Think West Volume 1: The Survivalists

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

The West is limitless. It is an attitude, a mentality that drives us and motivates us. The West is where others come first. It is where we push ourselves to do what is right, and not what is easy. Through the values of The West, we embrace resiliency, strength, and above all compassion. The West is an ever-evolving way of thinking and therefore a way of life. The moral values of The West have no boundaries; it is a mentality that transcends the iconic cowboy and spans across all different walks of life.

Proving The West is limitless are the survivalists. As mountain men and former Navy SEALs, this group of men has a never-quit mentality that seems to derive from instinctively putting others first—from protecting their brothers in Afghanistan to navigating a group through unpredictable terrain and weather during a hunting trip. Moreover, their connection to nature and the land is unprecedented. For them, being outdoors is a great equalizer where empathy and problem-solving skills are crucial. The wild is where they go to push their mind and their body, and they come back rejuvenated and stronger. This connection to the wilderness is more important to them than everyday modern conveniences. As survivalists they persevere—they Think West.

Alex Fichtler, Navy SEAL and avid outdoorsman

“To be a survivalist in the outdoors, mental strength is absolutely crucial. Having the mental capability to understand not only the knowledge behind what you need to do to survive, such as what's important, what should I look for first, but also just the mental fortitude around understanding not to panic. It’s about understanding how to control not only your breathing but your own mental rabbit holes that can really start spiraling out of control when you're by yourself when things are bad. It’s always having that mentality of positivity around your situation, and not letting your thoughts creep in. Those negative thoughts are going to eat you and it will instantly make a bad situation 10 times worse.”

“I can't stress enough that people can absolutely survive when they have very limited skills, but to be a true survivalist, there's definitely a certain level of knowledge that you need to have in your back pocket. For starters, being able to identify food and knowing what we can eat and how to eat it. Clothing choice is also crucial. For instance, how you layer your clothing is absolutely imperative to survival in cold weather. Even for hot weather that matters. Learning river crossing is another huge one. When you're in the mountains, you will not survive crossing a raging river if you don't know what you're doing. Also, and you would think this is a very simple thing, but starting a fire. It's incredibly challenging sometimes. If you're ever in a nice cabin and you start a fire, you might find it to be easy, but obviously as soon as you get outside, Mother Nature works against you in almost every factor. So learning how to start a fire in adverse situations is really important as well. Those are the kinds of knowledge components that are really critical when you start talking about true survival.”

“Being a Navy SEAL is about selflessness and being willing to sacrifice for other people. It's being able to suffer beyond anything, anything you would ever possibly imagine doing by yourself; it's building that comradery and that ability to be selfless for other people. And if you don't have that, if you're a selfish person, you will not make it through. To be a SEAL team member, there's an innate quality to be a solid human being."

Andy Arrabito, Navy SEAL and avid outdoorsman

“Mental strength is a key factor to having the ability to survive in the wilderness. It requires the seeded and integrated understanding to not give up hope and to not be focused inward, but to be focused on affecting your immediate surroundings in a good way. You need to be an asset to everyone and everything around you. That mental grit of wanting something more than anything else in the world, that nothing will stop you, is your biggest trait.”

“Personality drives perseverance. People throughout history have been in pretty dire situations and they were almost more mentally tough than their body. They kept pushing their body and kept pushing their body, and when they wanted to quit and wanted to die, they kept pushing. Your body has a lot to do with it, especially if you're strong you're going to be able to do more, you're going to be able to lift more, you're going to be able to run farther, you're going to have more endurance. But mental strength is going to be the key factor.”

“I love the wilderness. It gives me a lot of peace of mind, a lot of inner peace. There's this natural beauty that's like nothing else. You go into the mountains, the Himalayas, Sierra Nevadas, or you go to Yosemite, it's just absolutely magnificent. Consider the ocean; it's so much more powerful than you. You're a grain of sand and you just realize how insignificant you are in the big scheme of things. You're introspective in that moment realizing you are so tiny and there is so much more magnificence and strength around you. You realize how absolutely incredible this earth is—the wilderness and the outdoors. Being in the wilderness puts things into perspective; it makes me not want to be selfish.”

“It's awesome when I could go out in the wilderness and bow hunt and bring really good clean meat back and put it in my freezer and cook chili for my buddies and provide for my friends and my family. That's kind of going back to as wholesome as you can get.”

Wolf Armstrong, Navy SEAL and avid outdoorsman

“Being out in the wilderness, the stakes are high and the realization that a wrong move could result in your demise makes you focus on what to do to get out of it as opposed to all the consequences. There's a lot of focus on the surfaces that I'm climbing, the ground I'm walking on, my foot placement. You have to think objectively and keep your state of mind elevated. Problem solving and surviving go hand in hand and the benefit from being in some of these harrowing moments tends to make me feel more alive.”

“We were taught this method that a World War II Air Force pilot came up with, it is called OODA loop. It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. So it was just a quick strategy that he would run in every sticky little situation to observe what's going on. It oriented him in a good position to decide what he was going to do and then act quickly, making appropriate decisions while also understanding that changes can be made as more information becomes available. Making quick sound decisions out in the wild seems to be the most effective way to have a good time and keep yourself safe and come out configured, energized, and better off all the way around.”

“Out in the wild, I love taking every opportunity to stick my head completely into cold water, like submerge it completely. So if I see a creek, a river, a lake, or even some sort of icy situation, I love doing that. It wakes me up, removes the fog, and reinvigorates me. It is like a quick boost, like a charge. It brings your entire world right down to that moment instantly, snapping you back into reality. That's one of my favorite things to do out there.”

“I really don't miss any luxuries when I’m out in the wild. I spend so much time preparing for that, wanting to be out there and by the time that I'm out there, I'm damn near in heaven. That's where I want to be, and it makes me appreciate being out there so much more than ever even reminiscing about the luxuries. If you're a minimalist or any sort of simpleton, it really tends to be beneficial. You take just a light load of all your special items. It's quite fascinating.”

“To be a survivalist out in the wilderness, it takes an energetic person and a problem solver. A person also has to have some empathy for others as well—that aspect is very important. Even taking it back to SEAL BUDs when we were talking about getting a boost from others, getting thinned out of the herd, it always seemed to help us to think less of your misery if you're thinking of others. If you're thinking ‘how I can best support my buddy, my squad, my team, or my platoon,’ it seems to alleviate some of your own personal misery. So, having a high degree of empathy and sense of taking care of your partners up on the hill or in the wild tends to result in the best outcome. This makes the situation so much more efficient for everybody, if you're bonding together and working through things together and thinking less about yourself or your misery and instead thinking about the well-being of others.”

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