6 minutes Reading Time

Not long ago, an article entitled ‘Deep survival: why some cheat death at the extremes of pain’ was published in the Sydney Morning Herald. The article detailed the phenomenon known as ‘Deep Survival’, which refers to why some people who are faced with life and death situations survive and others perish.

There are many stories of individuals who have overcome unbelievable odds, and through inner-strength, have pulled themselves to safety. But why? What makes these people different? Does this ability to survive translate into the business world? In my experience, survival stories (situated in the business world or otherwise), seem to have four key behaviour in common.


1. Be prepared

The key to survival in any situation involved knowing where you are going and what to expect once you get there. Whether you are planning a trek in the wild or implementing a new practice at work, no one stumbles across success; you have to know what you are trying to achieve and how to go about achieving it.

Successful people – whether consciously or unconsciously – attract the success they want by visualising their goals as already accomplished. Then, they ensure that they have the correct equipment in their personal toolkit, be it skills, knowledge or networks in order to make the visualization a reality.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” ~Colin Powell


2. Practice

In emergency situations such as in the event of a fire, it has been proven that having evacuation strategies in place, and ensuring that everyone is briefed on these strategies, increases the chance of survival.

In a work environment, practice leads to improvement and mastery, which can in turn lead to success. The difference between your average person and a successful often comes down to the concerted effort to improve. By continually stretching themselves just beyond their current abilities and identifying specific elements that require improvement, driven people focus on just those things until they are mastered. Such mastery can mean the difference between success and failure in a high-pressure situation.

“By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.” ~Confucius


3. Be visible

Whether in remote environments or corporate life, no one succeeds by ‘hiding their light under a bushel’. For survival, this means wearing bright clothing or staying close to the site of the crashed plane or car. In business, this means ensuring that don’t your talents or abilities are not concealed.

Talking about your objective with others – or ‘sending it out to the universe’ – increases your sphere for success and reaffirms your intentions to others and yourself. It can also provide valuable feedback; in many situations, a teacher, coach, or mentor is vital for providing crucial, impartial, feedback to ensure you are heading in the right direction.

“Without promotion something terrible happens… Nothing!”
 ~P.T. Barnum


4. Be determined

Psychologist Jim McLennan from LaTrobe University stated that a key aspect of “deep survival” was the ability to control fear and keep a level head: “Instead of either fleeing without thinking, or freezing and huddling and becoming passive, they kept looking out for danger and for opportunities to escape. They don’t give up.”

Failure can be a key ingredient in success. If you traced the footsteps of a successful person, you would likely pass the remnants of multiple failures. Those who don’t achieve success most likely quit after their failure. If you want to succeed where other people fail, you have to step right over failure and keep walking; be determined to succeed! The people who don’t make it let failure defeat them.

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” ~Winston Churchill

Success is possible for anyone who is willing to achieve it. Be prepared, practice, be visible and be determined to ensure that when it comes down to a high-pressure situation, you survive rather than perish.



  • Behaviour
  • Natalie Braid