Washington’s in hock $11 trillion. Next, pile on all the gluttonous bailout billions and lost revenues and soon we’ll be pushing $15 trillion even $20 trillion as this global meltdown spreads. Worse yet: All that debt’s guaranteed to force new taxes and huge cutbacks, no matter what the winner promised.
Last week I predicted this dark future, a “Great Global Depression” by 2011. Fortunately, there are still optimists out there. See previous Paul B. Farrell.
For example: In a story in the latest Newsweek, “Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue: The Scary Challenges Facing the Next President on Day One,” Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “Opportunity: America’s Moment to Alter History’s Course,” had this warning for the next president: “This is not the world you’ve been discussing on the campaign trail,” that was a “caricature.” But he added, the “American people are ready to be leveled with” — even ready for the pain of moving in a bold new direction.
After warning of domestic dangers in his Newsweek “Memorandum to the President Elect,” New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg hit a high note about the future: “This is a competition we should relish, because we continue to enjoy all sorts of advantages: the best universities, the most advanced factories and health care, the most entrepreneurial workers and the best quality of life. But like a champion who has gotten complacent and sloughed off on workouts, the federal government — paralyzed by partisan gridlock and special-interest pandering — has let America slip out of top fighting form.”
McCain? Obama? The 535 members of Congress? Plus 42,000 special-interest lobbyists? Maybe they’ll “level with” you. Don’t count it. Besides, it doesn’t matter. Campaign’s over. “They” got the power. For the next four years the only person you can control is you.
Try shifting into survival mode. What if you’re stranded on a mountain climb in a storm? Marooned on a desert island? Lost in a jungle? Shipwrecked, drifting in the Pacific? For the next four years! It’s not “you versus them.” Not “you versus nature.” Surviving is “you versus you.” Laurence Gonzales has been researching how people behave in accidents for 35 years, and he tells us in “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why.”
He discovered “an eerie uniformity in the way people survive seemingly impossible circumstances. Decades and sometimes centuries apart, separated by culture, geography, race, language, and tradition, the most successful survivors — those who practice what I call ‘deep survival’ — go through the same patterns of thought and behavior, the same transformation and spiritual discovery, in the course of keeping themselves alive. Not only that but it doesn’t seem to matter whether they are surviving being lost in the wilderness or battling cancer, whether they’re struggling through divorce or facing a business catastrophe — the strategies remain the same.”
And we are clearly facing a historic political and economic catastrophe today, so listen closely: We can adapt Gonzales’ incredible “12 Rules of Adventure” as a road map for Americans, especially investors, in the uncharted waters ahead for four years with the new president.
Yes, he calls it an adventure: “Survival should be thought of as a journey, a vision quest of the sort that Native Americans have had as a rite of passage for thousands of years. Once you’re past the precipitating event — you’re cast away at sea or told you have cancer — you have been enrolled in one of the oldest schools in history. Here are a few things I’ve learned that can help you pass the final exam.”
The 12 tips that will work if you want to avoid a deep depression, both personally and as a nation:
1. Attitude: ‘perceive and believe’
Economist Nouriel Roubini predicts “the worst is yet to come,” with stocks going over a cliff, along with currencies, next year. Maybe “Dr. Doom” sees the “Greatest-Ever Global Depression” ahead. Maybe not. No matter: You are not helpless. Even in your worst-case scenario, you face reality with an attitude. Gonzales: “When Lance Armstrong, six-time winner of the Tour de France, awoke from brain surgery for his cancer, he first felt gratitude. ‘But then I felt a second wave, of anger… I was alive, and I was mad.’ When friends asked him how he was doing, he responded, ‘I’m doing great … I like the odds stacked against me … I don’t know any other way.’ That’s survivor thinking.”
Get it? Deep down, true survivors know they’ll win. As a U.S. Special Forces trainer said in Fast Company: “If you have a guy with all the survival training in the world who has a negative attitude and a guy who doesn’t have a clue but has a positive attitude, I guarantee you that the guy with a positive attitude is coming out of the woods alive.”
2. ‘Stay calm, use your anger’
Consumer confidence just dropped to the lowest in 41 years. But so what? “Aron Ralston, the hiker who had to cut off his hand to free himself from a stone that had trapped him in a slot canyon in Utah, initially panicked and began slamming himself over and over against the boulder that had caught his hand. But very quickly, he stopped himself, did some deep breathing, and began thinking about his options.” Stay angry at the new president for a day, then shift focus, trust that you’ll survive even a worst-case scenario.
