By Ross Powell
The saying goes that 90% of success is showing up. When it comes to preparation and survival, in order to succeed we certainly have to show up by being engaged and willing to take action, but we also have to show up with the right tools. Physical supplies and skills are both critical for full spectrum preparation. However, we cannot fail to address the underlying foundation that nothing functions without: a survival mindset.
Alan Kay tells us that survival is 95% mental, and he would know. As the winner of the first season of the History Channel’s hit series Alone, Alan spent 56 days by himself in the wilderness on Vancouver Island, outlasting nine other survivalists. Alan’s bio page for the show is a testimony to the importance of a survival mindset:
Alan was born and raised in Georgia, where he spent the majority of his childhood in the forests making shelters with his beloved hatchet. His passion for the woods grew as the years passed, and by the time he was in his 20s, Alan had acquired the skills and mindset necessary to adapt and survive in any environment. In an effort to increase his understanding of edible and medicinal plants, Alan sought out and studied under a number of knowledgeable elders, all of whom helped to round out his growing skill set. He also spent time developing proficiency in the combative arts, including barehanded, stick and knife fighting. In his role as a corrections officer, he’s also been trained in tactical medical care. Alan knows that he’s bound to encounter situations beyond his control and imagination on Vancouver Island. He has left behind a wife and children for this opportunity and is ready to put all of his skills together and push himself to the limits—physically, psychologically and emotionally.
Here are the ten items Alan selected to bring on his survival journey to Vancouver Island:
3. Sleeping bag
4. Large 2-quart pot
5. Ferro rod
6. Water bottle/canteen
7. 300 yards single filament line with 25 assorted hooks
8. Small gauge gill net
9. 3.5lb wire
While Alan’s physical tools were all used extensively – in an interview after the show he said that the pot was the most crucial piece of equipment – it was his survival mindset that allowed him to persist on his own for almost two months. Even when we are prepared to feed and defend ourselves, if we are mentally unprepared for the stress, uncertainty, and even isolation that a survival experience entails then we will not have the fortitude and persistence necessary to endure.
Radio interview with Alan Kay Last Man Standing on “Alone” TV Series with Ross Powell:
So, what exactly do we need to have a survival mindset? Everything starts with decision making and stability. In a crisis, instinctive panic completely torpedoes any chance of making optimal or even productive decisions. In stressful situations our brain releases the hormone cortisol. This biochemical reaction is part of what stimulates a fight-or-flight response. Cortisol tells our body to prioritize getting energy to our skeletal muscle system since that’s what we need operating at 100% in order to fight or flee effectively. Unfortunately, this means that our brain isn’t getting the same emphasis. We tend to make bad decisions when stressed or experiencing strong emotions because our brains literally aren’t working at full capacity. When we avoid panicking and remain calm in a survival situation we can keep our wits about us, think productively, and make good decisions.
Certainly the invective to not panic is easier said than done, but training for such situations is not quite obvious. Should we deliberately seek out extreme, stressful situations in order to develop a grace-under-pressure skill set? While this bold, face your fears approach could hypothetically be successful, it is not going to be practical for everyone. Fortunately, there are some primary aspects of the survival mindset that we can develop without regularly endangering ourselves.
First, we must train ourselves to prioritize our needs. In our daily lives, most of us can at times be rather reckless when it comes to classifying wants as needs even if only in linguistic terms. Our exaggerated language actually trains our instincts in the wrong way. We’ve all at one time or another caught ourselves saying something childish like “I’m starving” or “I need this” when we would also simultaneously admit that those expressions aren’t strictly accurate. It’s difficult to avoid picking up turns of phrase and general attitudes from our culture, but we must understand that our general society has a dependency mindset rather than a survival mindset. Let’s be more judicious with our words, look outside of ourselves, and objectively assess our needs and priorities.
Second, we must narrow our focus. Despite a general acceptance of the idea that living in the present is the best approach to life, few are able to actually achieve this with the level of strictness that is necessary for a survival mindset. We typically involve ourselves in the past and future so much more than the present that our sense of the passage of time itself can become skewed. In a survival situation, the absolute emphasis must be on the task at hand. The present can seem claustrophobic if we’re not used to being there mentally, but it is an adjustment we must make when we are developing the survival mindset necessary for full spectrum preparation. After all, we’re physically living in the present anyway, and we’d probably be surprised how much our situational awareness of our current surroundings expands when we’re not focused on the past or the future – or any sort of electronic device.
Last, we must practice applying the survival mindset. One concrete suggestion is to develop physical discipline through fasting. Even with a solid set of tools and the ability to gather food, Alan lost 60 pounds during his time on Vancouver Island. Gaining primitive camping experience in order to hone necessary skills is also an excellent idea. Ultimately, it is a finely tuned survival mindset that structures our mental approach and creates an indispensable, robust grounding for full spectrum preparation.
About Ross Powell, Survival401K.com
Ross Powell is the Founder of Survival 401k, LLC. Ross was raised in San Antonio and graduated from the University of Texas and is a veteran Naval Officer.
Ross worked in banking and finance for almost 30 years including some of the largest banks and insurance companies in the country. His intimate knowledge of the inner workings of financial institutions helps him direct clients into our Solo 401k product to take control of their retirement funds and escape the pitfalls many see in modern retirement portfolios. His knowledge and access to alternative investments outside of Wall Street has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs find predictable results by helping them segment their retirement plans into wealth preservation, growth and liquidity. An avid fan of being prepared for the unexpected, Ross also guides his clients in preparing their lives and portfolios for the changing world to make Wise Decisions in Perilous Times.
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