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 Survival: The Art & Science of Resiliency
Although I have read them, this time I listened to each as audio books from Audible.com
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.
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
- Want it, need it, have it
Devote yourself to something you love.
- Be here now
Be present in the current moment.
- Be patient
It’s going to take time.
- Be tough
Your mind is the strongest tool to resilience.
- Get the small picture
Find beauty even in your tragedy.
- Put things in their place
You need ritual and habit to heal.
- Work, Work, Work
Get doing something
- See One, Do One, Teach One
Don’t focus on only on yourself.
- Touch Someone
There is always someone hurting more than you. Help them and get your attention onto someone else.
- Be Grateful
Acknowledge the gift of a being alive.
- Walk the Walk
Do what you know is required every day.
- 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.”
Read some of Laurence’s Adventure Journalism:
And then there was the science cause he was my father. So I was interested in what he did and he didn't seem capable of explaining it very well because he was a biophysicist and I was a little, you know, six year old or whatever. And he's like, well, it's kind of complicated. I can't really explain it. So I, the more he didn't explain it, the more interested I got and I followed a path of, I would have been a scientist if I hadn't been a writer, but I retained that healthy interest in science all my life. So these two things kind of came together in my life and I began doing this sort of adventure journalism where you'd go out and go into the mountains and go into the wilderness and take some kind of risk and write a dramatic piece about it.
But at the same time, I kept my interest in science and that all gradually came together as well. I, one time I got lost in glacier national park while on one of these assignments and it scared me quite, quite deeply. I wasn't lost for very long, but I thought, wow, you know, I'm running around out here. Like this is Disney world and it's really dangerous out here. And I came back to my editor, which was at a national adventure magazine. And I said, you know, I think we owe it to our readers to certainly let's glamorize these trips, but let's also warn them that they can be dangerous and give them some tips on how, how to survive. And he was like, Oh God, our advertisers would hate that. You know, we can't do that. I can't make it dangerous, fun, beauty. Anyway, I persisted.
And I finally wound up writing a piece called the rules of adventure, which went into the neuroscience. What goes on in your brain when you make these stupid mistakes? Like I did when I got lost in glacier and all of a sudden the survivor thing and the science thing came together in my mind. Anyway, I wrote two back-to-back pieces that one, each of them won a national magazine award. And I said, see, people do like this stuff. And so from there I jumped off to, to writing deep survival, the best selling book that started the survival book craze.
And I loved the combination that you just stated of the science and the adventure. And I, I find that they're usually exclusive exclusively independent of each other. When you read writings, it's either the, this is so great and this is what you should do and you should go get lost and it'll be fun or don't get lost because you might lose some toes or, and then the, the scientifically is like totally separate.
But the fact that you were able to combine the two, I think is what makes it so fascinating to, I was telling a friend over, over a beer last night about one of the stories in deep survival about the Navy seal, who drowns while he's river rafting. And he's like, what Navy seal drowns? And he's like, well, no, listen, this is what Laurence does. He unpacks the how behind, you know, who lives, who dies and why.
So I'd love to hear from you of all of the people that you've interviewed over the years related to survival. Are there any stories that stick out to you as kind of your favorite or most enjoyable people that you interviewed or just fascinating stories that you kind of hang on?
He's free of the plane and flying through the air. And then he hits the runway and he starts tumbling down the runway. And he tumbles, God knows how far they were going. 250 miles an hour when the plane hit. So who knows how far and how fast, but he survived it. And he, when I spoke to him was like a 32 year old man, some kind of executive somewhere and told me this story. And I thought, Oh my God, he was traveling alone, 14 years old. And just his story just blew my mind. Tony, Tony, Tony is his name. Yeah. And get this. He was not the only kid traveling alone in that plane who survived. There were, I interviewed a couple of nine year olds whose stories were amazing too. There are just wonderful survival stories out there.
So that's one thing. Another thing is it has made me much more appreciative of life because I realize how fragile it is. I mean, a friend of mine died recently, old friend of mine, one very old. He was like 65 years old, which is, these days is not very old. One day he was traveling around Asia with his daughter having a vacation. Next day, he was on the floor of his hotel room, suffering from God knows what he was in Kuala Lumpur. And he was dead within about 48 hours. So it's just like, life is so fleeting. And so when I walk outside, I see the world with different highs. I'm like, wow, this is a beautiful day. You better enjoy it.
And it really was meaningful because as I was listening to, as you trace the chemistry of your brain and the lasting effects that actually are occurring in your body, that coincide with the emotions and things, it re I really found it fascinating. And I'd love to hear you say a little bit more about that, because in my case, you know, I have a story, but it, everyone has a story of some kind, and that may be, you know, loss of jobs, loss of friends, like you just mentioned loss of other loved ones, loss of a marriage, you know, or full on, you know, your, your head's at an alligator, which is some of the examples, but I'd love to hear you talk a little bit about, so like this 14 year old boy, Tony Feeney, you know, what is the journey of survival look like for people after tragic events?
And some of it is learned behavior, how you were raised and so forth your previous experiences. But I know I interviewed all the flight attendants, for example, and a couple of them who I know really well now, they're, they're fine. You know, they went on with their careers. One of them still flying the older one, retired they're good friends with each other, but whenever they get together, there's like a lot of weeping going on because this flight, this crash is still alive within them. And I think these things do remain a lot alive within us, basically for the rest of our lives. And we all just have different paths to follow in responding to them.
It could be taking up golf as one world war II veteran does in here. It gives them a sort of peace of mind, peace of mind. But something you have to get up and do something. ‘Be here now' is another thing that I say, and it's a strategy of mindfulness that you are in the moment, not dwelling on the past, or even hoping for the future. You're you are looking what's going on now and being very involved with it. I also tell people to be, be patient and be tough because these things are difficult. They don't happen overnight. And you develop a real sense after you've been through a genuine trauma of not sweating, the small stuff in life. You know, if you've been through the terrible, terrible experience that you've been through you probably know that getting stuck in traffic is not a calamity.
You probably know that if you break your favorite vase, well, it's a vase. You know, all the horrible things that happen in life, you just kind of shrug them off after something really big happens to you. And so those are some of the, some of the 12 things that I tell people. But at the core of it all is doing something activity. And I explain in Surviving Survival, exactly what goes on in your brain that makes these activities work for you. So you can understand that it's not just mumbo jumbo, it's really something physical that you can tackle in your brain and change the circuits that are tormenting you.
So it has to be calm. It has to be methodical. It has to go step by step and all of this stuff interestingly enough, occupies parts of the same circuit that they call the Ridge circuit. This stalking circuit is called the seeking circuit or the seeking pathway. And it disables the rage circuit for obvious reasons. Cause cats would never have survived if they couldn't get food to eat and they couldn't get food to eat if they couldn't learn to be quiet. So we humans have lots of activities that we can do that activate that seeking circuit and disabled, the rage circuit. And it's the rage circuits, the troubles us when we're suffering PTSD or the aftermath of trauma.
So if we can find one of these activities for ourselves, and I mentioned earlier, there was one world war II veteran who took up golfing and found that that worked for him. The lady who lost her five-year-old daughter who's mentioned in surviving survival, she took up knitting and that worked for her. And everyone has something a little different, but everybody can find some activity to do. I think for me, it's writing.
I hope you'll accept my invitation to do your best work, to live the life you want to live and find ways to play a whole lot more. Hey friends, we thought this was fun and you'd like some more podcasts or blog writings, visit worklifeplaypodcast.com.
*We’ve done our best for this transcription to accurately reflect the conversation. Errors are possible. Thank you for your patience and grace if you find errors that our team missed.
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