Jan 20 2011

Book Short: Calm in a Crisis, Explained

Book Short:  Calm in a Crisis, Explained

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, by Laurence Gonzales, is not a business book.  Even though the author says a few times “this can be applied to business, too,” the application is left 100% up to the reader.  But that’s my only criticism of the book, and it’s not a big one at that.  Deep Survival is an unexpected and somewhat odd way to think about how to lead an organization, but it’s very powerful, and incredibly well written.

The author essentially has made a career, or at least a hobby, of studying major accidents and delineating the qualities that separate those who survive from those who don’t. Most of his examples are from extreme sports — sailing across the Atlantic solo, doing highly technical rock and glacier climbs, and the like.  Certainly one easy takeaway from the book is that perhaps one can have a lot of fun and be challenged in life without putting oneself at risk in those ways!

But that’s not the author’s point.  And it’s not even that preparedness makes the difference, as you might expect (in fact, sometimes that hurts).  His point is that the correct combination of rational and emotional impulses makes the difference.  His specific 12 points are:

  • Look, see, believe (keep those cognitive functions working)
  • Stay calm, use humor and fear to focus
  • Think/analyze/plan, get organized with manageable tasks
  • Take correct, decisive action
  • Celebrate successes
  • Count your blessings
  • Play…or do other things to occupy your mind’s idle moments
  • See the beauty around you
  • Believe that you will succeed
  • Surrender – don’t let the fear of failure stand in your way
  • Do whatever is necessary
  • Never give up

But reading those points doesn’t really substitute for reading the book, especially since some seem contradictory!  Thanks to my friend Greg Sands for this great read.