Lately I’ve been hooked on the Weather Channel’s new show “SOS: How to Survive”, where survival expert Creek Stewart teaches innovative skills to help you survive in a dangerous situation. Each episode is about real people caught up in true stories of life or death survival, and how you can learn from their ordeals. The show
This is a great example of how creativity and innovation aren’t just about the future and technology. A cell phone with no signal is useless in the wilderness against Mother Nature. Anyone could find themselves in a situation where having a creative and innovative mindset might just save their life.
A well-known example is the Kim family, who set out on a drive and ended up lost on a logging road in a snowstorm. With limited food and no survival skills, the family did whatever they could do to stay alive. Stewart retraces the scene and gives the audience a look at what could have been done by using innovative survival skills, like starting a warming fire next to their car that would burn all night, and a signal fire that could be seen by rescuers.
He also explains that if you had to leave your car to go find help, there is a way to carry fire with you that was practiced by primitive cultures who carried embers in what was called a fire horn. Any kind of non-flammable container would work, like a soda can, glass jar, or your car’s side mirror.
You fill the container with punky wood, which is dry, rotting wood, and an ember from an existing fire. Cover the ember with more punky wood and you can walk all day with portable fire.
Repurposing everyday objects like Creek did with the car mirror is a basic creativity and innovation skill. You can test yourself by imagining 20 uses for a common household object. This gets you out of seeing only one solution for a problem. It’s easy to get stuck seeing only one way to do something, or seeing an object as having only one purpose. Finding another purpose for something will lead you to all kinds of new discoveries.
Those new discoveries can lead you to other ideas. Sometimes you have to look at an object from a different angle. View it upside down, sideways, or inside out. If you’re stranded in the wilderness or in a dangerous situation you’ll be forced to start repurposing things. Don’t wait for that to happen. Get in the habit of doing it on a consistent basis. Get in the habit of challenging yourself to find other uses for things sitting on your desk. What else could you do with a computer screen or a book or an ink pen?
Try to get as wild as you can with your answers. Since there are no wrong answers, you can be as creative as your imagination will go. Get as far away from the object’s original use as possible. This is where you’ll find true innovation.
In Cade Courtly’s book “SEAL Survival Guide: A Navy Seal’s Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster”, he tells about how a former teammate in Iraq had to improvise on a raid and grab anything he could find to protect himself. He ended up using a toaster as a deadly weapon and became the first American to get a confirmed kill with a small kitchen appliance.
In the 1980’s TV show “MacGyver”, secret agent and scientist Angus MacGyver, used unconventional problem solving and improvised with ordinary objects like duct tape and a Swiss Army knife in life and death situations in a matter of minutes. He believed in using non-lethal means and his extensive knowledge of science to save lives and stop crime.
One of the reasons MacGyver is so interesting is because he is able to do so much with so little. He had to escape using only a bobby pin, scotch tape and a thumbtack. Having limited resources is one way you might be forced to use your creativity. Watch any of the prison TV shows and you’ll see creativity at its finest.
Prisoners have very limited resources and yet they are able to find ways around it. To protect themselves and save their lives using creativity, prisoners have made flame throwers out of coffee creamer and a tube or a paper-mache shank made out of toilet paper. Homemade guns have been made out of metal and loaded with pieces of steel.
Of course they have plenty of time on their hands to run through all of the options, but after being forced to survive and thrive with very little, they simply figure it out. And you should too. Force yourself to come up with a creative solution to a problem by limiting your resources.
Creativity can save your life in another way. Realtor Ed Rosenthal took a wrong turn in the desert in 100 degree heat and ran out of water. He found shelter under some rocks to escape the heat, but he still had no water. Days went by as he felt himself slipping away. To keep up his spirits he wrote poetry on his hat. When he was finally rescued after 6 days, he had them published in a book called “The Desert Hat”.
Many psychologists have heard stories from their patients who are bored with their jobs or their lives. Do you ever remember being bored as a kid? Probably not. Because kids use their imaginations, and imagination is endless. A solution may be reconnecting with a passion you had when you were younger or taking up some kind of creative hobby you find pleasurable.
Creativity also reduces stress. When you’re involved in a creative activity your blood pressure decreases and your blood flow increases. Endorphins are released and your immune system improves. Studies have shown that people who are creative are less depressed and take fewer medications.
Creativity and innovation can save your life, but it can also give your life purpose and meaning. Your creative imagination is as endless as you want it to be.