A picture speaks a thousand words. One picture, it seems was the defining moment in Pata Dagerman’s career. It made the difference between what may have remained as only one man’s private exploration as a hobby, and a budding career as a highly successful public speaker.
I had heard of Pata when I first began working at MySpeaker, inside the MySpeaker Rhetorich Community. “One of their best speakers,” they said and although I remain eager to meet every speaker who passes through our doors, I patiently wait at the back of our office. One day, Pata (real name Patrick) doodled his way down to our end. Stories of polar bears climbing trees and turning vegetarian in Greenland engrossed our ears. My colleague and I both fascinated and interested to know more. The man was and is, an enthralling storyteller and boy, did he have a story to tell.
It took a good while to catch him in our office again however once I did, I was desperate to know the story. I had easily misjudged our first encounter, thinking his passion for public speaking came from a passion for climate change. I was mistaken, it was actually a passion for exploring and I don’t believe it was ever in his written agenda to necessarily become a public speaker. It all started with a photograph… in fact, it may well have been the photo at the top of this page.
But before we get to the fascinating story behind the giant wooden box of food, let us roll back to when Pata was just a child. A child who admired the Kon-Tiki expedition led by a Norwegian explorer and writer. They built a raft out of special wood and made it across the Atlantic, not without almost dying, but they made it, and the image Pata remembers with incredible detail, is the men pulling a shark onboard with their BARE hands. He turns to me, “And I turned to my parents and told them one day, that’s going to be me. I am going to pull a shark out of the water with my bare hands.”
Clearly, the seeds that would one day turn this individual into a full-time explorer, had been planted. He originally went to America on an exchange to play professional tennis, however, whilst staying at his friend’s parents’ place he couldn’t help but notice the stunning photography of mountains, he was mesmerized and knew he wanted to see those in real life. His friend’s parents it turned out, were mountain guides and Pata remembers nagging at them to take him along. For a while, they turned his pleas down, however, after much persistence (a very clear and common characteristic of Pata Dagerman) they hesitantly agreed on two conditions. One) he carry the food and two) he is quiet. Now he mastered the first one however went in the complete opposite direction for the second one and told stories of his life back in Finland.
However, the clientele loved hearing his stories, so much so, that the parents continued taking him on more trips and Pata just knew, he had to continue climbing when he got back to Finland. So he went to join a climbing club however, as he wasn’t experienced with climbing certain routes, he was thrown out. Cue that same Finnish “sisu” and a little bit of persistence, and after a few drinks with a friend, they returned to the climbing club, pretty much demanded them to alter the rules, and where once again, members of the club.
Now, that he had the skills to accomplish his dreams to venture to un-ventured lands, all he needed was the financial backing. For five years they tried to find someone to sponsor them. Most people might have given up after the first or second year, however, he kept going (there are no words to explain the sheer persistence of this individual- can you see the pattern?) and it paid off in year six when they finally had the finances to pay for their trip to Antarctica.
Roll on a whirlwind of a trip to Antarctica, and there’s Pata showing this photo of a giant wooden box of food which they found under the snow and ice on their trip, to his neighbor. It turns out this box of food had been left behind from a 1966 air expedition and Pata and his colleagues, did the only sensible thing any man would do, when in the middle of Antarctica- they ate it. Yes, they ate the 50kg of chocolate cookies and whatever else was in the 300kg box of food. “Really?” I ask, “Of course! And they weren’t half bad,” he laughs.
And as Pata showed picture after picture, recalling story after story to friends and colleagues, somebody brought up the idea, “you should show these photographs and tell these stories in schools.” Never actually having had a solid plan upon his return to civilization, and more of a go-with-the-flow kind of man, he said, “why not”.
Upon walking into a school to see 300 faces staring down at him, he thought to himself, “I can’t just go tell story after story. There needs to be a purpose, a meaning behind what I’m sharing… Leave no man behind…” he tells me. Which, makes complete and utter sense, as having embarked on a dangerous and potentially treacherous expedition, where the external elements are unpredictable, the only “predictable” and common constant was his team, hence, the importance of such a saying as, “leave no man behind.”
Little did Pata know, that a psychologist would see his speech and hear his stories, who follows up with him insisting this is a speech that all schools should hear. So the story goes, that from showing a photograph around and telling stories, Pata went from speaking in not only one school, but to speaking in multiple schools. At the same, he went from speaking to only children to speak to parents and from parents, to the companies of these parents. Imagine, all this, because somebody wanted to see photographs of his first trip to Antarctica.
That, my friends, is the story of how Pata (Patrick) Dagerman’s career as a public speaker began. All because of a natural desire to explore remote places in the world, and an interest from outsiders to hear about these explorations. If one picture, can become a thousand words, spoken from person to person, school to school, company to company- should we think twice about the next time we take a photograph of our adventure and imagine the endless possibilities it could potentially lead to?
In 1997, when his career as a public speaker began, Patrick Dagerman did 207 lectures. To date, he has been to Antarctica 6 more times and up to the Arctic (Greenland, Alaska, etc) 47 more times, and every photo, has a story worth a thousand words.
This article is written by Celina Rellahan, an avid storyteller, previous Personal Assistant, and current Content Manager. From having moved around as a child and then traveled to over 30 different countries, she developed deep cultural awareness and the ability to uniquely connect with whomever she is speaking to. She transforms people’s words into enchanting stories, always finding the deeper meaning of their raison d’être (reason to be).