Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Never Give Up

Well I’ve just spent an interesting hour casting my eye over the new edition of John Lofty Wiseman’s book, the SAS Survival Handbook, which is subtitled: How to Survive in the Wild in Any Climate.  On Land or at Sea. And it’s full of the most amazing information, that has actually saved lives, and is based on his own SAS experience.  So you know, if you’re ever in the Polar regions for instance, it will be kind of important to remember that if you’re travelling by sea, you do not use ice burgs or distant landmarks to fix direction, because guess what, flows are constantly moving, so they’re highly unreliable.  And so you know, desert, terrain, doesn’t matter, you name it- it’s in here, the way to survive.

But, what I found most interesting of all was the introduction, in which he has a pyramid divided into three layers, showing you what is most important.  And at the top of the pyramid, at the apex, there’s a little triangle and inside is written the word ‘kit.’  Referring to having the right clothing, the right tools ideally.  ‘Kit.’  Underneath that a big chunk, right across the pyramid ‘Knowledge.’  Meaning your skills, your know how, knowledge of the terrain, the lie of the land, anything at all that would be helpful. How do they do things round here?  What is edible?  Etc, etc.  But you know, at the base, is the third and most important area, it’s the one that he says is critical, and he calls it ‘The Will To Live.’ 

It’s the difference that makes the difference, as far as he’s concerned, in everything he’s seen.  Indeed he actually says that you know, if you’ve got the will to live, you can make all sorts of mistakes and still come through because you’ve got what it takes to keep going.   And I think yes, of course this is true in extreme conditions, when it is a matter of life and death, but it’s equally true in somewhat less extreme conditions, when in our ordinary lives, things seem to be tough, or on a knife edge.  And very often the question is do we have the will to live, to go through it and make it to the other side, to keep going?  And it’s why for instance, Churchill said famously at one point, ‘never, never, never, never give up.’  And why is that so important?  Because that kind of perseverance produces endurance and with endurance comes staying power to see it through, even if you don’t know quite how you’re going to see it through.  And so this can take a lot of different forms in everyday life.  And for instance, if you’re running a business, it may take you time to find a way through a particular situation, it may also take time to find the right people to help guide you through a transition or a change.  But if you don’t have the will to live, you probably will give up prematurely, and just in a sense, probably metaphorically, you’ll just lie down and you know, pass out, you’d go to sleep. You die.  But that doesn’t have to be the way it is, and it doesn’t have to be the way it is in pretty much any area of life.  So the question I guess, becomes can you cultivate that will to live?  Is that will a skill?  Is it a learnable skill?  And I think it probably is, because you can learn to become more resilient, you can learn to endure, you can learn to persevere and if you can do that, you guess right, yes, you get to stay alive and you then have the opportunity to come through.

So if times are tough, I think it’s worth remembering this, and that’s true  not just in extreme weather conditions,  but it’s also true in life as a whole.  It might be true in a relationship, it might be true in a personal challenge you’re facing, it might be true in a health crisis, it might be true in a business.  So whether or not you ever get round to reading the new edition of the SAS Survival Handbook, the will to live, which is at the heart of all successful survival, is something I think that pretty much all of us might want to remember and even take the trouble to cultivate. 

‘Til the next time.
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