The following guest blog post was written by Yossi Ghinsberg and is scheduled to be published in the the October/November edition of “The Smart Manager” publication.
Iʼm here to bust a few myths about survival.
Born in Israel in 1959, my parents were eastern European Jews, surviving the Holocaust and migrating to Israel after World War II. I was raised in a new country always in a state of war and surrounded by enemies. Both these environments, home and homeland left a colossal imprint upon me; the mould was cast and it was strong. When I turned 21, immediately after my military service I went traveling. Whilst in South America I became trapped in the midst of the Amazon rainforest after losing three of my friends; for the following three weeks in the midst of the worst rainy season, without fire, food or weapons I survived against all odds in what is considered the most hostile environment on the planet. Ten years later I returned to the Amazon and lived in a remote and untouched area for three years. Youʼd think I know a thing or two about survival.
Yet myth-busting is hard to do. Weʼre so inclined to maintain old habits and to defend our perceptions and beliefs. Cultural imprints, national narratives, religious conditioning, scientific dogmas influence us as we observe the world through tainted lenses.
Myth by definition is falsehood believed by masses. When masses believe in something it becomes reality. What creates reality is mass belief; believing is seeing.
Survival Myth #1 – Itʼs a jungle out there
We perceive the world as a dangerous place where only the strong, cunning and most talented will survive. This is the world weʼve created. What if it is not true? Is it possible that survival is quite the opposite to what we believe?
Living in the Amazon for several years I can attest that this is indeed not true. Jungle life is lush, abundant and serene – itʼs not a jungle out there at all. All forms of life in the Amazon thrive. So from where does this myth originate and why do we believe it?
Itʼs Malthusʼ fault. A British cleric and political economist, Robert Malthus laid the foundation for this myth with his logically-derived equation: population grows exponentially + resources are finite = inevitable depletion and scarcity. He concluded that this planet cannot sustain us and we need to fight for our existence.
The myth of scarcity consciousness is the single greatest tragedy ever to descend upon planet earth since it has turned us against each other, led to brutal and merciless competition, made competition the highest virtue in our cultures, led us to kill millions of species, to madly deplete all resources and prevented us from seeing the intrinsic wholeness of life. Believing the scarcity myth has created our reality. When examined closely, this myth is untrue – population does not grow exponentially but rather regulates itself. Resources are not finite; there is enough of everything for everyone. It’s ridiculous to think we can exhaust resources like energy when a sun graciously and conveniently exists in the universe sky. It’s the same for any resource you can name – there is more than we could ever need. So I conclude: itʼs a paradise out there.
Survival Myth #2 – Only the fittest survive
According to this common myth not everybody survives, itʼs a war zone and you must fight to survive. This dangerous myth is responsible for the war and pillaging of the planet and extinction of close to half of the planet’s species. We fight each other for every resource as societies, nations, corporations, small businesses and individuals. Competition has become the highest of values, taught and encouraged from early childhood. We see Darwin as a naturalist, as somebody who derived this myth by observing nature. Wrong. Darwin, a contemporary of and greatly influenced by Malthus, was a British upper-class cleric developed this theory to position commoners as lesser people thereby preserving the class system.
Having lived in the Amazon I can attest that this theory is meaningless! As the densest place on the planet with approximately 50% of all species living there, one might think that if anywhere on the planet this myth could be proved correct it would be in the Amazon – pressure of population on finite resources leading to an extreme fight for survival, where the winners live and the losers die. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the Amazon every single species is at the top of its game. There is no such specie that is not fit enough. Every plant and animal is fit, intelligent, strong and adaptable and they all survive.
