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What the Arctic teaches us

December 16, 2022 – In the time between the years, many people finally manage to read a book again. But which one should you choose? For inspiration, the German business magazine ‘Manager Magazin’ asked well-known personalities for their favorite read. Martin Daum explains why the true story of an adventurous woman from the 1930s fascinates him and what we can still learn from her almost a hundred years later.

The title "A Woman in the Polar Night" is unspectacular - and that's exactly why it fits perfectly. Because the author doesn't want to make herself or her book important. But it is important. At least it is for me.

It is the true story of a woman who follows her husband to Spitsbergen for a year. For Christiane Ritter, spending the winter there means enduring temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius below zero and a polar night that lasts more than 100 days. And she experiences all of this in a tiny hut where the stove emits more soot and smoke than heat.

When her husband is out hunting, she has to stay there alone for days. If they don't kill any animals for longer, there is a danger that they will run out of supplies. To avoid being buried alive, they have to spend hours every day clearing the hut of snow. Because of the storm and the darkness, she often can’t go for a walk, but - as she writes - only crawl around the hut a few times. Fingers and toes were regularly in danger of freezing. And at Christmas a joke is the only gift, there is nothing more.

Christiane Ritter could tell all this in a tone of lamentation and no one would blame her. But she doesn't. It's absolutely admirable how positively she approaches things and makes the best of every situation.

So you can also read this adventure book as a management book. For example, I am also faced with the question every day of whether I want to see the difficulties or the opportunities. And it's clear to me that even if the glass is only ten percent full, that's at least something. Then I focus on that and go from there. I don't let myself be paralyzed by the 90 percent that's still missing.

But it is also a mindfulness book. When it was written in the 1930s, this term was still unknown. But even then, the author describes the deceleration she experiences as she slowly approaches the Arctic by ship. The hectic pace and superficiality of her usual everyday life fall away from her. On Spitsbergen, she lives completely in the here and now, with full concentration on what is truly essential. This contrast would certainly be much stronger today, with our hectic, modern lifestyle.

"Actually, a year in the Arctic should be mandatory for everyone," said Christiane Ritter. "There, everyone would learn what is important in the world and what is not. What counts and what matters in life. Everyone would be reduced to their natural level." For those who, like me, are not made for this, reading this book is already a great help.

Click here for the book recommendations in ‘Manager Magazin’ (available in German only):

Buchempfehlungen: Sigrid Nikutta, Dirk Roßmann, Veronika Grimm, Leonhard Birnbaum, Martin Daum, Ute Wolf geben Lesetipps - manager magazin (manager-magazin.de)