Are you a survivor or a wreck? The necessary Survival skills to handle crashes, crises and calamities

January 24, 2016 Gustav Gous

Are you a survivor or a wreck?  The necessary Survival skills to handle crashes, crises and calamities

-          by dr Gustav Gous


There is a time in your life when you need survival skills urgently. Otherwise you will end up as a burned-out motorcar wreck next to the highway of life. But, if you learn how to master the three C’s of life – the Crashes, Crises and Calamities – then I will salute you not only as a survivor, but as a winner in the game of life. 


It doesn’t matter what cause the crisis or calamity:

-          -# Your own doing: Due to your own neglect, negligence, irresponsible actions or bad play.

-          -# Others’ doing:  Stealing from you, deliberately or accidentally hurting you, your business or     loved ones.

-          -#  Acts of nature: Illnesses (cancer, heart attacks), floods, volcanoes, storms, drought, etc.

-          -#  Macro & micro disasters:  Political: War situations; Economical: Stock exchange crashes,       Mechanical: Plane crashes, etc.


The outcome is the same:  Your future is not what it used to be.   You had a projected future to win, to love, to prosper, to grow old together, but  now it is at risk or not possible anymore. You lost your loved one, your health, your leg, your business, your race, your reputation, your money, your opportunity … in short: Your projected future.


Why is it that some survive, and others don’t?  It is quite simple:  Those who survive have a unique set of attitudes, and an effective combination of actions. Yes, it is all about:  The right ATTITUDE, and the right ACTIONS.


Think about your current crisis you are dealing with:  You can either let it define you, destroy you, or strengthen you. Make sure that you get A 1 and A 2 right – then you will be back on track.


A1 : The right ATTITUDE:


(i)                  Start with the firm belief that there is life after everything’ – life after birth, death and after any disaster.   It is a deep psychological but also spiritual position, as is evident from the words of Paul from Tarsis, that you are not alone in all of this:“The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  …  Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture  … None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8 verse 22, 35-39.  (The Message). The firm belief must be that circumstances can influence you at most, but they do not determine you. 


(ii)                Change from a victim-mentality  to a  victor-mentality. When Aimee Mullins lost her legs, she didn’t play the blame game but became the first blade runner – long before Oscar Pistorius. When Victor Frankl was thrown in the Nazi-death camp, he did not take  the ‘why me’ victim angle.  He said: Why not me! I have the training and ability to handle this horrendous situation.  He was surely Victor Frankl and not Victim Crankl!  


           (I expect the same of springbok Rugby player Victor Matfield – that he must not be Victim Matfield.) 


(iii)               Fail forward. Your mistakes don’t define you, but how you deal with them certainly does. Bill Watterson said: “Often it takes some calamity to make us live in the present. Then suddenly we wake up and see all the mistakes we have made.”  If you learn from your mistakes you can fail forward. Lose your fear of failure. Know fear, but have faith. Courage is not the absence of fear but the resistance of fear in the face of fear. 


B : The right ACTION :


(i)                  Re-focus : Focus on the opportunity, not the threat.  A while ago I asked a Chinese women in South Africa to write the word “crisis” in Chinese. This was the outcome :


A crisis is per definition a dangerous opportunity. Focus on the danger and you will fumble. Focus on the opportunity, and you will make the break. By the way:  In the game of Rugby they put 15 big dangers (muscled men) in front of you. Focus on them,  and you will drop the ball; focus on the gaps between them, and you will take the gap and score.


(ii)                Re-frame: Create meaning:  You will not find meaning in life. Many things are utterly meaningless:  The death of a child, broken dreams, missed opportunities.     But you must develop the ability to create meaning out of meaningless situations.  One way to do it is to use the horrendous situation to learn and to grow as a person. You need storms to grow:  My wise old dad always said: “A desert is the result of too much good weather !  – Andries Gous” . Ask yourself : Did you grow as a result of the previous big crises or calamities? Yes! Now: If growth always results from hardships, then why do we resent it so much?  Reframe it from being a stumbling block, to a building block and a stepping stone.


(iii)               Re-group

Pull yourself and your team together again.  Get a support structure in place. Get connected again with yours friends, coach, and God as the source of your inspiration.    


(iv)              Re-join  and Re-start:  For a start do what Winston Churchill said:  “If you go through hell, keep going”.  Meaning is created not by understanding things better, but by doing things differently.  If you stepped off the field, then get back on. Re-join and - get going again.  Get an ‘I will start with what I have’-attitude. Don’t wait for better days or more resources. The world rewards action!



(v)                Re-claim:   The crisis caused you to lose your future. Nobody is going to give it back to you.  You must reclaim it.  Best way to guarantee the future is to create it!  Start immediately.   In the words of Rudyard Kipling:

If .. you can … watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings, 
And never breathe a word about your loss: 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
To serve your turn long after they are gone, 
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" ..

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, 
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

My hero’s in life are long gone not any more the well-known sport or Hollywood stars, but the real life players and survivors that I meet in my consulting room.   Those who lost it all, and reconstructed their lives with worn out tools. The single mothers,  who sacrifice and carve out an honourable existence on meagre means, to set their children up for success.  Those who were bankrupted, but still became millionaires afterwards. Those who fell, but achieved a come-from-behind victory.  


On the other hand.  You’ve seen them. The burnt-out wrecks next to the road – the rusted bodies of motorcar crashes with no survivors.  You don’t have to be one of them.   Do you also have friends like that? They had a fairly good run. Then calamity struck in their lives. And they never recovered. 


You don’t have to be like that. You know better.  Your calamity is the test of your integrity. You know better.  Get your attitude and actions right. Just do it. You can. 



If you want more information on how to make counselling/coaching appointments or book dr Gustav Gous for motivational talks, contact 

If you want  interventions for your team: Contact +27 12 3455931   or email to discuss possibilities. 

Disclaimer:    Important notice to you as the reader:  Although the life coach (dr Gustav Gous) provide certain recommendations, the sole and final responsibility for decision-making remains your own and that the life coach or anybody associated to him and his company Short Walk Seminars Pty Ltd cannot be held responsible for any of your choices and reactions. You, the reader, must take full responsibility for your life, reactions and choices.  




Dr Gustav Gous  is an International Motivational Speaker and Executive Life Coach with experience on 5 continents. He 

was the in-house counselor for the petro-chemical company Sasol for 9 years. He is known for his Transformational leadership programmes on Robben Island, titled the “Short Walk to Freedom”. 

He is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and past President of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa and a member of the APSS (Asia Professional Speakers Singapore).  Currently he is heading up the Diversity Intelligence Institute, specializing in rolling out Diversity Intelligence interventions for 

international companies. His leadership caps does for leadership what De Bono's thinking hats did for creativity and problem solving. His Coaching programme on national Radio in South Africa RSG FM 100-104 "Fiks vir die lewe" touches the lives of many South Africans. , ,

Follow him on Twitter: @GustavGous  or on Facebook and LinkedIn .