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Recommended by Bill

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Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales

This book was recommended to me by a friend who does a lot of leadership training and is retired special forces. Conversations with him at dinner are always interesting, and a discussion about who lives and who dies one meal led to this recommendation from him.

Deep Survival uses a number of real-life stories of tragedy to explore what it is that makes people survive in horrible situations. There’s a chapter in the book that resonated with me so much, I stopped at the end of the chapter and went back and read it again before continuing in the book. The author examines risk, why people take risks they know they shouldn’t, what actually happens to your mind when you get lost, and how the potential for catastrophe increases the more complex a system becomes attempting to limit risk.

One of my favorite quotes in the book speaks about the sport of mountain climbing and how climbers ironically celebrate at the summit:

“The trap lay in the fact that they were only halfway to their real goal. They were celebrating when they had the worst part of the climb ahead of them [the descent]. Climbers are the only sportsmen who do that.”

It’s a fascinating book, and I won’t ruin the part about the sandpile for you.

Recommended for all ranks