‘We’ve lulled ourselves into believing that in an emergency, someone else will always come along to rescue us. We’ve stopped relying on our own wonderfully adaptable bodies, we’ve forgotten that we can think, climb, leap, run, throw, swim, and fight with more versatility than any other creature on the planet.’

  • Christopher McDougall Natural Born Heroes


Surfing the last twenty years on the forbidding cold Oregon coast taught me self-reliance. It is a must around here. In exotic locations the sun always shines and lifeguard towers litter the beaches with buff n bronze trained professionals that are ready to jump in and save you Bay Watch style. Not so much in the Pacific North Wet (not a typo), where you are on your own.  I’ve been pulled a half mile offshore in a strong rip, charged by sea lions, watched my board pirouette on top of a wave seventy-five yards to the shore in big seas, dragged eighteen feet under the water in big surf, and much more. Despite thinking I am going to die, I survived on my own without help from anyone in those situations. In fact, it is amazing that more surfers do not meet their maker doing the sport they love. Hard to come by statistics show that only around 10 people died surfing of the estimated 23 million surfers in the world in 2018. Not that many, right? Those harrowing experiences produced something inside of me that sitting in a classroom or on a couch never did. Self-reliance. I could survive and thrive in the wild ocean despite all the adversity that is thrown my way.

Take out going into the ocean, which freaks most people out, and the concept of self-reliance still sounds scary or foreign to a lot of us. Our culture has been lulled into believing that we always need outside help when something is wrong. We expect our government to take care of us, doctors to fix us, schools to teach us, and places of worship to tell us who God is. The fact is, we do not need these places like we think we do. We do need these institutions to assist us and help when we are unable of take care of ourselves because lurking inside of each and every one of us is an amazing untapped capability to thrive in tough situations. You are tougher than what you think.  I love Christopher McDougall’s quote from Natural Born Heroes. We are the most versatile creature on the planet, and we are capable of a lot more than we realize. The corona virus has upended our world and lives on so many different levels, but it doesn’t mean you cannot thrive and tap into your remarkable potential!


Here are 5 keys I have learned over the years on developing self-reliance:

  1. Mental Toughness. Thinking properly is a game changer. Be positive. Don’t let negative emotions weigh yourself down. Choose to move forward and stay active. Expect good things are going to happen to you eventually.
  2. Physical toughness. Exercise and healthy eating (or at least heathier eating) increases your energy levels, ability to handle pain, and gives you the endurance to handle long hours and stress that life requires of you.
  3. Moral toughness. Integrity is nonnegotiable. You’ll never be perfect, but by taking the high road, being empathetic, and trying to always do your best will instill a confidence in you by doing all you can. Sleep comes much easier with this approach.
  4. Live for something. Angela Duckworth’s book Grit cites that people are more likely to stick with something long term when they’re connected to a higher purpose in life. Important things take time, energy, and effort to obtain. Find your reason to get out of bed every morning and get after it.
  5. Humility.  Arrogance, self-promotion, and anything other than being humble is a waste of time. There will always be someone better than you and you always be better than someone else. Crush whatever comes your way but do it with a humble mindset. It will allow you to be freer than what you thought was possible.


So, what is it going to take for you to develop your own self-reliance during this season? Is it taking a wilderness medicine class from us or someone else that instills confidence to handle first aid emergencies you may find yourself in? Is it taking our breath course, so you have another arrow in the quiver in your life to help handle the stress better? Is it just going outdoors to exercise?  I don’t know what this means for you, but I do know you can handle anything life throws at you. Discover that there is more to you than you ever thought possible. GET OUT there and FIND OUT what you are really made of. BE AN OUTSIDER





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