In disasters or accidents, why do some people survive and others perish? In exploring this question, my guest has uncovered psychological and philosophical insights into not only dealing with life-threatening crises, but strategically navigating any situation that involves risk and decision-making.
His name is Laurence Gonzales and he’s a pilot, a journalist, and the author of several books, including the focus of today’s conversation: Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. Today on the show, we discuss how the story of his father being shot out of the sky during WWII set Laurence on a journey to explore the mysterious underpinnings of survival. Laurence then explains what happens to us mentally and emotionally in a disaster situation that causes us to make poor decisions, how our mental models can get us in trouble, and why rule breakers are more likely to survive than rule followers. Laurence then walks us through complexity theory and how trying to make things safer can counterintuitively make them more dangerous. We then talk about why the frequency with which you yell at your kids correlates to your chances of surviving a life-threatening emergency, before ending our conversation with a discussion of the paradoxes would-be survivors must grapple with, including being both realistic and hopeful at the same time.
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- The survival story of Laurence’s father
- How Laurence then went on to become a stunt pilot
- The role of emotions in survival scenarios
- How mental models help and hurt us in survival situations
- Mental models getting people killed in terrorist attacks
- Why rule breakers tend to survive more than rule followers
- What is complexity theory? How does it explain how accidents happen?
- How making things safer actually adds complexity to our systems
- How survivors manage to take control of their panic response
- How do survivors balance hope and reality?
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- AoM’s archives of survival articles
- Why You Need a Philosophical Survival Kit
- Survival Skills From a Navy SEAL
- “Snow Fall”
- How to Survive a Secret Syrian Terrorist Prison
- The Tao of Boyd: How to Master the OODA Loop
- Using Mental Models to Make Better Decisions
- Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
- Complexity Theory
- 1986 Mt. Hood Disaster
- What Big-Time Catastrophes Can Teach Us About How to Improve Our Systems
- Normal Accidents by Charles Perrow
- Taking Control of Your Life
- Adrift by Steve Callahan
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Connect With Laurence
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