The Secret-Sauce to Survival

By: Tory  |  Published: December 10th, 2012   |  Category: Tory Shulman News



As most of you know, I’m not a the adventuresome sort. In fact, I am a bit of a homebody. Or as my friends and family sometimes call me–a sad, sad, reclusive hermit. However, I do enjoy the idea of adventure and I find myself absorbing any kind of extreme survival stories, books, TV shows or documentaries I can get my hands on. My latest read was a terrific book called “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why” by Laurence Gonzalez. I highly recommend it. Gonzalez takes you through a myriad of AMAZING survival stories and explains why certain people live and certain people die.  Turns out, it has nothing to do with age or gender or even survival skills. It has to do with something deeper. Something that allows a 17 year old girl dressed only in her Catholic confirmation dress and heels to survive a plane crash and an 11 day hike out of the Peruvian jungle when all the the other passengers died.

There are, of course, obvious methods that can help in any survival situation. Forcing yourself to stay calm is imperative. Giving yourself small, achievable goals can keep you focused and positive. But the key to survival? Well, the special, secret sauce turns out to be the speed in which you truly accept and adapt to your new environment. For instance, say you are hiking a mountain when you find y0urself on an unfamiliar path as darkness approaches. You can choose to spend your time feeling panicked, feeling angry, feeling stupid OR  you can immediately start feeling out your new environment and successfully prepare for the night. The longer you chide yourself or freak yourself out for being in a place you didn’t expect, the less likely you are to walk out of your new situation.  The quicker you start truly accepting and adapting to the present situation, the smarter and better off you are.  When the 17 year old girl fell out of the sky and into the jungle, she didn’t feel bad for herself and wait for rescue. She looked around, took in her new environment and spent 11 days getting herself out. The rest of the survivors all stayed put and eventually died in the jungle where they landed.

I like this. I like this as a metaphor for anyone. The quicker you truly adapt to your changing environment the more likely you are to succeed. When I discover that the audition I am going into is actually a cattle call full of 150 prettier girls than me and I have to wait two hours, I could get really pissy and leave OR accept my new environment and settle down to do a crossword. If my heater and dishwasher both break in my apartment I can either freak out at the lovely Jewish landlady who wears pens in her hair OR I can adapt by wearing more scarves and hand washing some plates. If I am going to Australia and I find that they have changed my aisle seat to a middle I will accept that and–no FUCK that! I would just freak the fuck out. Isn’t that like a 48 hour flight?


Anyways, it’s a great lesson to keep in mind. whether you are on a raft in the middle of the sea or an endless line of shoppers at Trader Joe’s. Try seeing how quickly accepting and adapting to your new situation instead of wishing it were different, can actually give you more control.