Survival of the Fittest?
By Daniel K. Martin
First let me say I am not a survival expert, or a former special forces / green beret /sas / badass. I am just a guy who loves survival. Ok, you got me, I saw it on TV once!
In all seriousness, most of what you see on TV is simply that, good TV (with the notable exception of Les Stroud). Every survival expert always says the same thing, “The number one difference in being a survivor versus a statistic is mental strength. Time and again on these survival shows the ex-badass has a tendency to go down first. But it’s not because they aren’t badasses or because they don’t have the proper training. I would argue it also isn’t because they lack mental toughness, but mental preparedness. Mistakes are made that we can easily criticize from our couch but have never been in the situation.
Most of us don’t have the luxury of going on 40 day survival gigs since we have to work for a living, and buying the best bug out bag on the market won’t ensure survival any more than having a gun by itself will protect you in a home invasion. So how do you thrive in adverse conditions and scenarios? Taking luck out of the equation, I think the key is mental preparedness.
When I was a teenager I worked for my dad in a commercial audio/video business. We did audio and video installations primarily for national accounts like Service Merchandise, Chili’s, Victoria’s Secret etc. We were given a flat installation fee and it was up to us to make money in efficiency. I made a deal with my dad that my pay would only be a percentage of the profit of each job so it was up to me at seventeen to figure out how to do each installation better. How many times did we end up losing time due to not having a small part or a specific tool, or running into an unforeseen roadblock? I started visualizing each job. A couple of days before the job I would lie in my bed and start working through the complete installation in my head. Every hole that had to be drilled, every foot of wire that needed to be pulled, every wire nut for every single speaker, every volume control. I visualized every single detail of the entire job before I started. In time, this enabled me to think through every variable that could come up on a job and I could be prepared to resolve it quickly with something out of my truck. I found I was pretty good at it! I found the reality that we all know that the ‘devil is in the details’. I started applying the same methodology to playing volleyball. I would visualize the ball in the air and my run up, jumping into the air, and my swing in slow motion. Over and over until I could get it right in my mind. Then I could get it right on the sand court.
I believe the same principle applies to survival and emergency preparedness. It isn’t memorizing Lofty Wiseman’s SAS Survival Guide, or having the perfect kit from Echo-Sigma (although those wouldn’t hurt), it is thinking through the application so many times that when the need arises it is second nature – as if you have done it a hundred times. I am not diminishing the value of real-world practice at all, but simply pointing out the reality that most of us don’t get the time to go out into the woods week after week to practice skills that we can learn and almost perfect in our minds. You have probably heard the stories of someone in a POW camp who played 18 holes of golf in his head every day for years and when released played an almost perfect game. He hadn’t touched a club in years yet his body obeyed what his mind had been training. Our minds are more powerful than we realize sometimes, but we can get lazy and rely on tools and physical preparedness.
Think through in excruciating detail every scenario you can imagine. From power loss, to wilderness survival, to the home invasion. Have you played each scenario out in your mind? Have you checked each corner, every fire lane, every entry point eventuality? No matter how skilled you are in punching holes in paper, or how much of a prepper you think you are nothing can prepare you completely for the real-life test, but if the experts are right 70% is mental preparation. Don’t just do the 30% and master your tools and kit. It’s a mind game! Win the game – survive and thrive!