I was poking around National Geographic today and came across an excellent article written by Laurence Gonzales. It deals with the mental state needed to survive, and why people that should be prepared for a situation fail miserably because they were not paying attention.

Success in the wild or in everyday life lies in the willingness to stop and question what you’re doing. For example, if your chosen sport is running steep creeks in little boats, you will unconsciously form a model that says slow is bad, fast is good. Up to a point that’s true. But at a certain rate of flow the creek or river becomes too hazardous to run, and “fast equals fun” becomes “fast equals dead.” To revise the mental model, we have to make a deliberate analysis of what we’re doing and its cost. It might go something like this:

1) Do I actually know the maximum flow at which I can reasonably run this river? (If the answer is no, you’ve got some homework to do.)

2) Do I have a plan for bailing out if this turns out to be too fast?

3) What is my ultimate goal here? (If you’re out to set a world record at all costs, including your life, then go for it. If you’re out for an afternoon of fun, proceed to number four.)

4) What is the most I am willing to risk to achieve that goal? (Remember, you could pay with your life. If you want to eat dinner with your family tonight, better go back to number one.)

It looks like someone over at bladeforums just started a discussion on the same article. The article is great, and I highly recommend giving it a read.