Pushed to the Limits

After getting laid off and divorced, Ian Evans wanted to do more with his life. At 60, he just completed one of the hardest expeditions on the planet.

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Ian Evans’ business card says: adventurer, motivational speaker, business consultant. That first part is an understatement. Over the past two decades, in addition to his professional pursuits, Evans, 60, has climbed five of the world’s Seven Summits, run 10 marathons and cycled solo across Australia, around Iceland and to the Arctic Ocean. Yet it’s as good an attempt as any at summing up this life well-lived. Evans’ most recent expedition in 2015 saw him ski from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, putting him in an elite group of adventurers who have accomplished what many have called “the hardest expedition on earth.”

“I feel most alive when I am in the middle of nowhere. I feel more content and who I really am when I’m self-sufficient and away from the over-complexity of today’s urban lifestyle.”

While Evans is clearly not your typical baby boomer – a movie, Lunatic, was even made about his Antarctic adventure – his reasons for pushing himself will be familiar to many people nearing retirement: He needs a break from his busy city life. Instead of going to Florida or Palm Springs, though, he climbs mountains. “I feel most alive when I am in the middle of nowhere,” Evans explains. “I feel more content and who I really am when I’m self-sufficient and away from the over-complexity of today’s urban lifestyle.”

The Elora, Ontario-based owner of Ian Evans & Associates Inc., a consulting firm specializing in the restructuring and refinancing of transportation companies, wasn’t always an adventurer. Two decades ago, Evans was CFO of CP Transport, which ended up going bankrupt. He tried to restructure and sell it, without any luck. He lost this job and his marriage ended, too, all in the space of 60 days. It was his “Armageddon moment,” he says. “I was 40 and suddenly I had nothing. No money, no family, no career. I had to start again.”

How did Evans recover? He sat down and wrote out what he was good at, what he wasn’t good at and what he wanted to do. “Then, I just went after it,” he says. He formed his own company, got his first client and then met his current wife a year later. While he had been on a few expeditions before, he also decided he wanted to travel more and push himself even further.

Evans, who gives regular motivational talks across Canada, says that anyone can push themselves – whether in business or in life – the way that he does. His first tip is to break seemingly complex tasks into individual parts. “When people see a company in trouble, they’re often overwhelmed and try to look at the big picture,” he says. “When I’m at base camp on a mountain, I never think about the summit or I’ll freak out. I break each problem down one at a time. I’ve nurtured and developed that skill.”

Another piece of advice Evans espouses is to learn to say yes more often. “If you think about stuff long enough, you can always find a reason to say no. I tend to make those decisions relatively quickly and then figure it out later, because if you stack up all the objections you’ll just psyche yourself out,” he says.

Ultimately, though, his main message is that anybody can do what he does. He doesn’t think he’s extraordinary, but “if you are determined enough, have the aptitude for it and just decide to take the first step, you never know what you can achieve.”

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