Although statistically we live in the safest time in human history, this one fact still remains: the world is a dangerous place.
Accidents are the number four leading cause of death in the U.S.
What causes accidents?
Carelessness. Complacency. Human error.
The difference between death and survival is often a tiny little habit. One small difference.
So, in the spirit of helping my fellows drastically improve their safety with very little effort, here are the 12 simple safety habits that I follow. These are 12 habits that might just save your life.
Habit #1: Always Look for 3 Exits
“Be a survivor, not a statistic!”
I learned about this number one habit in one of the best survival books I have ever read:
In the book, former Navy SEAL Cade Courtley emphasises the need to always look for 3 exits.
Wherever you go: a concert, a supermarket, a bookstore, a school, an office, an airport, a train station.
When you arrive in a location, make it a habit to search for 3 exits.
Sometimes it will be easy and you’ll locate 3 immediately.
Make a note about what exit is closest to you at any given time.
Sometimes it will be harder and you’ll only spot one.
Keep looking until you get three. Even if you can only see one green emergency sign, there might be other forms of exits in the area.
Why’s this important?
Because if shit goes down, it’s too late to look for the exits.
But if something bad happens – a bomb, a shooting, a stampede of protestors – you can immediately make your way to the nearest exit, almost on autopilot.
I was in Europe when the recent tragedies struck. I read this book at the same time. From that moment on, I made sure I always knew my exit options wherever I was. It gave me a strong sense of security knowing that I had a gameplay if anything went down. Thank God I’ve not had to use it.
Habit #2: Count the Seats to the Emergency Exits on a Plane
In the same vein as the habit above, you should also get into the habit of counting the seats between you and the emergency exits on an airplane.
Because if the plane fills up with smoke (as it often does in many emergency situations) the backup lighting is rarely strong enough to guide you. Add lots of confusion, instability, choking, and panic and you might not find the exit at all.
But if you know there are 9 seats until your nearest exit, you can count the headrests with your hand.
Habit #3: Train Your Grip
The best way to train your grip is with a grip trainer or a hand crusher.
I recommend this one:
What if you need to make a window evacuation and your apartment is on the 30th storey of your building? That’s 300 feet up!
What if you need to hang for 5 minutes? 10 minutes? 20 minutes?
In many emergency situations, victims are forced out of the building because there is no other safe option. Many times they will hang onto a ledge and grip for their life.
But your grip fails before your other muscles.
Your arms and back don’t tire out too quickly. Your grip gives out way before they do. (Anyone who does deadlifts or pull-ups at the gym can confirm this – that’s why people use lifting straps).
I recommend training your grip daily. Improve the amount of ‘weight’ you can crush.
A solid grip, as well as being a potential life-saver, can help you:
- Have a firm handshake
- Pull others from oncoming danger
- Crush an apple with your bare hands as a freaky party trick
Habit #4 Learn To Hold Your Breath
There’s a scene from 24 that still haunts me.
CTU, the Counter Terrorist Agency, is filled with deadly gas. But Jack Bauer needs to go into the danger zone and hold his breath in order to save the day again.
It was a tense scene. Jack held his breath for a minute or so and almost lost it.
I watched that scene and thought, ‘Damn, I’d be dead.’
But then I started following the Wim Hof course and now I can hold my breath (no air in my lungs) for 4 minutes.
In that situation, I would be the hero.
Imagine your house is burning down. It’s not the flames that kill people. It’s the smoke.
How long would it take to dive back into your house and save your family members? If you could hold your breath for 4 minutes, you’d have a damn good chance of saving your loved ones.
Learning to hold your breath for insane amounts of time is also good for:
- Holding your breath when you’re in a smelly public toilet (thank you, Wim Hof!)
- Getting your heat rate under control when you’re doing heavy cardio
- Entering a calm, zen-like state of bliss
Habit #5: Eye Contact and Slow Movements as a Reflex
When someone threatening looms in your vision….
What do most people do?
Most people put their heads down. They pull out their phone. They speed up.
You know what I do when someone gives me the stink-eye?
I slow down. I meet their gaze.
I’m certain that a lot of people could have avoided being jumped if they just did these two simple things.
When you speed up and look away in the face of danger, you signal to the world/predators that you are prey.
When you slow down and meet their gaze, you make them think twice. Suddenly you don’t look like an easy target.
Now, obviously, if a group of thugs is giving you the look, full on staring at them could be deemed aggressive and confrontational.
Here’s what you do:
Meet their gaze, hold it for a little bit, then disengage and look sideways (not down).
That allows them to save face and stops you from looking like a target.
Habit #6: Hit the Ground and Keep Your Mouth Open
I got this one from Navy SEAL Cade Courtley’s book too.
