About two years ago, Gordon Graham recommended four books that I read to get a grip on risk management. I immediately purchased and read all four. This book was submitted by the vetting committee for recommended reading for SWAT team leaders and survived the culling of numerous other good books. Rather than provide my own commentary, I cannot do better than the description provided on Amazon.com. I will add only that, besides the lessons that it contains, it is also an easy and fascinating read.
When confronted with a life-threatening situation, 90% of people freeze or panic, says Gonzales in this exploration of what makes the remaining 10% stay cool, focused and alive. Gonzales (The Hero’s Apprentice; The Still Point), who has covered survival stories for National Geographic Explorer, Outside and Men’s Journal, uncovers the biological and psychological reasons people risk their lives and why some are better at it than others. In the first part of the book, the author talks to dozens of thrill-seekers-mountain climbers, sailors, jet pilots-and they all say the same thing: danger is a great rush. “Fear can be fun,” Gonzales writes. “It can make you feel more alive, because it is an integral part of saving your own life.” Pinpointing why and how those 10% survive is another story. “They are the ones who can perceive their situation clearly; they can plan and take correct action,” Gonzales explains. Survivors, whether they’re jet pilots landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier or boatbuilders adrift on a raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, share certain traits: training, experience, stoicism and a capacity for their logical neocortex (the brain’s thinking part) to override the primitive amygdala portion of their brains. Although there’s no surefire way to become a survivor, Gonzales does share some rules for adventure gleaned from the survivors themselves: stay calm, be decisive and don’t give up. Remembering these rules when crisis strikes may be tough, but Gonzales’s vivid descriptions of life in the balance will stay with readers.
—Reviewed by Sid Heal
Recommended by Sid Heal in Episodes 1 & 2