3. ‘Think, analyze and plan’
Washington’s bailing out banks. There are trillions of dollars of new debt. Lobbyists for auto companies, hedge funds, insurers, foreign banks, even states want more bailout cash. Bankers keep getting big bonuses, but it’s peanuts for homeowners? Stop! Do you want to survive? Refocus!
Gonzales: “Survivors quickly organize, set up routines, and institute discipline … Survivors often report experiencing reason as an audible ‘voice’.” Listen: “Steve Callahan, a sailor and boat designer, was rammed by a whale and sunk while on a solo voyage in 1982. Adrift in the Atlantic for 76 days in a five-and-a-half-foot raft, he experienced his survival voyage as taking place under the command of a ‘captain,’ who gave him his orders and kept him on his water ration, even as his own mutinous (emotional) spirit complained. His captain routinely lectured ‘the crew.’ Thus under strict control, he was able to push away thoughts that his situation was hopeless and take the necessary first steps of the survival journey: to think clearly, analyze his situation, and formulate a plan.”
4. ‘Take correct, decisive action’
Got fired? Lost your pension? Can’t retire? Bank foreclosing on your home? Remember Lauren Elder: The only survivor of a light plane crash in the high Sierra. Stranded on a peak above 12,000 feet, one arm broken, she could see the San Joaquin Valley in California below, but a vast wilderness and sheer and icy cliffs separated her from it. Wearing a wrap-around skirt and blouse, with two-inch heeled boots and not even wearing underwear, she crawled “on all fours, doing a kind of sideways spiderwalk” climbing down for 36 hours. Gonzales: “A seemingly impossible task. But Elder allowed herself to think only as far as the next big rock. Survivors break down large jobs into small, manageable tasks. They set attainable goals and develop short-term plans to reach them. They are meticulous about doing those tasks well. Elder tested each hold before moving forward and stopped frequently to rest. They make very few mistakes. They handle what is within their power to deal with from moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day.”
New taxes? Cutbacks? Nobody said life’s fair. Get frugal. Focus on your survival plan.
5. ‘Celebrate your success’
“Survivors take great joy from even their smallest successes,” says Gonzales. “This helps keep motivation high and prevents a lethal plunge into hopelessness. It also provides relief from the unspeakable strain of a life-threatening situation. Elder said that once she had completed her descent of the first pitch, she looked up at the impossibly steep slope and thought, ‘Look what you’ve done … Exhilarated, I gave a whoop that echoed down the silent pass.’ Even with a broken arm, joy was Elder’s constant companion. A good survivor always tells herself: Count your blessings, you’re alive.”
No job? Cash low? Maybe that’ll open up to a new career that you’ll love doing, in a new area, with new friends.
6. ‘Be a rescuer, not a victim’
Noted psychologist Viktor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” spent three years in Nazi concentration camps. Gonzales honors Frankl’s experience: “Survivors are always doing what they do for someone else.” Your loved ones will suffer without you. The world needs to hear how you survived unspeakable horrors. Survive for them!
For more truly inspiring stories, please read Gonzales’ “Deep Survival,” especially the remaining six “Rules of Adventure” about:
- How “even in the worst circumstances, survivors find something to enjoy, some way to play and laugh”
- How survivors see the beauty of the world even “in the face of mortal danger”
- How they are so convinced they’ll survive, the “fear of dying falls away, and a new strength fills them with the power to go on”
- How survivors “engage their crisis almost as an athlete engages a sport,” entering the “zone” that is a “resignation without giving up. It is survival by surrender”
- How survivors “do whatever’s necessary” much as the “cancer patient allows herself to be nearly killed by chemotherapy in order to live”
- How a survivor never, never gives up, because nothing is impossible
Deep Survival is not only an inspiring book, it is a perfect road map for the next four years. For 100% of America, everybody! For McCain voters and for Obama voters — to survive as individuals and as a united nation. Gonzales says: “Those who would survive the hazards of our world, whether at play or in business or at war, through illness or financial calamity, will do so through a journey of transformation … A survival experience is an incomparable gift: It will tell you who you really are.”
And you will discover as Elder did that: “I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. And sometimes I even miss it.” Because survival is an adventure!