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The entire Navigate the Chaos collection of all 365 blog posts is now available in a paperback entitled Navigate the Chaos (795 pages for $24.99). A smaller collection of thoughts from the Navigate the Chaos collection is available in paperback entitled Wonder (94 pages for $4.99)

How often do you assess what deep survival traits you have?

Today is January 15 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you assess what deep survival traits you have?”

When confronted with a life-threatening situation, 90 percent of people freeze or panic while the remaining 10 percent stay cool, focused, and alive. In Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why, Laurence Gonzales uncovers the biological and psychological reasons people risk their lives and why some are better at it than others.

In the first part of the book, the author talks to dozens of thrill-seekers—mountain climbers, sailors, jet pilots—and they all say the same thing: danger is a great rush. “Fear can be fun,” Gonzales writes. “It can make you feel more alive, because it is an integral part of saving your own life.”

To explain why and how those 10 percent lived, Gonzales identified 12 traits that disaster survivors have in common:

1. Perceive, believe (look, see, believe): Accept the reality of your situation, whatever it is. Then keep moving toward the outcome you desire. Stop seeing obstacles.

2. Stay calm (use humor, fear to focus): Do not be ruled by fear. Keeping calm in the face of slow sales or lost accounts is possible. Not easy, but possible.

3. Think/analyze/plan (get organized): Set up routines where you can exercise discipline. Even if those routines are small and basic. One foot in front of the other.

4. Take correct, decisive action (be bold and cautious while carrying out tasks): This includes risks to save yourself and others. Make a decision and stick with it.

5. Celebrate your successes (take joy in completing tasks): Even the smallest victories can bring satisfaction.

6. Count your blessings (be grateful – you’re alive): Gratitude is often cited as one of the healthiest attitudes you can maintain.

7. Play (sing, play mind games, recite poetry, count anything, do mathematical problems in your head): This keeps your brain engaged and why affirmations, repeating a favorite motivational quote repeatedly can often help you through a tough time. It is why many people talk about the power of prayer.

8. See the beauty (remember, it’s a vision quest): Allowing the beauty of life to enter your mind and heart will relieve stress. You have to see the beauty in small wins, tiny details, things that are going right.

9. Believe that you will succeed (develop a deep conviction that you will live): Stay determined and focused. If you are alone and lose faith in yourself, it will be nearly impossible to successfully navigate the chaos and survive.

10. Surrender (let go of your fear of dying; “put away the pain”): This is a tricky one for a small business owner, but my takeaway is that you have to ease up a bit, release your grip, or stop the control freak tendency. One survivor said it is “resignation without giving up.”

11. Do whatever is necessary (be determined; have the will and the skill):

12. Never give up (let nothing break your spirit): In the words of Winston Churchill, “never, never, never, never give up.” Survivors never let anything break their spirit.

Dr. Francisco Bucio practiced many of these deep survival tactics. On September 19, 1985, the young doctor found himself buried under debris after a massive earthquake struck Mexico City. Eventually, rescue workers found Bucio but doctors realized there was so much nerve damage they needed to amputate four fingers, leaving only his thumb. Realizing his dream of being a surgeon would be lost if he could not use both his hands, Bucio set out to find someone to help. He found that someone in Dr. Harry Buncke, Chief of Microsurgery at Davies Medical Center in San Francisco.

In December 1985, Dr. Buncke and a surgical team removed Bucio’s second toes, complete with arteries, tendons, and nerves and attached the toes to the stump of the sheared hand as the ring and pinkie fingers. After months of intense rehabilitation, he returned to work at the hospital performing minor tasks and eventually assisting in operations.

Charles Darwin noted “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." Dr. Francisco Bucio responded to change and is currently a board-certified plastic surgeon in Tijuana, Mexico.

  • What deep survival traits do you have?

  • How often do you accept the reality if your situation?

  • How often do you stay calm and get organized?

  • How often are you bold?

  • How often do you celebrate your successes and count your blessings?

  • How often are you playful and see the beauty?

  • How often do you believe you will succeed?

  • How often do you put away the pain?

  • How often do you do whatever is necessary?

  • How often do you let nothing break your spirit?


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