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The Dark Side of Determination

Trevor O'Hara
1 min read
The Dark Side of Determination
Photo by Jeremy Bishop / Unsplash

The "drown proofing test" is a hallmark of Navy Seal training. You're dropped into a nine-foot pool with your hands tied behind your back and your feet tied together. Your job is to survive for five minutes.

Most people fail the test.

Those who succeed in the drown proofing test understand two counterintuitive rules:

1. The more you struggle to keep your head above water, the more you'll sink
In the effort of trying to stay afloat, most people kick and thrash around, but this only sends you into the depths of the pool. The real trick to drown proofing is to let yourself sink to the bottom, then push off with some force to resurface, catch your breath, and repeat the cycle.

Contrary to our expectations, this isn't a test of extraordinary force or endurance. Instead, we adapt by learning to pause, being flexible, and knowing when to fight the water.

2. The more you panic and try to double down, the more likely it is you'll fail
Situations that trigger panic can cause the survival mechanism to kick in. In the drown-proofing test, the more we panic, the more we flail around, which pushes us closer to unconsciousness. By remaining calm, conserving energy, and applying minimal effort by arching our back, we bring our lungs to the surface naturally.

Neither is a test of strength, resilience, or determination.

Flexibility, combined with the ability to take calculated minimal effort and wise resources, management wins the day.