The Survival Expert Paradox

With so many variables in play, the idea of survival expert has always made me cringe. To call yourself a survival expert has always made me feel you’re a jackass. Oh and be sure I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters with you survival donkeys.

I recently came across an article [here] on the Survival Sherpa website succinctly describing the relation between survival and expert:

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My buddy Tommy runs a popular Facebook group and put an interesting spin on this disturbing online trend… something I’d never thought of but makes total sense.

Here’s my paraphrased version…

Expert status takes thousands of hours and experience in a chosen field. Making poor decisions typically lands you in a survival situation. People claiming to be survival experts should also add to their resume, “Poor Decision-Making Expert.” I’ve never seen nor have I heard of anyone being in a real survival situation for 20, 30, or even 40 years and lived to tell about it.

To be an expert in survival, one would have had to be in hundreds of real survival situations. That basically makes one horrible at preparing beforehand. I can’t speak for you, but “Poor Decision-Making Expert” is the last thing I’d want in my bio… or tombstone.

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Tommy and Todd, a tip of the hat to both of you for logically addressing one of many cancers plaguing the survival community.

So there in is the paradox. If you’re a survival expert, you win the jackass award for being in a survival situation that many times. That tells me you’re an idiot.

The truth is no one knows how they will react during an honest survival situation. There is no amount of training which can prepare you for the psychological anxiety one will experience in those situations. I am sure everyone who’s appeared on television shows—Naked and Afraid, Alone, Survivor, etc.—felt they had the “expertise” to handle such a situation. In many respects, they had the physical aptitude: making fire, trapping, purifying water, shelter, etcetera. However; the participants, to varying degrees, lacked the most fundamental of all; mental constitution. And, by the looks of it, given a little more time, all would have succumb to starvation.

On the upside, I applaud all of those who tapped out when they did. They respected their limitation, regardless of their wilderness savvy. I’m glad your ego is in check.

So, to all of you “self proclaimed” wilderness survival experts, you’re nothing more than charlatans.

Check your honor and integrity.

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7 comments on “The Survival Expert Paradox
  1. Ben Leucking says:

    I generally agree with your assessment about self proclaimed survival “experts.”

    I would, however, take exception to your suggestion that “there is no amount of training that can prepare you for the psychological anxiety one will experience in those situations.” In reality, the more training a person gains in survival related situations, the more prepared they are (mentally and physically) to deal with the challenges when the real thing occurs. Training, practice and experimentation enables a person to develop and test their capabilities. That is such a fundamental truth that I’m surprised that you overlooked it.

    • TJ says:

      Ben, you can practice survival scenarios until you’re blue in the face but that still doesn’t make you a survival expert it just makes you a “self proclaimed” expert at practicing survival SCENARIOS. You can’t train mentally for something that isn’t truly a genuine “survival situation”. Period. There is absolutely no such thing as a “survival expert”. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either delusional or they happen to be one of these “self proclaimed” survival experts and giving themselves the label of “survival expert” to help their brand or their ego.

  2. admin says:

    Ben, you’re mixing two different things up and trying to combine them at the same time.

    Let me repeat… No matter how good your physical skills are NO amount of training can prepare you for the mental anxiety one will feel in an honest survival situation. You may most certainly be able to do the physical skills, because of your training, but the mental anxiety you experience in a true life threatening situation you will not be prepared for. Now, before we go down deep the rabbit hole, simply being lost does not necessarily make it a survival situation (life threatening situation).

    Survival situations (life threatening situations) come in all shapes and sizes— heart attacks, shock, exsanguination, hypothermia, hypoglycemia, life threatening animal attacks, starvation, combat, etc.. So, the only way to bypass the anxiety which can come with life threatening situations is to desensitize yourself by exposing yourself to the situations and getting through them. Do you remember the anxiety you felt the first time you drove? It was only through driving repeatedly your anxiety disappeared. People who want to put themselves in True Survival situations in order to desensitize themselves are jackasses. the idea is to never put yourself in that situation to begin with…The idea is such a fundamental truth, I’m surprised you overlooked it.

    • Grindstone says:

      “So, the only way to bypass the anxiety which can come with life threatening situations is to desensitize yourself by exposing yourself to the situations and getting through them.”

      That’s literally called training.

  3. Grindstone says:

    “there is no amount of training that can prepare you for the psychological anxiety one will experience in those situations.”

    I disagree. This is why we train for all kinds of stressful situations in the military. Including survival situations. Is the stress 100% the same as you will experience in a given situation? Of course not, but the stress induced during training teaches one how to *handle* it. How many times have you heard “I just reverted back to my training” when someone is interviewed after a stressful situation? If you paid attention, it should be quite a lot. Does everybody react differently? Sure, but everybody reacts differently when they start getting shot at, but that’s why we train to react to immediate contact. Nobody in their right mind goes “oh I was never trained enough on how to handle this!”

  4. admin says:

    Grindstone, I don’t even know where to begin replying to you. Your logic is so full of holes and contradictory it makes swiss cheese look whole.

    Your contextomy makes you look like a media hack. Next time it would be wise of you to include everything not just quote mine me. If you would have included the context instead of parsing my words you would see your logic falls apart and makes you look foolish.

    You quoted me as saying:

    “So, the only way to bypass the anxiety which can come with life threatening situations is to desensitize yourself by exposing yourself to the situations and getting through them.”

    You replied:

    “That’s literally called training”

    Had you included the context (what preceded it) you would see how stupid your response was. But here, let me help you.

    I said:

    “Survival situations (life threatening situations) come in all shapes and sizes— heart attacks, shock, exsanguination, hypothermia, hypoglycemia, life threatening animal attacks, starvation, combat, etc.. So, the only way to bypass the anxiety which can come with life threatening situations is to desensitize yourself by exposing yourself to the situations and getting through them.”

    Now let’s add your response:

    “That’s literally called training”

    You’re literally suggesting people put themselves in those situations in the name of training. That is the most stupid thing I’ve read in a while.

    …………

    Next, you contradict yourself and first disagree with me then agree with me

    you quoted me saying:

    “there is no amount of training that can prepare you for the psychological anxiety one will experience in those situations.”

    you replied”

    “I disagree. This is why we train for all kinds of stressful situations in the military. Including survival situations. Is the stress 100% the same as you will experience in a given situation? Of course not”

    Well, what is it? Do you disagree or agree? You start off saying you disagree with my comment then you go on to say, “Is the stress 100% the same as you will experience in a given situation? Of course not” You literally just disagreed and agreed. SO which is it?

    Now to further your response of “I disagree. This is why we train for all kinds of stressful situations in the military” in response to my, “there is no amount of training that can prepare you for the psychological anxiety one will experience in those situations.”

    Does PTSD sound familiar?

    …….

    Okay, next

    You wrote:

    “How many times have you heard “I just reverted back to my training” when someone is interviewed after a stressful situation? If you paid attention, it should be quite a lot.”

    Grindstone, did you actually comprehend what I wrote? Because I addressed this

    I wrote:

    “You may most certainly be able to do the physical skills, because of your training, but the mental anxiety you experience in a true life threatening situation you will not be prepared for.”

    Please, next time actually take a minute to think and observe before you respond in haste

  5. Todd Walker says:

    Many thanks for the mention, Alan, and addressing the self-absorbed marketing blight in our community.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!
    ~Todd

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