A former US Marine, ultramarathoner, and entrepreneur, Akshay Nanavati is never afraid of a challenge. His latest quest is one for the record books — he is among less than 50 people who have managed to successfully ski up the treacherous Axel Heiberg glacier in Antarctica. Despite the long months of training in relative isolation and nearly losing a finger or two to frostbite, Nanavati plans to continue his exploration of the South Pole.
Nanavati’s secret is a philosophy he calls ‘Fearvana’ — the idea that fear, stress and anxiety “are not your enemy” and can instead be transformed into “your greatest allies” for success. Nanavati’s ‘fearvana’ epiphany came after years of struggle — a painful bout of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when he returned home after a seven-month deployment in Iraq, as well as a battle with depression and addiction.
He began his process of healing by studying neuroscience, psychology and spirituality, he wrote in an article published on entrepreneur.com. “Initially, I just wanted a roadmap out of the abyss. But in that three-year journey, I began a greater quest to figure out how we can all live happier and more meaningful lives. That search led me to the concept of Fearvana,” he explained.
One of the first obstacles he overcame was survivor’s guilt. While he survived the mission in Iraq, many of his fellow soldiers were not quite as fortunate. He has a photograph of his friend who died in Iraq up on his wall with the words ‘This should have been you, earn this life’ underneath. “Instead of fighting my guilt, I harnessed it. I told myself since I am still alive, let me do something meaningful with this life and honor my friend. That helped me sober up and focus on giving value to the world. Guilt is now my greatest ally,” he wrote.
Despite a number of physical limitations, including a blood disorder that transports less oxygen through his body, in November 2021, he embarked on a ski trip up the Axel Heilberg glacier in Antarctica, following in the footsteps of Roald Amundsen, the first person to reach the South Pole. Nanavati and his team reached the top of Axel Heiberg Glacier, exactly 110 years to the day that Roald Amundsen set foot on the South Pole.
“My first words when we landed in Antarctica were I’m in Antarctica (with great excitement)… I’m home (with a deep sense of calm and knowing),” he wrote in a blog post. “The place is unreal. I feel so privileged to be here and to experience all of this.”
He documents his journey and his tryst with overcoming fear in his book ‘Fearvana’.