Session III : Laurence Gonzales - Deep Survival

Laurence Gonzales joins us to discuss the the pyschology of survival. What does it take to survive? Do we all have it in us? His research provides some startling answers to these questions for people facing any sort of major crisis, from being lost in the wilderness to the death of a loved one.


Date: Wednesday, January 13th 2010. 6 - 8pm

Location: The University Club - One West 54th Street, NYC

Dress Code: Jacket and Tie

Other: Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails will be served

Laurence Gonzales won the 2001 and 2002 National Magazine Awards from the American Society of Magazine Editors for National Geographic Adventure Magazine. Since 1970, his essays have appeared in such periodicals as Harper's, Rolling Stone, Men's Journal, National Geographic Adventure, Smithsonian Air and Space, Chicago Magazine, San Francisco Magazine, and many others.

He has published a dozen books, including two collections of essays, three novels, and the book–length essay, One Zero Charlie published by Simon & Schuster.

His latest book, Everyday Survival, published by W.W. Norton & Company, is available at book sellers now.

Laurence Gonzales's first book was the novel Jambeaux (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979), which Rolling Stone called “the best rock-and-roll novel since Harlan Ellison's Spider's Kiss, which is to say it's the best in almost twenty years.” His second and third novels, The Last Deal (1981) and El Vago (1983), were published by Atheneum.

By then he had turned his attention to writing nonfiction, and his book of essays, The Still Point, was published by the University of Arkansas Press in 1989. It won the Carl Sandburg Literary Arts Award. One of the essays was a finalist for the National Magazine Award. In an unsolicited comment, Kurt Vonnegut responded to The Still Point by praising, “the excellence of Laurence Gonzales's writing and the depth of his reporting.” The book-length essay, One Zero Charlie (Simon and Schuster, 1992) won the 1993 Chicago Book of the Year Award and remains a classic of aviation literature. One of the essays in his next book, The Hero's Apprentice (University of Arkansas Press, 1994), was also a finalist for the National Magazine Award.

His 2003 book, Deep Survival (W.W. Norton) has become a bestseller and is available in six languages. His latest book, Everyday Survival, was just published by W.W. Norton.

Laurence Gonzales has also written plays, screenplays, poetry, and a book of short stories titled Artificial Horizon (University of Missouri, 1986). He has been Managing Editor of the journal Tri-Quarterly, Contributing Editor for Paris Review, Articles Editor for Playboy, Artist in Residence at the University of Missouri, Contributing Editor for Men's Journal, Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, and is now Contributing Editor for National Geographic Adventure Magazine, where he writes a monthly column.

He has lectured before diverse groups ranging from the Santa Fe Institute to Legg Mason Capital Management and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.


Deep Survival has made a profound and lasting impression on wilderness travelers and extreme sport enthusiasts. It is being used by the head of training for the Navy SEALs and by wildland firefighters, police, and others. But it has also been embraced by a growing number of people who do not take great risks or seek adventure. Legg Mason Capital Management recently featured Gonzales in its in-house book club, and the National Football League has embraced Deep Survival by distributing it to all its members.
Readers everywhere are finding that the principles in Deep Survival apply to any challenge life poses, from coping in the
business world, to extreme trials like having a life threatening illness or dealing with addiction and recovery.
     – “Survivors discover a deep spiritual relationship to the world.” People who are deeply connected to family, friends, and the activities in their lives, people who are passionate about life, make better survivors. In speaking of how he managed to keep two people from committing suicide in Auschwitz, Viktor Frankl says it “was a question of getting them to realize that life was still expecting something from them; something in the future was expected of them. We found, in fact, that for the one it was his child whom he adored and who was waiting for him in a foreign country. For the other it was a thing, not a person. This man was a scientist and had written a series of books that still needed to be finished. His work could not be done by anyone else, any more than another person could ever take the place of the father in his child's affections.”
  In summary: “The outcome of a survival situation depends largely on your mental, emotional, and physical condition and activities. Everyone who meets catastrophe or challenge and survives it through his or her own actions goes through an initial transformation from victim to survivor, and also follows a well-defined pattern of mental emotional checks, controls, actions, and transformations. Those activities, such as the split of the rational from the emotional self and the sudden, almost blinding insight that one is going to live, are far more important in predicting survival than any particular skill, training, or equipment. Those mental processes and transformations reflect actual brain activity that scientists are just beginning to understand. Everyone has finite resources going into a catastrophe. It is in managing those resources and taking advantage of every bit of luck that comes along that survivors have been able to bring out their stories.”