We Are All Survivors

deep survival

DeepSurvival by Laurence Gonzales

I just finished Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales.  This book dives into questions on wilderness, outdoor survival such as: Why do some people survive situations but others don’t? What are some traits survivors have or instill in themselves? How can I be a survivor? What does the brain have to do with survival? Emotions, mental maps, emotional bookmarks, perceptions…?

While I could probably go on with a summary of what Gonzales writes, but it is not what I want to get into.  In the end of the book, he lists “The Rules of Adventure.” There are twelve rules and these rules can be “easily” applied in outdoor survival situations, but I began to think, how can these rules apply to everyday life? Or for those who are living life in an urban setting and do foresee themselves going out into the “wilderness.” Or for those that just want to live a more enjoyable life.

In life, we constantly seek adventure in some form or another.  Adventure, according to Dictionary.com, is “an exciting or very unusual experience; participation in exciting undertakings.” What is really interesting, adventure is derived from the Latin word adventura, meaning “what must happen,” but adventura is derived from adventurus, which is the future participle of advenire meaning to arrive.  There is your Latin lesson for the day.  When we seek adventure, we will arrive to a destination unknown.  In adventure, we seek the unknown, we are curious.  Blessed are the curious for they will have adventure. We seek to be survivors in our lives and our lives are full of adventures.

Here are “The Rules for Adventure.”

1. Perceive, believe (look, see, believe)

Survivors see what is going on around them.  Details are duly noted and “may find some things humorous or beautiful” (Gonzales pg. 287). They begin to accept their reality of what is going on. They see opportunity and the good in all. Granted it takes some struggle to get to this way of thought.

Time to get very clique: stop and smell the roses; there is good in all things seen; what you see is what you get (or is it).  My biggest complaint about the culture and society we live in is we do not take time to relax, to take in, and to see the beauty and good.

2. Stay calm (use humor, use fear to focus)keep calm

Oh how much easier life would be if we could just keep calm.  I’m reminded of those “Keep calm and…” signs.  I absolutely do not like them! Maybe because I struggle with keeping relaxed, keeping calm, keeping focused. The funny thing is, these signs help remind us how important keeping calm is and in turn refocusing our focus on whatever we should be focusing on.

In the midst of the craziness, the stress, the struggles, we should “Keep clam…and carry on.” “Keep calm…and refocus.” “Keep calm…and laugh.” “Keep calm…and survive.” Or you can just play in your mind, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.

(Sorry for getting that song stuck in your head now, but check out my favorite rendition http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xui7x_KF7bY.)

3. Think/analyze/plan (get organized; set up small, manageable tasks)

When I hear this, I think of the quote by Mike Norton:

“Never say that you can’t do something, or that something seems impossible, or that something can’t be done, no matter how discouraging or harrowing it may be; human beings are limited only by what we allow ourselves to be limited by: our own minds. We are each the masters of our own reality; when we become self-aware to this: absolutely anything in the world is possible. Master yourself, and become king of the world around you. Let no odds, chastisement, exile, doubt, fear, or ANY mental virii prevent you from accomplishing your dreams. Never be a victim of life; be its conqueror.”

Or St. Francis of Assisi put it this way, “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

4. Take correct, decisive action (be bold and cautions while carrying out tasks)risks

When I think of this, I think of a video clip that was shown to me (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmMFIganRQY). “All it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage to change your life.” Bear Grylls has always said, “If you risk nothing, you gain nothing” and “survival is not about being fearless. It’s about making a decision, getting on, and doing it….” Live outside your comfort zone.  Be bold, be brave, you have 20 seconds.

5. Celebrate your successes (take joy in completing tasks)

I believe this is something our society struggles with, including myself.  Successes are celebrated, sparingly—graduations, promotions, etc.—and when they are celebrated, it is short-lived. Every day there are tedious tasks—homework, work, keeping calm while the annoying person in the next door cubicle is at it again, driving in rush hour traffic, etc.—and at the end of the day, remember and say to yourself, I survived today, I lived and I will survive, tomorrow or I finished all that I needed to do or I finished as much as I can. Give yourself a pat on the back, a glass of wine, a steak dinner. I’m happy for you in all your successes.

6. Count your blessings (be grateful—you’re alive)

Must I need to say more?  Again, this is easier said than done, but once you start making this list, how can you not be blessed and grateful for everything we have?

7. Play (sing, play mind games, recite poetry, count anything, do mathematical problems in your head)

There are so many benefits in play that I cannot begin detailing them, but go and play.  Start a tag game with your friends all over the world (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323375204578269991660836834), do something you love and enjoy: read, write, play an instrument, draw, paint, sing, dance. Play is by survivors to stimulate, calm, and entertain the mind.  Playing also leads to invention, strategies, problem solving, and more.  Have fun!

8. See the beauty (remember: it’s a vision quest)

“Survivors are attuned to the wonder of the world. The appreciation of beauty, the feeling of awe, opens the senses.  When you see something beautiful, your pupils actually dilate. [“You lit up the room when you walked in.” Your pupils dilated making the room brighter.] This appreciation not only relieves stress and creates strong motivation, but allows you to take in new information more effectively” (Gonzales pg. 289).


9. Believe that you will succeed (develop a deep conviction that you will live)

How about this quote by Jacob Riis:

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it – but all that had gone before.”

10. Surrender (let go of your fear of dying; “put away the pain”)

This is where my faith comes into play.  I do not fear dying, I only fear eternal death.  My mantra here is, “Let go, and let God.”  Sometimes we can become too fixated on God that I find myself saying, “Get off the cross, we need the wood.”  Surrendering is not just about giving up and letting go, it is also about getting up and moving on.  Picking up your cross, struggles, and trials and moving on.

11. Do whatever is necessary (be determined; have the will and the skill)

“Survivors don’t expect or even hope to be rescued.  They are coldly rational about using the world, obtaining what they need, doing what they have to do” (Gonzales pg. 290).

Don’t place limits on yourself.  Never tell yourself, that’s good enough. Always strive for excellence—aim for the moon and if you miss you’ll land among the stars!

12.     Never give up (let nothing break your spirit)edison

After an oxygen tank exploded on Apollo 13 crippling the Service Module upon which the Command Module depends on, Gene Kranz and his “white team” saved the astronauts.  While it is commonly believed that Kranz said, “Failure is not an option,” it was actually coined by a screenwriter for the movie Apollo 13.  Failure is not an option is a mantra known culturally. In our lives failures are not an option, they happen.  Are failures the end? No…they are a beginning, they are a lesson learned, and they are the next step in becoming wise.  Failures are never options, they happen, we learn from them, and carry on.

In the Haunted Mansion, Madame Leota is talking to Jim.  She says this pivotal quote, “You try. You fail. You try. You fail. But the only true failure is when you stop trying.”

Jim replies, “What do you want me to do? Huh?”

“Try again.”

In the words of Kelly Clarkson, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

So in summary, to live life is to risk it.  We are always adventuring, arriving, traveling.  Even if you have never heard of the book Deep Survival, we know of these rules.  They are engrained in our minds.  We are constantly reminded on many of them.

I challenge you to reflect how you can intentionally focus on these in your life you are living. Which of these twelve are you good at? Which are the most difficult for you?

nobis vivatis


One response to “We Are All Survivors

  1. Pingback: Let it be… | Survivor·

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