I thoroughly enjoyed reading Deep Survival:  Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales over the Thanksgiving break.  Within it I discovered many survival tips well worth knowing, including how to survive the current recessionary winter.

“The climb up the edge of the cliff was the hardest and most dangerous thing I’d ever done.”  Yates arrived at the top “shaking and so strung out that I had to stop still and calm myself.”  But it was that very ability to remain calm that made what they were about to do possible (p. 231).  Seasoned British mountaineers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, had done many hard and dangerous things prior to attempting the first ever ascent of a perilous mountain face in the Peruvian Andes.  However, nothing they’d ever done would compare to their fight for survival, as they descended from that unforgiving mountain in May of 1985.

Laurence Gonzales is contributing editor for National Geographic Adventure magazine and a lifelong student of the art and science of survival.  His exhaustive research has revealed twelve attributes that are commonly found in survivors and lacking in those who don’t survive their life or death adventures.  His real life survival stories are riveting and inspirational, while his illumination of the science behind the survival skills is truly fascinating.  In fact, those same skills can be applied to any difficult situation one might find themselves in –from strained relationships to struggling businesses.  I found the book to be highly relevant on both a personal and professional level.

Gonzales has distilled his research down to “twelve points that seemed to stand out concerning how survivors think and behave in the clutch of mortal danger” (p. 287):

  1. Perceive, believe (look, see, believe) – while those who don’t make it often freeze up or freak out, survivors’ perceptions and cognitive functions keep working;
  2. Stay calm (use humor, use fear to focus) – use humor to relieve tension and fear to focus on what needs to be done to alleviate the source of fear;
  3. Think/analyze/plan (get organized; set up small manageable tasks) – don’t focus on how hopeless the situation is but rather upon what you can do to make it better;
  4. Take correct, decisive action (be bold and cautious while carrying out tasks) – don’t be reckless, but do be willing to take bold action when necessary;
  5. Celebrate your successes (take joy in completing tasks) – success breeds success and hope, celebrating small successes also provides much needed stress relief;
  6. Count your blessings (be grateful –you’re alive) – survivors become rescuers instead of victims, helping others helps survivors make it;
  7. Play (sing, play mind games, recite poetry, count anything, do mathematical problems in your head) – engaging the brain in activities not directly related to surviving can actually increase the odds of making it;
  8. See the beauty (remember: it’s a vision quest) – stopping to appreciate the beauty around will relieve stress, increase motivation and improve your ability to absorb new information;
  9. Believe that you will succeed (develop a deep conviction that you will live) – perhaps the most important key to surviving is an unshakable belief that you will;
  10. Surrender (let go of your fear of dying; “put away the pain”) – survivors come to grips with the possibility of dying and then do everything possible to avoid it, including compartmentalizing their pain so it doesn’t over take them;
  11. Do whatever is necessary (be determined; have the will and the skill) – don’t wait to be rescued, accurately assess your situation and skills then do what you have to do;
  12. Never give up (let nothing break your spirit) – don’t be easily frustrated or discouraged by setbacks, see opportunity in adversity

Deep Survival is worth the read for the remarkable rest of the Simpson and Yates mountain climbing story alone.    But, as you can see from the twelve points above, this book is chalked full of immensely valuable information for anyone facing tough times…like the current recessionary winter we find ourselves in.