Rooms 26-29: Learn How to Survive
Part 1: The First Three Steps
It is safe to say that If I were on the television show Survivor I’d be the first to get kicked off the island, assuming they let me on the island in the first place. I’m a picky eater who doesn’t like to dirty his nails. That doesn’t fly on the island. I also don’t look good enough with my shirt off to keep me around. Now, there are some in my circles who think you could drop me in the middle of a crowded city, next to a Starbucks, and there’s a good chance I wouldn’t make it home. But, I’m not that bad.
But, being outdoors with the elements? That’s not my thing, unless there is a camper involved, and four bars on my cellphone. Let’s face facts: I don’t know how to tie knots, treat burns or read a compass. I can’t identify poison oak or make a fire without presto logs. And if you saw the toothpick knife I carry around, you’d believe me.
But, like any self-respecting individual, I can no longer look myself in the mirror. I need out of this room. It’s time I found out how to survive in this world.
Now, I know there are those who have had to survive harsher realities than what I might be talking about, real things, like cancer, hurricanes, floods and the like. And, while we can be inspired by what these individuals have had to endure, we should never discount our own challenges.
Survival takes many shapes. It’s not just life and death. It’s our ability to keep going in any difficult circumstance. That could mean being lost in the mountains or lost in addiction; it could mean facing the elements or facing unemployment, depression, loneliness, failure, or divorce. It could be anything that makes us ask if “we can take one more step.”
In all its shapes and forms, survival is a room that asks us to be inventive, resourceful and brave. It’s a room that asks us to rely on our wits, get tough and endure. It asks us to become inspired, find a way and, most importantly, go to places we’ve never been before. And the more times we can do this in our every day lives, the more we will begin to believe what is truly possible.
Of course, now we have to ask ourselves how do we prepare to survive? How will we turn this into a room? Well, you start small, which is why this will be the first in an occasional string of survivor rooms we will come back to.
I think we must also realize that survival is not about setting coyote traps or learning to drink our own urine. We don’t need to go off the grid to take our first step. We need to embrace the idea of survival, recognizing that survival is about more than skills and tools. It’s a state of mind. It’s an attitude.
And, with that, let’s begin our journey with 3 easy steps.
Rooms 26-29: Learn How To Survive: The First Three Steps
Step 1: Become Inspired
I’m a big fan of reading biographies that inspire me to take action. If we want to learn what it takes to survive, we would be well served to read stories of men and women who have endured incredible odds in their own struggle to survive. Here are three of my favorite books, with a fourth I just bought, but haven’t read.
1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, which tells the story of World War II hero Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic track star, who survived for more than two and a half years in several brutal Japanese internment camps as a prisoner of war.
2. Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer, which tells the story of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, when eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a ‘rogue storm.’
3. Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculée Ilibagiza. This is an autobiography that recounts Immaculée’s experience during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. She survived hidden for 91 days with seven other women in a small bathroom, no larger than 3 feet long and 4 feet wide. Beautiful book!
4. Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea, by Steven Callahan. And while I haven’t read this one, I’m guessing it has something to do with being lost at sea for 76 days.
The first three are not only great reads, but text book examples of what humans are capable of enduring. They are proof that with the right attitude, anything is possible. I dare you to not be inspired.
Step 2: Challenge Yourself To Complete One ”Can I Do This” Experience
Most of us won’t ever spend time in a POW camp, nor do I suspect, will we be taking on Everest anytime soon. I know I won’t. Time, money, geography and circumstances keep our experiences limited. None the less, we can still put the “survival definition” to test by challenging ourselves to “keep going” in our own difficult circumstances.
Our challenge this week is to do something we don’t know if we can finish. It could be the first chapter of a book you’ve always wanted to write, a 24 hour food fast, a week without television, three days without smoking, an extremely long swim, a day long silent retreat. Anything of this nature will work. You’ll know what’s best. And while there’s no need to go crazy at this stage (they’ll be time for that later), we should do something we doubt we will be able to complete.
As for myself, I took a 17 mile hike. I knew 10-12 miles was doable, but 17…that was a stretch. And, yes, the trail was well marked. Yes, I had water, energy bars and an IPhone. There was nothing on the line. But, there was definitely an element of “could I finish?”
Guess what, six and a half hours later, I finished. And, in my own small way, I was changed. I had crossed a barrier, and entered into a world where, now, new possibilities exist. That’s what survival is all about—crossing barriers.
So, go ahead…surprise yourself.
Step 3: Learn One “Survival” Technique
There’s something about learning an everyday, practical, “here and now” survival tip that helps us in our quest to become self-reliant. The idea isn’t to become an expert overnight, but to begin; to simply learn how to do one thing that would help you survive in an emergency. Anything. It’s a reader's choice: you could learn how to do CPR, make a weapon, put together a first aid kit, purify water from bleach, make a compost, grow your own vegetables, or build a shelter. Be creative, have fun…but do just one thing to start.
As for me, I signed up for a “fire-starting” survival course. Yes, I brought matches just in case, but I didn’t need them. In three hours, this city boy was turning sticks, batteries and brillo pad into a raging fire. Don’t tell my wife she didn’t marry well.
If you want, share what you’ve done with any of the three steps in the comments below. We’d love to follow your progress.
Remember, when it comes to survival, you either get out of the room or you don’t. There is no in between. Survival isn’t easy. But, its rewards are great. Survival not only offers us life, but transformation. That’s about as good a room as it gets.