Thought’s true power

I’ve been picking up in “The Survivor’s Club” for the past week (see my post “Unplugging the Internet” for more information) and have been struck by one concept mentioned throughout the chapters: the power of thought.

We’ve all heard the old adage – “think happy thoughts.” It’s what makes Peter Pan fly in “Hook” and there are some who swear by positive vibes. It turns out, save for the whole vibes thing, that it’s true. The power of thought, and more importantly, its continuous application, is a huge factor in surviving an extreme situation.

Sure, this book isn’t packed with nonstop action like an episode of “Man vs. Wild,” but the life stories in it are awe-inspiring.

Take for instance the story of Tim Sears, a man who fell off of a cruise ship into the ocean a few years back.

Sears was enjoying a night aboard the ship with a friend. After having a few drinks, he can’t remember a thing and woke up in the ocean, watching his ship float away toward the horizon. He was stranded, completely alone. Even worse, it was night, and he had no means to signal to approaching ships that he was in the water.

To survive, Sears began to swim toward an oil rig seen in the distance. He kept an eye on the clouds above to see where the jet stream was, ensuring that he wasn’t swimming in circles. But, one can only do that for so long.

After 14 hours of being in the 60-degree water, he made his peace, took a final breath and started to sink. Ben Sherwood’s interview with Sears says that he was about 20 feet underwater when he realized he wasn’t ready to give up.

He rose back to the surface, spat out the salty water and continued to swim for another three hours. Badly sunburned and exhausted, a ship came nearby, and heard his screaming for help. The Eny, a foreign cargo ship en route to Texas, picked him up and brought him home.

Sears had already succumbed to the notion that he was going to give up while there was still some strength left in him. But the power of thought, the fighting instinct to stay alive – to survive – kicked in.

Another quick bit of the book comes from Fairchild Air Force Base’s Survival School out near Deep Creek. There, they teach that the number three is crucial to survival.

Their “Rule of 3” says you cannot survive

  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without shelter in extreme conditions
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food
  • 3 months without companionship or love

Most importantly, we cannot survive 3 seconds without spirit and hope.

It’s incredibly important to keep thoughts pointed in a certain direction – the direction you want – else that spirit and hope fades. Sears’ story is only one example, but it serves as a keen reminder as to the power of thought, and what happens when we lose our direction, and are lost in a lonely sea.

That’s when we’re most vulnerable, and when we only have three seconds to make a change.

Sears gives us a reason to keep swimming.


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