top of page
  • Writer's pictureKlaus Luehning

#12 | ADAPTATION TO THREATS IN LIFE | Survival Skills: Navigating Life's Dangers Through Experience

  1. Survival Through Learning: Life is fraught with dangers, but human survival and progress are driven by our ability to learn and adapt to threats. From childhood to adulthood, we develop skills and knowledge to navigate the perils of existence, from crossing a street safely to handling complex challenges like fires on ships.

  2. Adaptation and Expertise: Adaptation is a vital aspect of learning. Whether recognizing a threat, drawing from past experiences, or avoiding unknown dangers, humans become experts through repeated exposure and practice. Mastery often requires thousands of hours of dedicated effort.

  3. The Role of Teaching: Effective teaching plays a crucial role in learning. While preprogrammed demonstrations have their place, a responsive teacher who observes, guides and tests comprehension can help individuals overcome challenges and make meaningful changes in their understanding and skills.


In practically every life, there is an instance where a person experiences a life-threatening circumstance and can extricate themselves from the jaws of death somehow. When young and inexperienced, the threat can be explained by a caregiver, monitor, or bystander to expose the danger's lethal nature and avoid it in the future. A mature person can recognize the threat and make tactical moves to prevent death or serious injury. Adapting to recognize and avoid serious threats is a matter of exposure to the process and consequences of living life, WHICH IS DANGEROUS, and learning tactics to prevent or avoid these consequences. We all learn to look both ways when crossing a street and do it subconsciously to avoid getting run over.


General Patton told his troops: I do not want you to die for your country; I want you to make the enemy die for his country, and so they were trained. I was at the head of a large fire hose with a fogging sprayer head, with 14 men behind me, to go into the engine room of an LST and put out an oil fire in the bilges, which was raging. I was told what to do, and we went down the ladders; I had the sprayer head moving constantly to cool the oil, keep the flames at bay, set the handle for the finest spray to exclude as much oxygen as possible, and be wary of secondary igniting. Thirty minutes later, the fire was out at the U.S. Naval Fire Fighting School in Bayonne, New Jersey, as guest trainees from a ship’s officer training academy. We all coughed up black stuff for four weeks. 5 years later, on a freighter in the Chesapeake Bay, a fuel line broke, and the fire went all over, and 20 minutes later, we were all good and starting to make repairs, which took 30 hours because I had to produce parts that were not on hand. We drifted in the meantime.

Adaptation is the learning process and the conscious awareness of being careful and judicious in navigating the perils of being alive. The first instance of threat is doubt, then coming to grasp the nature of the threat, and if there is previous experience, not even good experience, comes to the fore and action is possible. If there is no experience, avoidance is a good move. All this can happen in seconds. Repeated driving over time makes almost all of us experts in driving a vehicle, avoiding accidents and objects in defensive driving skills. The most important skill of a chef is knife skills, all razor-sharp being the safest, and being able to prep, shape, portion, separate, and fashion artistic elements to a presentation. It takes time and attention to detail to become an expert at a skill, and some activities require the 10,000-hour threshold for master or expert competence, about five years.

The learning process is instilled from birth with help from parents and close social people to show, explain, demonstrate, trial and error, supervised attempts, and “coaching” to develop skills. It has been said that “Learning is a painful process” because of the timidity and sometimes unwillingness to change or add routines to one’s repertoire.

The survival instinct we are born with matures with us as we get older by acquiring the knowledge and then the skills for self-preservation through learning what to do, not in all cases, but those that are part of our milieu.

Someone came along and grasped the unknown and dangerous quality of life on earth by human beings and formulated the idea of selling insurance to compensate for damage, death, or disability because of what my first insurance agent constantly repeated, “God forbid!!” that something happens.

What comes to mind, for me, is that the teaching process where the teacher is attentive and responding to the level of competence reached, or not, in the act of learning, is not possible with a rote, preprogrammed demonstration, whereas a teacher observing and testing the comprehension gained can overcome hurdles in the challenges to change a mind.



bottom of page