Survival Myth #3 – Competition is like war and to be a winner your competitors must lose
This myth has driven us to dark days where life has become a war, from children in school to nations in conflict. Businesses fight over markets using war terminology; these values are normative and celebrated.Yet another unfounded myth with destructive consequences. Competition is a tool to create only winners however in real competition nobody loses – everyone must win. Let me explain with an example from the Olympic Games. On the podium we have three winners, gold, silver and bronze; national anthems are played and victories are celebrated. During an interview with the runner that came in last in this race, he’s asked if he feels like a loser. Quite the opposite – in the true nature of competition and in full accordance with the Olympic spirit there are only winners, not as a feel-good philosophy but in actuality. The guy who came last tells us he broke his personal best record and also his country’s national record. How can he be considered a loser?
Competition as we perceive it in our societies and in business is perverted. True competition doesnʼt mean outsmarting, putting down, destroying or eliminating but rather creating a supportive environment where everybody can be at their best.
Survival Myth #4 – You must rely on yourself
Sadly we feel separated from the world and other species. To survive we need to be able to take care of ourselves. Yet this is not the nature of the world. Separation is an illusion that can easily be removed if we just decide to look at the world more clearly. We are not isolated nor separated from others – in fact we are all close family. The world is an eco-system and as such adheres to three defining realities:
A. We are all related; our genetic constitution is almost the same from a glow worm to Homo Sapiens Sapiens; seeing that fact cannot leave much place for doubt unless one chooses to believe in something else.
B. We are connected; thereʼs a grid much like a spider’s web unseen to the naked eye that links us all. Touch the grid anywhere and the vibration is felt everywhere – we are one.
C. We are dependent upon each other. In order to thrive we must take care of each other and the planet. The irony is that human greed more than anything else has pushed the planet and our eco-system to the verge of destruction. I think that indeed ʻGreed’ is good but that ‘Grid’ is by far better. Greed is good because at its core is the tendency of any person anywhere to strive for a better life for themselves and their children. Without this incentive not much progress and development can occur. However exploiting the planet so savagely for greed is very poor strategy.
Survival Myth #5 – You must be a skilled expert to survive
From personal experience, the most skilled person on our expedition, our guide, did not survive; this was his last ever expedition. I was the youngest and least experienced member. Local experts said I had no chance and that they themselves wouldnʼt have survived under such circumstances, however I did. Hence I sincerely believe one doesnʼt need to learn survival skills nor to be an expert. Survival skills are intrinsic; they’re part of our make-up, encoded and ready to spring into action when needed. When a true life-threatening situation arises something from within awakens; all faculties are honed, the mental and physical and right action is taken naturally.
Mary Gardner, host of Star Causes on 810 CBS Sports Radio, interviewed Cary Mullen for the Star Causes radio show. Cary candidly shared some experiences from his journey toward becoming a champion downhill skier.
Challenging Choices: Cary’s known for breaking the world downhill skiing record at 97 mph, but he was also a champion Canadian gymnast as a child. When he began to plateau in skiing and gymnastics at age fifteen, he realized that he had to choose between the two sports.
Cary’s small size of five feet, one inch and 90 pounds was an advantage for gymnastics. When Cary went to his dad for advice, his dad pointed out that Cary’s uncle, grandfather, brother and dad were late bloomers who grew to be six feet tall and 200 pounds. Cary followed his dad’s advice. And as predicted, a growth spurt reversed Cary’s disadvantage in skiing and advantage in gymnastics.
Recovering with Purpose: Cary suffered a debilitating concussion after a near-fatal skiing crash. It took courage to go from working toward becoming a world-class athlete to working toward becoming a normally functioning adult. During his recovery, he realized that he didn’t need to work to get better for his own benefit–he needed to get better so he could help others.
Recognizing Effort: While growing up, Cary lost many skiing competitions, despite his hard work. At age fourteen, he won a special award at a year-end banquet. His peers had chosen him for the award, which honored the person who was the most deserving of an award, but hadn’t won one. The award (which he also received the next year) was significant because it meant that he was being recognized for the great effort he was putting forth, even though he wasn’t getting the results he wanted. It motivated him to later create the “Character of a Champion Award” for young athletes.
Listen to the full interview to learn more about this inspiring champion and keynote speaker.
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