Are you playing the game, or just getting played?

The Unthinkable

If you are unemployed and looking for work in this tough, tough economy, you should have plenty of time to catch up on your reading. And you should add “The Unthinkable” to your reading list. This is a thinking person’s guide to survival. The work profiles many real-life disasters, and while your current employment situation may not be as dramatic or extreme, you can benefit from learning about the thoughts and actions of survivors.

Why do some people survive a disaster while others right next to them don’t? The author has interviewed and studied the survivors; what was their mental states, mental preparation and attitudes, etc. Not only will this book help you understand how people react in a sudden disaster such as an airplane crash, but also gives insight into action and behavior in high stress situations such as undergoing major surgery or emotional trauma.

Author Amanda Ripley traces human responses to some of recent history’s epic disasters, from the explosion of the Mont Blanc munitions ship in 1917–one of the biggest explosions before the invention of the atomic bomb–to the journeys of the 15,000 people who found their way out of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. To understand the science behind the stories, Ripley turns to leading brain scientists, trauma psychologists, and other disaster experts. She even has her own brain examined by military researchers and experiences, through realistic simulations, what it might be like to survive a plane crash into the ocean or to escape a raging fire.

This is a book with a purpose, meant to change things. Panic might have been present in a small number of cases at the World Trade Center, but Ripley quotes a researcher who found that workers in the towers did the same thing that others in disasters do: “What is regularly observed is a lethargic response. People are often cool during fires, ignoring or delaying their response.” On an average, those who survived the WTC attack waited six minutes before heading downstairs. Delay is part of a denial phase. “We have a tendency to believe that everything is OK because, well, it almost always has been before.”

And this tendency to delay active response to a disaster is very relevant to individuals who have suddenly lost their jobs. Often they will “freeze” for days, weeks, sometimes months. But those who survive and prosper tend to be the ones who take action quickly. Again, this book should be on your reading list if you are unemployed and looking for work.