Review of Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales discusses survival situations and offers some great advice to keep in mind.

Here are some key concepts from Laurence’s book:

  • Twelve steps that survivors do:
  1. Look, see, perceive, believe – accept the reality of the situation.
  2. Stay calm – use humor or fear to focus.  Make use of fear, don’t be ruled by it.
  3. Think/Analyze/Plan – Organize, setup routines, institute discipline.
  4. Take correct decisive action – transform thought into action, take risks, large jobs into small tasks, do each task well, deal with what is within your power and leave the rest behind.
  5. Celebrate your successes – prevents descent into hopelessness and creates motivation.
  6. Count your blessings – be grateful your alive.
  7. Play – Exercise your mind (play creates innovation).
  8. See the beauty – opens the senses and allows you to take in more information.
  9. Believe that you will succeed – fix your determination, make no mistakes, do your best.
  10. Surrender – resignation without giving up.
  11. Do whatever is necessary –  be coldly rational about the world.
  12. Never give up – let nothing break your spirit, there is always one more thing you can do.
  • Survival is a way of life:
    • Eat life or it will eat you.
    • You engage fate deliberately with your adventures.
    • Live a life of bored caution and die of cancer vs. take the adventure and minimize the risks.
    • To live life is to risk it.
    • Risk is the essence of life.
    • Close calls make you live more intensely.
  • Use your limited resources wisely; be stingy with your resources.
  • To approach things like they are familiar is a mistake.
  • Our attention is fragmentary. The survivor must compartmentalize and set small goals (it will kill you not to).
  • Some people update their mental models better than others.  They are called survivors.
  • Many conditions influence what and how much you perceive.
  • The more things you are working, the chance of success decreases.
  • You have a choice to obey or rebel against what is happening to you.
  • Trivial events begin to shape an accident long before it happens.
  • Training allows your reason to overcome emotions which, on average, keeps the species alive. Elite performers train hard.
    • Don’t get comfortable, get confident.
    • Adversity anneals you.
  • When you change your environment you need a new way of seeing, a new plan.
    • The world is messy and not easily explained > maps are not easy to create.
    • The real world is messy and chaotic.
    • The survivor personality allows new information to reshape their model.
    • Indifferent forces punish the inattentive and arrogant.
    • Need experience and perception not information; act quickly and correctly.
    • Disconnect between perception and reality leads to many accidents.
  • Failure is easy, success is hard.  Keep things simple for greater success.
    • Initial conditions, simple inputs, simple interactions can still be wildly unstable with minor changes to initial conditions or inputs (butterfly effect).
  • Hippocampus creates and updates maps, stress impairs this (no time creates stress).
  • Organism maps itself, maps the environment, then keeps the two in balance.
  • If the maps don’t match, the hippocampus spins its wheels and the amygdala sounds the alarm (vertigo, claustrophobia, panic, and wasted motion/energy).
  • Insanity = when the mind does not match the world.
  • Bewilder, bewilderment, woods shock.
  • Reason fails, instincts take over; thrashing does not save a drowning victim, but it is natural.  Those who float quietly have a better chance at survival.
  • Cognition is a mechanism for modulating emotional and physical responses.
  • STOP:  Stop, Think, Observe, Plan
  • Must take control of the situation ASAP, keep calm, think clearly, act decisively.
  • Don’t want to run out of options and energy.
  • Survival started before the emergency/accident.
  • You must make yourself worthy of survival. Practice!
  • You can’t change the world, only yourself.
  • You must see and know the world and its materials.
  • When the personality is ripped away, there has to be a core remaining to carry the person through.
  • The more you invest, the more you have when trouble comes.
  • The more you know the more resources you have to fall back on.
  • Everyone has finite resources going into an emergency, manage those resources.
  • Spend your life building a core.
  • Practice
  • Each test is in preparation for the next.
  • Survival is a path that must be walked from birth to death; it is a way of life.
  • Have no mortal spots.
  • Fear and pain are the tools of salvation. Fear becomes sustenance, its energy feeds action
  • Become familiar with pain and discomfort.
  • Once fatigue sets in, it is almost impossible to recover and it becomes a spiritual collapse:
    • hallucinations can bring relief and rest
    • take your mind back to a memory/place where you were not overextended
    • pace yourself, rest frequently and hydrate
    • the struggle to survive can rapidly deplete your resources
    • nature’s forces are unlimited, yours are not
    • you should operate at 60% of your normal activity level
    • you only have so much stored energy
    • be stingy with your scarce resources
    • balance risk vs. reward
    • invest in efforts of biggest return
    • survival requires a burst of energy – move fast and get the job done
  • Stages of getting lost: being lost is not a location; it is a failure of the mind.
    • Denial
    • Anger
    • Bargaining
    • Depression
    • Acceptance
  • To survive, you must find yourself, and then it does not matter where you are.
  • Focusing filters things that we are not concentrating out.
  • Nature loves to strip the unwary of their gear.
  • Leadership, order, and routine are all important elements of survival.
  • Four poisons of the mind:

    1. Fear
    2. Confusion
    3. Hesitation
    4. Surprise
  • Watch clear and calm, and then act decisively at the correct moment.

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