Survive life: 6 tips from 'Manhunt' star Joel Lambert
MANILA, Philippines – How would you face a life-and-death situation? Would you freeze, or would you keep your cool?
How about other situations that require you to stay calm despite your nerves – a major interview, first day at a new job, the biggest presentation of your career?
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up tips from someone who’s been through it all.
Former United States Navy SEAL Joel Lambert has been to some of the most dangerous conflict zones in the world. He makes a living by literally placing himself in high-risk situations and is constantly testing his limits as a person – as star of Discovery Channel’s Manhunt.
During his last visit to Manila, Joel shared some useful tips with Rappler on how to stay focused and disciplined, whether you’re being pursued in the rainforest or navigating the concrete jungle.
1. Remember: one foot in front of the other
Manhunt follows Joel Lambert, armed only with basic tools and his years of experience in the field, as he navigates some of the harshest terrain on the planet, all while evading some of the world’s most elite tracking units. To be able to do something as physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding as Manhunt, you have to be completely invested in the present. “There is nothing but the moment I am in,” he said.
This attitude is something he learned while undergoing the rigors of BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL) training, which is notorious for its high drop-out rate and level of difficulty. It was here where he honed his acute sense of awareness, focus, and discipline in his 10 years spent with the US Navy SEALs.
“The training runs for around 6 months, but it’s hardly ever completed in that time,” he said. “If you go through first day or two, and you’re in shock and you’re injured and you think of the 6 months that you have to go through, it’s impossible, you will shut down without doing that.”
He got through the training by staying focused on the present. “If you start thinking of everything that you have to do, if you start looking at the whole picture, you will quit,” he said. “You just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You shrink down your awareness to this moment. The future will never exist by definition; the past is just in your head. All there ever will be is a series of ‘nows.’
“Sometimes it’s so miserable, but I’m right there in that moment. It’s an animal thing. Animals never worry about anything, they’re just right there invested in this moment. They’re so free because of it.”
2. Remember: Throw a 'hissy fit' in your head if you need to
It’s okay and actually helpful to acknowledge the discomfort, as long as you keep going. “It’s a bit embarrassing to admit this,” he said. “But this is how I deal with some of the extremely miserable situations. An old saying that got me through much is “you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.”
Go ahead and admit to yourself that you’re challenged, that it’s not all peachy or perfect – but after that, keep moving.
“I can throw a tantrum in my head as long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I’ll allow myself to throw a hissy fit in my head and it relieves some pressure and some steam. And allowing myself to do that really smoothed the way to push through some things,” said Joel.
3. Remember: Don’t give up
Manhunt was not an easy project to film. Joel went through 3 different cameramen, and numerous members of his crew had to be evacuated out of the extreme conditions. He admitted that it’s gotten to the point where “it got so miserable that death might have happened and some things, and I might have gone completely out and unconscious and they might have had to evacuate me out of there. Those sorts of things were on the table, but quitting was never an option.”
Joel said this was ingrained in him as he underwent SEAL selection screening. “If you will quit, if it is in you, we will find it, and you will be gone. Period. Because there will be things that you go through in this training process that you will literally have to choose between death and quitting, because it will literally feel like you are going to die underwater. You will pass out, you will basically drown yourself to make that choice.
“Once you learn that you can do that, once you learn what you can put your body through, like hell week, once you learn the amount of damage that you can cause to yourself and your mind will keep pushing through, it changes everything.”
4. Remember: Learn to adapt
“The situation always dictates your response,” said Joel, “People have this one thing and they’re not very practiced at it and since they think they have one thing that they know, they’ll try and take that one thing to every situation. You can’t ever do that, that’s applying a tactic to situations. You have to apply tactics to a specific situation.”
To do that, Joel advises equipping yourself with as much knowledge, training, and experience as possible in order to handle difficult situations. “You’ve got to have all of these tactics, all of these options from the training you have and the knowledge you have. Then you can be flexible.”
Already good at executing a plan? Try to expand your strategic thinking skills. Take up a new sport, try a new hobby, or start a new project – you may pick up a thing or two that may come in handy in the future.
5. Remember: Don’t make decisions when you’re emotional
Joel says a lot of people make critical mistakes because “they make decisions when they are cold, tired, hungry, or emotional. And as we all know from relationships and anything else, those decisions are the worst decisions.”
In dire situations, take a step back, assess the situation. “Get some distance, stop, calm yourself down, and make a plan calmly and rationally, so once things start going crazy, you’ll have smart decisions already pre-made.”
6. Remember: 'Panic, and you are done'
Joel was once skydiving into the ocean at night when his parachute malfunctioned and he almost plummeted to his death. “I never panicked,” he said, “I just worked with the situation, with full knowledge that I may die in 30 seconds, but in those 30 seconds I am staying calm and I’m working my process and I’m going to get out or I’m not going to get out.
“You can’t dwell on what doesn’t exist in that moment. Does the future of my death exist? Not in that moment. Right here, right now, what do I need to do? I need to work this problem because it would be very bad if I don’t. It’s just like in BUDS, if you think about the 6 months you have to do, you’re done, if I think about the fact that I’m really about to die, I’m done.”
In the nick of time, he was able to untangle himself and land safely. – with reports from Ina Sebastian/Rappler.com
Manhunt premieres April 7, 8pm on the Discovery Channel