was watching the much-publicised summit of the first South African Mount Everest expedition, five young friends decided to do the same, but they attempted to summit the more difficult side of Everest - the North Side.

The sad part of this story is also the most valuable lesson, because after setting their goals and attempting to achieve their dreams, they never reached the top of Everest.  These young men were defeated by something they could never have predicted.  The weather!  After seven weeks on the side of the mountain, in temperatures averaging 40 degrees below zero, the Monsoon winds virtually blew them off the mountain.

Alex Harris 2

The story holds invaluable lessons: from the point of view that whether an individual or a company sets its goals and doesn't achieve them, you can't give up.  The most successful companies in the world have had months and years when they did not achieve budget, but they didn't give up and the lessons from this story are the same.

This one-hour presentation, accompanied by unbelievable slides begins like this:

"Everyone sometime, somewhere attempts to scale their own personal Everest, ours just happened to be the real thing.  Eight thousand, eight hundred and forty-eight metres of towering snow and ice awaited the arrival of five friends who had a dream of climbing Mt. Everest - Goddess Mother of Earth.

The organisational logistics that encompass a well-provisioned attempt on Everest are enormous. How does one prepare for an assault on the world's highest mountain, hampered by the restraints of both time and money?  Well in the three months before our attempt we learnt the answer - 'with all your heart and teamwork!' Our commitment was second only to our drive, enthusiasm and teamwork, something that would stand us in good stead in trying times to come.

One hundred rolls of toilet paper, 648 packets of two minute noodles, 990 Bar Ones, numerous packets of Tastic Rice and pasta, enough jelly powder to set the Vaal Dam, and last but not least, four guitars.  This was but a fraction of our two tons of equipment that we needed to reach for our dream.

In the planning, we realised that each individual in the team had to handle one particular facet of the logistics.  It took us months of planning, organising, collecting, collating, exercising and motivating to pull it all together.  If we did not operate as a team, even at this early stage, our plans would never have come together."

Alex’s presentation begins as the expedition leaves South Africa and the story to follow is an amazing journey of interesting facts, fascinating slides and valuable lessons.

The trials and tribulations that this team had to endure in order to stay together serve as valuable lessons for any sales team, management team or company team.  Without the solid foundations of a good plan, a sound strategy, dedicated planning and strict implementation, this team would not have accomplished what they did.

What’s in store for Alex in 2013?

The ABSA Empty Quarter Expedition

Alex Harris 1


Alex has recently lead a team who broke the world record by being the first men to cross the Empty Quarter (Rub’al Khali) in the Arabian Peninsula; unsupported in February this year. Their walk was approx. 1000km in length, walking north from Salalah in Oman and ending in Dubai.

The Empty Quarter is one of the driest regions of the world and it is virtually uninhabited and largely unexplored. The terrain is covered with reddish-orange sand dunes with heights of up to 250 meters, interspersed with gravel plains and salt flats with a typical annual rainfall of less than 35mm.

This hyper-arid desert is 650 000 square kilometres, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, including the southern quarter of Saudi Arabia and areas of Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. This is more than the combined land mass of The Netherlands, Belgium and France.

Alex and his team had to endure extreme temperatures averaging at 37 degrees Celsius, quicksand, the possibility of suffering heat stroke and dehydration as well as pulling an expedition cart that weighed around 350 kg’s which contained all of their supplies.

The team was headed by Alex and included entrepreneur and CEO of Eurocom, Marco Broccardo and David Joyce, an experienced endurance athlete and the owner of Nimbletech.

ABSA is the proud sponsor of the ABSA Xplore Empty Quarter Expedition.

“Teamwork has laid the foundation for ABSA’s success”
Stephen van Coller, Chief Executive for Corporate Investment Banking and Wealth Management.


Alex is due to race the Tour Divides in the United States in June of this year in the ‘Great Divide Mountain Bike Route’ (the Canadian Rockies to the badlands of the Mexican Plateau)

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