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Friday, November 25, 2016

Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Laurence Gonzales, and the Basic Training Rope Swing

              There’s a scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, where Luke has to use a rope / cable to swing over the Death Star shaft and inevitably ending not only his and Princess Leia’s escape, but their lives to Stormtroopers putting laser beams into his head. Like magic, he throws the rope and it lands perfectly so that the 2 of them are able to swing to success. Just like that, Indiana Jones was also able to perfect the rope swing when he escaped from crazed natives who were angry at him for being so damn cool and the hero of every young kid who happened to see the movie.
            So why couldn’t I do the same when I was in Basic Training?
            The answer is simple: mind over matter. 
            I decided I couldn’t do it, and I fell in the water accordingly. My drill instructor was even fuzzed out when he said, “F-in Glass” as the editor shortened it to “G-g-g-g-lass” instead. We all knew it was coming because I didn’t believe.
            For this, I got wet. It was the only obstacle I was wet on or failed, but I had to do all obstacles after it wet, which was both slippery and heavier. Not good.
            I’m not saying that an unrealistic belief would have solved things. After all, the Stockdale Paradox says that we must confront the brutal truths, but we must know we will prevail anyway. Here, the key would have been practice, not just one day, one attempt at the Confidence Course. However, life doesn’t always give us time to practice because obstacles show up at our doors, and WHAM! We’re forced to deal.
            That’s why prep time is now. 
            How we deal with Parkinsons, cancer, future surgery, an injury, a loss, or any other bad crap that befalls our lives is how we’ve been trained to handle it. For that, the key is to find our positivity now and hope it’s enough to carry us through the bad times, tough times, and obstacles. What positives and skills we have will get us through or help it not to be so hard.
            I believe that, and I know it’s what’s keeping me pretty level-headed as I deal with waiting for the next doctor appointments and the what ifs as well as the what ares that are here already. For this, I share the rope swing fail so that you know in the words of Bull Durham to “don’t think; it can only hurt the ballclub.” I also share Laurence Gonzales’ rules of survival because they too have helped me get through. 
            Do what you need to do. I believe in you, and you should, too.
            As a journalist, I've been writing about accidents for more than thirty years. In the last 15 or so years, I've concentrated on accidents in outdoor recreation, in an effort to understand who lives, who dies, and why. To my surprise, I found an eerie uniformity in the way people survive seemingly impossible circumstances. Decades and sometimes centuries apart, separated by culture, geography, race, language, and tradition, the most successful survivors–those who practice what I call “deep survival”–go through the same patterns of thought and behavior, the same transformation and spiritual discovery, in the course of keeping themselves alive. Not only that but it doesn't seem to matter whether they are surviving being lost in the wilderness or battling cancer, whether they're struggling through divorce or facing a business catastrophe–the strategies remain the same.

Survival should be thought of as a journey, a vision quest of the sort that Native Americans have had as a rite of passage for thousands of years. Once you're past the precipitating event–you're cast away at sea or told you have cancer–you have been enrolled in one of the oldest schools in history. Here are a few things I've learned that can help you pass the final exam.

1. Perceive and Believe. Don't fall into the deadly trap of denial or of immobilizing fear. Admit it: You're really in trouble and you're going to have to get yourself out.

2. Stay Calm – Use Your Anger In the initial crisis, survivors are not ruled by fear; instead, they make use of it. Their fear often feels like (and turns into) anger, which motivates them and makes them feel sharper.

3. Think, Analyze, and Plan. Survivors quickly organize, set up routines, and institute discipline. 

4. Take Correct, Decisive Action. Survivors are willing to take risks to save themselves and others. But they are simultaneously bold and cautious in what they will do. They handle what is within their power to deal with from moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day.

5. Celebrate your success. Survivors take great joy from even their smallest successes. This helps keep motivation high and prevents a lethal plunge into hopelessness. Viktor Frankl put it this way: “Don't aim at success–the more you aim at it and make it a target,the more you are going to miss it.”

7. Enjoy the Survival Journey. It may seem counterintuitive, but even in the worst circumstances, survivors find something to enjoy, some way to play and laugh. Survival can be tedious, and waiting itself is an art.

8. See the Beauty. Survivors are attuned to the wonder of their world, especially in the face of mortal danger. The appreciation of beauty, the feeling of awe, opens the senses to the environment. (When you see something beautiful, your pupils actually dilate.) When Saint-Exupery's plane went down in the Lybian Desert, he was certain that he was doomed, but he carried on in this spirit: “Here we are, condemned to death, and still the certainty of dying cannot compare with the pleasure I am feeling. The joy I take from this half an orange which I am holding in my hand is one of the greatest joys I have ever known.” At no time did he stop to bemoan his fate, or if he did, it was only to laugh at himself.

9. Believe That You Will Succeed. It is at this point, following what I call “the vision,” that the survivor's will to live becomes firmly fixed.

10. Surrender. Yes you might die. In fact, you wil die–we all do. But perhaps it doesn't have to be today. Don't let it worry you.

11. Do Whatever Is Necessary 

12. Never Give up If you're still alive, there is always one more thing that you can do.

Survivors are not easily discouraged by setbacks.


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