12 Reasons Why Well Trained and Equipped People Fail to Survive

When confronted with survival situations, human beings have the potential to overcome challenges, beat incredible odds, and triumph as survivors. A favorite and inspiring tale of this type of survival is of Ernest Shackleton and his men in Endurance. These men had so little in the way of food and gear, yet they managed to survive one of the most harrowing episodes in modern history.

However, there have been countless survival situations in which people fail to survive, not for lack of physical ability or resources, but because of lack of will. Survival is taking any situation, accepting it, and trying to improve it, while sustaining your life until you can get out of the situation. Survival is a state of mind.

One haunting survival story was of a man whose body was found in a forest, not too far from his vehicle. He was propped, seated, against a tree, and scattered around him were matches. Unlit, never used. This man was in good condition, physically, when he was found. He hadn’t starved to death, he hadn’t been attacked by wild animals, and he was fully clothed. Why did he fail to survive? The obvious answer was his mental state.

In the book, Unthinkablethe author investigates the question of who lives, who dies, and why. It’s a fascinating look at failure to survive, and I recommend it.

In spite of our own efforts to prepare with water, food, self-defense, and everything else we can think of, there will be those who will, ultimately, not survive in spite of their best preps.

Here is a list of 12 reason why you can fail to survive

  1. Failure to plan “ You need to take the time to survey the situation and make a plan and then follow it. Without a plan, you and everyone in your group will remain scattered, disorganized, and will eventually become unable to take wise and necessary actions.
  2. Panic “ Avoid becoming irrational, frantic and disorganized. Here is a breathing technique used by many in the military to remain calm and able to stay focused.
  3. Inaction “ You do nothing; you fail to take action because of fear, carelessness or laziness. In most cases, taking any action is better than doing nothing because you can always correct course. But the laws of physics begin to operate and a motion at rest, you, may continue to stay at rest, at your own peril.
  4. Loneliness “ You are overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness and loneliness, resulting in panic, fear and inaction. In today’s world, we are used to having contact with people on a continuing basis, even if only by phone. Loneliness is something that we are not used to.
  5. Low self-esteem “ You lack confidence in your abilities, so you fail to take action. It’s better to not try at all than to try and fail — or so you may think.
  6. Lack of teamwork “ You fail to work others or let rivalry affect you, or this could affect your entire group, with some vying to be in charge while everyone else takes sides. In a survival situation, this can quickly become deadly.
  7. Lack of training “ You don’t have the knowledge or skills required to survive the situation, so you do nothing or you do the wrong thing. The sad story of Christopher McCandless in Into the Wild has multiple examples of this.
  8. Prolonged exposure or fatigue “ You lose your will to survive from lack of food, water, sleep or exposure to weather, heat or cold. Even the person with the strongest will cannot remain that way if he or she is slowly starving to death.
  9. Inability to endure “ You lack the physical stamina, due to lack of conditioning or poor health. Again, the inner will may be there, but if the body doesn’t also cooperate, you may fail to survive.
  10. Lack of faith “ You need to have faith in something beyond yourself. In my case, that is a belief in God, and the power of prayer.
  11. A poor attitude “ A negative attitude will affect your own ability to survive plus that of others in your group. Don’t be surprised if they decide to toss you out, rather than to put up with your complaining.
  12. Fear – Don’t let your imagination run wild. Expect fear and learn to recognize it. Don’t be ashamed of any fears you may have, we all have some. Control your fears, don’t let them control you. A hero is someone who overcomes their fears.
See also  Keeping Insulin Cool in an Emergency

All of the above can affect you in a negative way, but there are ways to overcome them. One of the best is training and knowledge. Having the confidence to know what needs to be done and doing it is a great way to overcome the negatives on the above list. A powerful desire to continue living is necessary. The mind has the power to will the body to extraordinary feats.  You must believe in your ability to survive.  Here is a link to a previous post I wrote on Will You Eat a Rat to Survive?  Don’t be one of the people who fail to survive because they gave up from lack of will.


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9 thoughts on “12 Reasons Why Well Trained and Equipped People Fail to Survive”

  1. A good read on this subject is the book “Jungle Soldier,” the true story of LTC Freddy Spencer Chapman of the British Special Operations Executive, who evaded behind Japanese lines in Malaya for 1226 days, cut off from contact or resupply from British forces, being hunted by the Japanese, being afflicted by malaria, scabies, typhus, pneumonia, dengue fever and ulcers before being evacuated to Ceylon by submarine in May, 1945. Rats were among his more conventional sources of protein.

    And for something more scholarly: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1029&context=vpc14

    1. Hazel spencer chapman

      Glad it’s still being referenced. His own book the jungle is neutral is far more detailed and documents the full ordeal in Malay. Interesting point on loneliness: on the arctic air route expedition August Courtauld had some great coping mechanisms when he was lost in the ice for months ..

  2. I read a well worn, og-eared copy of “The Jungle is Neutral” at Ft. Sherman, Canal Zone, in the 1970s. I must search Amazon for a copy, thanks for the reminder!

  3. Thank you Hazel Spencer Chapman! I found a copy of The Jungle Is Neutral on Amazon. An inspiring read chock full of tidbits of obscure military history flavored with old school field and tradecraft. I can appreciate why the camp copy at the jungle school at Ft. Sherman was so dog-eared. As one Amazon reviewer aptly states, “It makes Bridge on the River Kwai look like a tussle in a schoolyard…”

    I recommend the book highly!

  4. My handicap is old age. Still have the know-how, but the can-do has pretty much left town. 🙂

    I ratted around in and lived in the SW Texas desert for some forty years. My comment to the newbies: “The desert doesn’t care. It just sits there and stares at you.”

  5. My Momma had a saying, “the time for panicking is after not during ” she wasn’t afraid to back that up with the back of her hand if necessary. We lived a good share of the time in remote locations when I was a kid, panicking at the wrong time could get you injured or killed. Parents now day’s see nothing wrong with letting their kids fall apart at the least thing. The truth is that if you don’t teach your kids when they are small to not panic they may never learn. Which in the right conditions could have horrendous consiquences.

    1. I started paying attention. I focus on surviving the crisis. I fall apart after. Amazing really, since I now watch my once steady parents turn into anxiety riddled puddles, while I stay calm. Feels so strange.

  6. Pingback: 12 Reasons Why Well Trained and Equipped People Fail to SurvivePreparedness Advice – Wolfdancer's Den

  7. I believe the movie The Martian is a great example that perseverance pays off. A guy stranded on a planet with help months away manages to survive in a very hostile environment long enough to finally be rescued. Giving up was never an option for him. A lesson that all preppers can learn.

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