Read about the 20 best practices that LRMG has extracted from the story of the Uruguayan rugby players who crashed in the snow-filled Andes in 1972.


  1. Remain cool. Only 10 percent of untrained people can stay calm in an emergency (blue head, like the All Blacks learned to do under pressure). Perceive the situation clearly, plan, and take correct action. An example is Neil Armstrong in Gemini 8 when the astronauts spun out of control; and in the lunar module when he had to take control to land in a safe place on the moon.
  2. Face reality. The Stockdale paradox is a key psychology: confront the brutal facts of your current reality, however bad they may be, yet retain absolute faith that you can and will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties. (The ones who died were the ones who said they’d be out of the prisoner of war camp camp by Christmas). Fear is good. Too much fear is not. But also believe that anything is possible and you will succeed.
  3. Be prepared to break the rules: rule-followers don’t do as well as those of independent mind and spirit.
  4. The balance of boldness and humility. Zen teaches that it is impossible to add more to a cup that is already full. So too with the mind. Be open to new information and learning. Don’t believe that because you are good at one thing you’ll be good at another.
  5. Quickly admit you are lost. Whether literally or figuratively, the sooner an organisation recognises that it has lost its way, the sooner it recovers. It is very difficult to do; almost impossible to conceive.
  6. Like it or not, you must make a new mental map of where you are.
  7. Discard the hope of rescue. Many have perished waiting for God to help them out instead of recognising, whether or not you believe in God, you must help yourself.
  8. Positive mental attitude. Apathy is the worst possible thing. Gratitude, humility, imagination, determination, total commitment, and appreciation (“I am constantly surrounded by a display of natural wonders… a view of heaven from a seat in hell”). Spend minimal time getting stressed or upset at what is lost.
  9. Be stingy with resources and invest only in efforts that offer the biggest possible return.
  10. Helping someone else is the best way to ensure your own survival. It takes you out of yourself and helps you rise above your fears. The cycle reinforces itself – you buoy them up and they buoy you up. And many people who survive alone report they did it for someone else (wife, boyfriend, child, mother, father etc.). They survive because of a greater why and because they are rescuing the species, not just themselves.
  11. Set small manageable goals and systematically achieve them. Refer to the 20-mile march concept from Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen. But don’t fall in love with the plan.
  12. A sense of humour is vital.
  13. The Rambo types are the first to go (Navy SEAL commander). Don’t be Rambo.
  14. Nearly all survivors hear the voice. So tune in if you can, to your higher self, your deep sense of instinct and purpose. Remember Joe Simpson after the rope was cut in the Peruvian Andes: “The voice was clean and sharp and commanding. It was always right, and I listened to it when it spoke and acted on its decisions.”
  15. Use the lucky breaks that come your way. Refer to the ROL (Return on Luck) concept. Collins and Hansen found that the 10X companies they studied all had the same amount of luck as others in the industry. The difference was the concept of ROL – the mindset to luck, the ability to recognise it for what it is, then managing the bad and capitalising on the good.
  16. Celebrate successes.
  17. Do whatever is necessary.
  18. Never give up – let nothing break your spirit.
  19. Look out for blind spot biases to ensure that your judgment is optimal. Remember Nando Parrado.
  20. When you have a crisis, remember Nando and create your own version of a miracle.


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