If a bomb goes off, hit the ground AND keep your mouth open.
Because oftentimes, when you’re not close to the blast, the biggest cause of bomb injury is internal damage. Something to do with the vibrations and your insides being trapped like in a plastic bag.
So, if you hear the sound of a bomb going off, make sure you open your mouth!
Habit #7: Learn to Hear Danger in “Beauty”
This sounds a little weird.
I haven’t heard anyone else talk about this one.
But it makes sense to me after what happened last year.
I was in Paris. It was around 9pm and I was strolling with my girlfriend through the streets.
We were sauntering, enjoying the cool night air.
We passed a church.
Then we heard bells.
Quiet at first. But growing louder.
I looked up at the church, remarked to my girlfriend about the beautiful architecture, and made comment about the music of the bells.
Then the bells got louder. And louder. And LOUDER.
I felt a whoosh of air. My girlfriend screamed and yanked me.
She couldn’t pull me very far so I swivelled to see what the hell the problem was.
That’s when I saw a tram speeding towards me full force, its warning bells now deafening.
I jumped out of the way but I missed that thing by a goddamn inch.
That would have been the end of me. If I didn’t have luck on my side that night. If I had been just a split second too slow. I would have been killed.
Now, whenever I hear something beautiful – a bird singing, a tune in the street, kids laughing – I take a moment and try to think of the danger that could be hidden.
This is just another method of becoming more aware of your surroundings.
Habit #8: Learn To Act Without Hesitation
This is something that is difficult for most people.
And carrying those decisions out.
More often that not, the thing that kills people in tragedies – terrorist attacks, natural disasters, sudden bodily harm – is failure to act.
It’s very common for people to freeze like frightened deer in headlights. When confronted with blood, chaos, death, many people go into shock.
Hesitation is a killer.
You need to get into the automatic habit of making decisions and then acting on them.
It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong decisions. Just do something.
You’ll also find that the habit of taking deliberate and immediate actions will help you in your personal and business life too.
Habit #9: Say ‘Sorry’ When You Bump Into Someone
This is a good habit to get into not just because of politeness.
It’s a good habit because you don’t know who are messing with when you slam into someone and refuse to apologise.
You don’t know if the person you just slammed shoulders with is carrying a weapon. You don’t know if they are on drugs or drunk. You don’t know what their situation is. They might have just been cheated on and robbed and now they’re angry at the world and out for blood.
Simply putting your hand up, nodding your head, an issuing a quick apology could be the difference between a normal walk to the office and a fight for your life.
Habit #10 Keys, Wallet, Phone
Check your pockets before you go anywhere and get into the habit of taking an inventory.
Do I have my keys?
Do I have my wallet?
Do I have my phone?
I went out to the gym yesterday and by the time I got there I realised I forgot my membership card.
Annoying. But I didn’t forget my keys, wallet, or phone.
What if I had forgot my phone, then witnessed a hit and run in the street? What if my call to the emergency services would have been the one to save someone’s life?
It’s an extreme example but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. Especially when the 9th leading cause of death worldwide is road injury.
Habit #11: Play “Spot the Bad Guy”
This is a fun little game.
I like to do this along with searching for the 3 exits.
Next time you’re out and about, pay attention to those around you.
Who is the bad guy?
Who is the guy who doesn’t have places to go?
Who is just hanging around?
Who is eyeing people up?
Who looks guilty/angry/afraid?
Our intuitions are rarely wrong.
If you can spot someone who looks “dodgy”…. they probably are.
Habit #12: Check Your Vision Regularly
You want 20/20 vision.
But many of us are walking around with blurry eyesight and we don’t even know it!
I wear contact lenses and I didn’t have my eyes check for a long time. I was travelling and I had put it off. But when I was at baggage claim in the airport, I realised I couldn’t read a thing on the board. And I was right under it!
What if there was a threat?
How easy would it be to miss something life-threatening if I have to squint to see some text right in front of me?
So I got my prescription updated and now I’m 20/20. I suddenly feel like I have a new superpower and I know I’m equipped to spot a threat even if it’s far away.
Rise to the occasion
The Navy SEALs have a saying:
You don’t rise to the occasion. You sink to the level of your training.
People delude themselves and cheat themselves out of being prepared because they’ve been raised on hero movies and comic books and good old fashioned confirmation bias.
People think that when disaster strikes, they will know what to do.
But how can you know what to do if you’ve never thought about it?
What if you don’t have enough time for rational thought? What if you need to rely on habit and instinct?
These habits aren’t magic bullets but for how little effort they take, they sure are a valuable investment in your own safety and the safety of your loved ones.
Stay safe, my friends.
P.S. Want a bonus habit? Learn how to prepare a nuclear attack emergency survival kit here.