The Art and Science behind Survival & Resilience with Laurence Gonzales Episode #18

Aaron McHugh


For some reason this podcast interview has tugged at my heart and my Lizard Brain resistance has delayed my publishing this episode.

I guess the real truth for me is this interview hits very close to home and my own experiences with survival.

I think I simply wanted to enjoy marinating in two of my favorite books from Laurence Gonzales:

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why?

Surviving SurvivalThe Art & Science of Resiliency

Although I have read them, this time I listened to each as audio books from

Laurence’s stories will entice your imagination and twist your guts into knots.

He is equal parts scientist and adventure journalist.

Even armchair dreamers will be sucked into his stories of dicey adventures from avionic feats to racing across the Baja desert at a 100 mph on a motorcycle.

As a survivor himself, he offers his interpretive lens into tragedy, hardship, miraculous recoveries and rescues.

Click to Listen

I’m a sucker for survival stories

Most people would never willingly walk down the pathway of risk that Gonzales profiles in these survival tales.

However you will find there are many stories where the people did not choose adventure, it found them.

Plane crashes, fatal diseases, divorce, domestic abuse and a myriad of other urban tragedies can find us.

He does not glorify the near misses or bonehead decisions people make.  Instead he dissects them decision-by-decision and rewinds the clock back and forward to allow us to see how these survival stories are born.

Don’t listen to his stories and dismiss them if you don’t spend time in the wilderness.

His observations and conclusions are lessons for surviving life, not just wilderness.

Resiliency is a choice

Each of us has witnessed people in our lives that have experienced tragedy and survived it.

Fewer of us have observed people who thrive in spite of tragedy.

The Resilient are the Navy Seals of survival.

Do you believe that resilience is truly is a choice?

For some you may argue that some people have the resilience chromosome and others don’t?

Gonzales sets us straight by profiling the choices, beliefs and actions of those who find the path to resiliency.

Thriving is harder than surviving

How is it that two people can live through the same life altering event or tragedy and one thrives and the other suffers the rest of their lives?

Laurence outlines in his book Surviving Survival that surviving after a tragic event or hardship is actually more difficult than the event itself.

Attempt to mine your memory for people that you know that experienced a life-altering event and have thrived afterwards.

Who can you find?

What made them different?

Check out Laurence’s list of keys to becoming resilient.



12 Rules of Resilience

  1. Want it, need it, have it
    Devote yourself to something you love.
  2. Be here now
    Be present in the current moment.
  3. Be patient
    It’s going to take time.
  4. Be tough
    Your mind is the strongest tool to resilience.
  5. Get the small picture
    Find beauty even in your tragedy.
  6. Put things in their place
    You need ritual and habit to heal.
  7. Work, Work, Work
    Get doing something
  8. See One, Do One, Teach One
    Don’t focus on only on yourself.
  9. Touch Someone
    There is always someone hurting more than you. Help them and get your attention onto someone else.
  10. Be Grateful
    Acknowledge the gift of a being alive.
  11. Walk the Walk
    Do what you know is required every day.
  12. Life is Deep; Shallow Up
    Laugh, smile, smell the roses.


“Your experience of life in the aftermath may be even more dramatic, sometimes more painful, than the experience of survival itself.
But it can be beautiful and fulfilling, too, and a more lasting achievement than the survival that began it all.
What comes after survival is, after all, the rest of your life.”

Laurence Gonzales


Read some of Laurence’s Adventure Journalism:

Outside Magazine

Backpacker Magazine