I just finished reading a new book that I think will be of great interest to many of the readers of this blog. The Survivors Club: The Secrets & Science That Could Save Your Life (Grand Central Publishing), written by Ben Sherwood, examines the questions of human survival in crises — Who survives and who doesn’t? Who bounces back and who collapses? Who keeps fighting and who surrenders? Sherwood is a former network television producer and the best selling author of two novels, The Man Who Ate The 747 and The Life & Death of Charlie St. Cloud. (He’s also a college classmate of mine.)
Through compelling, well-reported true stories, the author’s first-hand experiences, and interviews with experts, The Survivors Club explores what it takes to overcome life’s unavoidable challenges. In pursuit of the secrets of the survival, Sherwood even undergoes genetic testing to find out if he possesses the so-called Resilience Gene.
Though I would have been interested in The Survivors Club anyway because of my work on disaster preparedness and response, it had even more resonance to me now that I am dealing with leukemia (and in fact I read it this week in the hospital while getting chemotherapy). Sherwood writes something early on in the book that I now find true about my own situation, but it is also how I believe the nation collectively should think about and deal with the potential of unexpected major disasters in the future:
“The best survivors understand that normal is just a fleeting state of mind. Indeed normalcy may seem steady and constant, but it’s the intermission between the chaos and messiness of life. Survivors accept that life probably won’t ever return to the way it used to be. So, they let go adapt, and embrace the “new normal”.
The Survivors Club does not find one magic bullet or formula for survival in a crisis situation. Luck plays its role. But there are some things one can do. As Sherwood writes:
Clearly, no single theory can encompass who lives and who dies. No common denominator applies to every person or struggle. In some cases, the cosmic coin toss accounts for everything. Alzheimer’s patients don’t pick their DNA. Trauma victims don’t choose the drunk driver swerving down the streets. Still, survival isn’t entirely out of your hands. In fact, you control much more of your destiny than you may have imagined. Above all, your mind-set makes the difference. You can take care of yourself and pay attention to your surroundings. You can make your own luck in the worst situations. You can pray, too, if it suits. And you can persevere with willpower.”
The Survivors Club also offers readers the opportunity to discover their own Survivor Profile; each book comes with an access code to an internet-based test, which generates a customized report on one’s unique survivor personality. In fact, as part of his work in this area, Sherwood has founded a new web-based community devoted “to helping people in crisis live longer and better lives” which can be found at www.TheSurvivorsClub.org.