The Explorer's Mindset

4 October 2023
What makes people capable of achieving the extraordinary?
James Castrisson (B Com '04), an explorer and two-time Guinness World Record holder, shares his advice on the secret to success - and it's not what you might think.

James is an international keynote speaker, bestselling author, and Founder and CEO of MyAdventure Group.

James found his passion and love for adventure while studying business at the University of Sydney. A member of the SUSF Rock climbing and Mountaineering Club, on weekends and during breaks he would go off on various climbing, canyoning and bushwalking trips.

At the end of his first year of studies, James challenged himself by paddling 2,500km down Australia’s longest river, the Murray. It was this adventure that would first ignite what he calls ‘the Explorer’s Mindset’.

After graduating from Commerce, James upheld a similar lifestyle from his uni days in his working life.

He was building a career as a Chartered Accountant at Deloitte and using his annual leave and weekends to go on various trips. Naturally, those trips started getting bigger in scale.

He paddled across the Bass Strait from mainland Australia to Tasmania, climbed up the 3000-metre rock face of El Cap in the United States, and then he had another idea – paddling a kayak across the open ocean from Australia to New Zealand, one of the most violent stretches of ocean in the world.

In 2008, James and his expedition partner Justin became the first kayakers to cross the Tasman Sea without support. The journey required a leap of faith, with James leaving behind his corporate role to raise funds and plan the highly dangerous expedition.

Their landing in New Zealand captured global attention and inspired them to plan even more challenging adventures. His next world-first adventure would push him beyond anything that he thought possible.

Antarctica is no place for the faint-hearted

"A perilous icy desert of extreme cold, hidden crevasses and unrelenting physical hardship. In 100 years of polar exploration, no one had ever walked from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back without any support – but many had tried," says James.

"On the 26th of January 2012, Justin and I made history by completing the longest unsupported polar journey of all time. After 89 gruelling days, battling frostbite, physical and mental breakdown, starvation, blizzards and crevasse falls, we made it back to the coast."

James Castrission and his expedition partner Justin Jones at the end of their world record-breaking unsupported expedition from Antarctica to the South Pole and back.

"There were more lessons learned on our second big adventure. But what was most interesting was the assumptions people made about me afterwards. I do not have any superpowers; I am of average stature and feel pain just like everybody else. Yet I was able to pull off two seemingly impossible adventures that earned me a place amongst the 50 greatest Australian explorers of all time.

"My build and level of athleticism aren’t anything special, but through surviving these hostile moments I developed a model that underscores the pivotal factors behind my success, which I call the Explorer’s Mindset."

The cornerstones of an Explorer's Mindset

The Explorer's Mindset is underpinned by research that suggests that the primary driver of success is 'grit' rather than talent - describing our capacity to adhere to long-term goals and to persevere in adversity.

With this understanding, James' secret to success in both a personal and professional sense is to focus on controlling the three key levers that drive grit: 


Achieving significant goals necessitates concentrating on what is within your control, such as your attitude and problem-solving abilities. Amidst the distractions and chaos, maintaining an Explorer's Mindset will enable you to remain focused on your sphere of influence.


Cultivating an Explorer's Mindset involves managing the language we employ when speaking to yourself and engaging with colleagues, friends, and others. Your choice of words profoundly shapes the direction of your mindset.


From a physiological perspective, one of the most influential aspects you can control is your facial expressions, especially your smile. The act of wearing a smile, even in challenging circumstances, yields a remarkably potent physiological response.

About James Castrisson

James is an international keynote speaker, two-time Guinness World Record holder, bestselling author, and Founder and CEO of MyAdventure Group. After starting his career at Deloitte, James pursued record-breaking feats - kayaking from Australia to New Zealand and embarking on the longest unsupported ski expedition in Antarctica. He has led mountaineering expeditions to some of the globe’s most challenging peaks, run numerous ultramarathons and sailed to remote destinations across the globe.

As a renowned speaker, James has addressed audiences in 36 countries, sharing insights on team authenticity and connection. In 2014, James founded MyAdventure Group, which draws extensively from his management consulting background and record-breaking explorations to provide corporate adventure-based development programs. Learn more at

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