You hear me refer to the Rules of Survival quite often, but you may never have had the opportunity to attend a meeting where I reviewed them. I have followed these rules for many years, but did not realize that I was doing so because I never verbalized them. They are quite simple and you have been following them in your everyday life, but they become very important when faced with difficult decisions. I learned that those who can adjust to conditions as water adjusts to a vessel are the most likely to survive.
1. UNDERSTAND CIRCUMSTANCES.
This is the most difficult rule to follow. We nurture the idea that we direct our lives, but the reality is that we have very little control over most of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Weather, politics, war, and a myriad of other obstacles can all get in the way of our plans. Letting go of this illusion of control helps us adjust to circumstances more quickly and effectively especially when it comes to issues of survival. The difference between fear and peace of mind is understanding the circumstances.
Knowledge relevant to understanding these circumstances never exists in concentrated or integrated form but rather in dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory information.
It is fashionable today to minimize the importance of understanding your circumstances. Most people live in virtual oblivion; they tend to replace facts with assumptions and beliefs. The more we use facts to evaluate our circumstances, the more confident we can be that we understand them.
Problems arise because circumstances change. So long as things continue as before and/or as expected, new problems rarely arise, and you don’t need to adjust your plan.
How much knowledge do we need to understand successfully? Almost anything that happens around the world might have an effect on us, but knowing about every event and every effect is practically impossible. Instead, we must filter this information down to events and effects that are relevant to our situation.
We also have to deal with the unavoidable imperfection of man’s knowledge. The more significant the decision we face the more rigorous the information-gathering process must be.
These are some of the issues that make understanding circumstances so difficult. It is most important, however, to make sure that you and your loved ones acquire the ability to make an educated decision. You cannot leave a better legacy than a well-educated family. Education is the foundation of survival.
Our tools for acquiring, filtering, and processing relevant information have progressed to a truly amazing level. The Internet, a vast web of interconnected information sources, offers the average person instant access to most of the knowledge our species has gathered throughout history.
Personally, I feel like a child in a candy shop. I remember the years before the Internet, when it was always difficult to find facts to assist with decision-making. Now, I can sit at my computer in the comfort of my home office and explore the cumulative knowledge of the world with just a few clicks. Amazing!
2. ADJUST TO CIRCUMSTANCES.
The difference between tragedy and survival is adjusting to the relevant circumstances. You must adapt—though not necessarily compromise—your values in response to change. Self-preservation is one of man’s strongest innate abilities.
When you adjust to circumstances, it doesn’t mean that you must accept them; you might instead decide to oppose them. For example, the writers of the Declaration of Independence adjusted to new circumstances by seeking to change them.
The most significant adjustment is preparation. Those who believe that preparation is unimportant, or that another terrorist attack, economic collapse, or hurricane is unlikely, will be the most traumatized and disorientated people during and immediately following a disaster.
What makes us different from animals is that we are able to plan for the future and accumulate tools and supplies for future eventualities.
3. SET ASIDE YOUR FEELINGS.
The question of whether emotion or reason is the better guide to decision-making has been a source of controversy. Logical reasoning for survival sometimes collides with moral judgments or emotional reactions. Your inability or unwillingness to set aside or overcome your feelings may impair your survival. During the Nazi invasion of Hungary in World War II, my father and many of his compatriots understood the circumstances and the need to adjust, but their collective pride was hurt and they could not set aside their feelings. This fatally impaired my father’s decision-making ability.
Just look at the list of feelings you may have to mitigate before you can act: Confusion, anger, embarrassment, pain, irritation, insecurity, distrust, apathy, fatigue, and fear. I’ve had to deal with all of them over the years. Fear is the most common. Sometimes, however, it is easy to be courageous when you really have no alternatives.
Following the first three rules is worthless unless you subsequently take action. At this point, you may realize that you live in a state of interdependence, almost totally unable to provide for yourself without the assistance of others. Your survival depends on the actions and goodwill of family members, community organizations, and neighbors. This should be one of your relevant circumstances. Share your survival plan with people you trust, and invite them to participate.
Keep in mind that survival involves staying alive when outside help is unavailable for some time. Here are a few advance steps you may want to take:
Use the situational awareness color system (Cooper’s colors) used by the military and law enforcement as code words when communicating with others in a dangerous environment. When people practice situational awareness, they not only can keep themselves safer but also keep others safe. When groups of people practice situational awareness together, they can help keep their families, schools, houses of worship, workplaces, and even cities safe from danger.
Let others know about the Rules of Survival. They worked for me dealing with the horrors of the WW2 era, starting a new life in the USA, the business roller coaster, multiple cancers and medical problems.