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Learn Life Skills for Extreme Situations

The sun was blazing, the terrain barren and unforgiving, and the instructors were working us hard.  The extra twenty pounds or so of gear we were wearing just added to the fatigue – a Kevlar vest, knee and elbow pads, sometimes a helmet, a pistol strapped to the right thigh and an American M4 or Russian Kalashnikov assault rifle in hand…
                            At the firing range, carrying an M4 assault rifle
That was last week for me.  I was privileged to attend an elite training course down in the deserts of the south-western US, a course taught by special forces veterans and frequently attended by everyone from members of such elite organizations as the British SAS or Canada’s JTF2, to ordinary people facing deployment to the world’s most dangerous trouble spots. 
(The trip also allowed me to explore some issues of leadership, teamwork and corporate culture with these people.  Did you know that what we consider the most advanced leadership and corporate culture solutions in the corporate world today were actually developed by special forces units decades ago?)
The “Yang” Side of Resilience Training
You may have noticed I like to divide resilience training into its “Yin” and “Yang” aspects.  And I tend to talk more about the Yin or “soft” aspects, such as meditation, mindfulness, Qi Gong, Yoga, nutrition, relationship skills and the like. 
However, we should never forget the other side of the coin – those Yang skills that will keep us and our loved ones alive when the unthinkable happens.
In North America we live the pleasant delusion that we personally will never face an extreme situation.  That situation could be street crime, a home invasion, a natural disaster or something as commonplace as a car accident out in the country, where you’re on the scene and the nearest first responder is still twenty minutes away.  Meanwhile, the accident victim on the ground in front of you may only have two minutes to live, not twenty, unless you personally take some very specific and simple actions.  Do you have the skill sets required?  Do you have the right medical kit with you?  What if that victim were your spouse or child? 
  
                            Rescuing a man down, moving him and applying 
                                          a tourniquet to save his life
Our delusion is the ingrained belief that we don’t need those skills because the paramedics will save the day.  Likewise we assume we don’t need to know how to carry an unconscious person out of a burning building or know how to defend ourselves because the firemen and police will do it for us. 
Yet the stark reality is that when the s**t hits the fan, you will more than likely be on your own for the first five to fifteen minutes of any serious event.  And by then, it’s very often too late.
The Value of Acquiring Extreme Skills
One of the most challenging features of last week’s course was that you never knew what challenge the instructors would throw at you next!  This is when you find yourself worrying about whether you’ll screw it up and look like an idiot, whether you’ll have the energy, and whether the back muscle you pulled yesterday will hold out…
                            Participant learns how to escape when tied up
                                          with rope, hand-cuffs, etc. 
And then you realize that you just need to surrender.  You can either continue wasting energy worrying about what comes next, or you can surrender, live in the present and mentally let it all go.  So one of the greatest benefits of the kind of training that tests your physical and mental limits is that you learn a lot about yourself. 
Some of the other specific benefits of learning some of life’s extreme skills are:
  • Improving your personal resilience
  • Passing on these skills to those around you
  • Boosting your self-esteem
  • Becoming a greater asset to your family, workplace and community
  • Acquiring the confidence to face extreme situations
  • Learning how to function effectively under extreme stress

                                          Clearing rooms and rescuing hostages (hint: 
                                          the way you see it done on TV shows will get
                                          you killed)

So although the Yin side of resilience training (improving your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health) is absolutely vital, it’s important not to forget the Yang side of resilience training, where we acquire the personal power and the critical skills to handle life’s most extreme situations. 
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger



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