On “The 10/80/10 (Physical ) Survival Theory” and “The 66 (Spiritual) Survival Plan”

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

UPDATED May 30, 2020

warning symbolsWisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,
who have left the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,
 who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.
(Proverbs 2:12-15 NIV)

In a sense, there is nothing new under the sun (another Scripture reveals), yet to anybody paying attention just now, “dark paths” and “devious men” seem to be multiplying.


One can hardly pick up a newspaper or turn on the television without noting more bad news about yet another terror.

Watchers on the temporal scene note the passing of some kind of tipping point as civilization (seemingly) breaks down.

Watchers on the spiritual scene note the up-tick of a number of so-called “end-times prophecies.”

The only ones left in the mocker’s chair are the frightful and the fearful as those who perpetrate perversion seem Hell bent…

What to do—“on the ground” and “in the spirit”?

THE WISDOM OF “THE 10/80/10”

Elsewhere in my survival posts I have referenced a physical survival concept titled the “10/80/10 Theory.” It comes to mind more and more, these days. It bears repeating, I think.

This concept, coined by survival teacher and researcher John Leach [1], refers to three groups of people and how they each react to catastrophes, whether “acts of God” or acts of man.

The first 10%

Ten percent, Leach’s studies reveal, “will handle a crisis in a relatively calm and rational state of mind […] Under duress they pull themselves together quickly. They assess situations clearly. Their decision making is sharp and focused.”

This group uses critical thinking skills, he says, to effectively assess, analyze, and act. They believe what they are seeing, hearing, or experiencing to be what they are, well, seeing, hearing, and experiencing, and they proceed from there.

Most importantly, notes Leach, they refuse to let themselves get overwhelmed.

It helps, of course, to have acquired some crisis-response kinds of skills and, well, information about theories like this.

All of which takes diligence.

The 80%

This group responds somewhat differently in a crisis. “Most of us,” says Leach, “will quite simply be stunned and bewildered.”

Critical thinking becomes difficult. We will tend to behave in “a reflexive, almost automatic or mechanical manner.”

When the bomb drops, the volcano erupts, or some other terror explodes on the scene most of us will feel numb, sick, and develop, as he puts it, a “perceptual narrowing,” or tunnel vision. In short, we will “turn into statues,” as it were.

Indeed, I recall news feeds of the 9-11-01 catastrophe and watching some who stood ”statue-fied,” was all I could think of to describe it then, as others raced around them and smoke billowed down from the twin towers, even in their direction.

I, myself, 3,000 miles west, stood holding my toothbrush in one hand, toothpaste in the other, mouth agape, stunned still by what I was viewing on the Eye Witness News.

For several long minutes.

Not that I really had a sense of time…

“The key is,” says Leach, “to recover quickly from brainlock or analysis paralysis,” as he describes it; “shake off the shock, and figure out what to do.”

Staying calm helps. He says.

The other 10%

The members of this group, notes Leach, do the wrong thing, behave inappropriately and often counterproductively. “They make the situation worse.”

These folks lose control, “freak out,” and simply cannot pull themselves together. Some, of course, succumb to heart attacks or other physical manifestations of extreme stress.


What’s the physical survival plan, then?

Believe what you are experiencing and act on it however you can.

Leach puts it this way: “Denial and inactivity prepare people well for the roles of victim and corpse.”

Equally important, he adds, is to avoid “the normalcy bias,” i.e., thinking this really isn’t happening; everything will soon go back to what it was.

In a nutshell: look and accept what you are seeing. Hear, and comprehend what you are hearing. Smell, taste, and/or feel the reality of the situation.

And proceed with the logic, common sense, and whatever other skills you possess, to survive.

And you possess more than you think.

Every term, I assign my Effective Learning students a term wrap-up activity to employ the various types of critical thinking skills we’ve studied throughout the course. The activity features one, last information processing theory (Bloom’s Taxonomy) which they must use to survive a particular situation where they have nothing but what is on them or with them to use as tools. From this exercise, they realize that, for example, a credit card can become a scraper, marker, wedge, eating tool, reflective device, and so on.

Each team has to choose one item per member from pocket, purse, or backpack. Clothing items, too.

And they frequently surprise themselves and the rest of us with what a mind can deduce.

Besides the multiple-use credit card, a shoelace can be put to a number of survival uses: measuring device, fishing line, belt, fire starter, and, of course, to bind and wrap.

Each term I learn more from my students, and I hope they learn enough for both inside—and outside—the classroom.

And each term, I have noticed, the students get more and more serious about the exercise. They take more notes when classmates share the survival skills and tools they have come up with.

This is how it is these days.

But of course for believers, there is another set of skills on which we can rely and about which we can also use frequent reminders.


So, what is that “wisdom,” a key spiritual tool, so to speak, referenced in the opening verses? And not just in that one book in the Bible, but packed into all sixty-six?


As used above in the second chapter of Proverbs the term wisdom (chokmah) is coupled with two other (synonymous) terms: understanding (tebunah—reasoning), and discernment (binah—consideration, clarity, truth). The combination comprises a believer’s spiritual survival kit. The text includes how to accumulate these essentials and how to use them.

Here’s more from the same “stash”:

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.
(v. 1-11)


What’s the spiritual survival plan, then?

From this taxonomy of thinking skills, so to speak, one gleans the following:

  • Accept God’s words (emer—utterance, saying, promise, command),
  • Listen to them,
  • Apply the heart to understanding them,
  • Call out for insight; cry aloud for comprehension, looking for it as for silver or hidden treasure (the hard assets of the spirit, so to speak).

And, God promises, you will find it.

Rescue and protection, too.

The nature of the rescue and protection?

Sometimes it’s physical.

Google: miracles, unexpected rescues, unexplained provision, “faith healings”.

Other times, a captive is suddenly set free, doors are inexplicably opened, what once was lost is found.

Look in the Book: seas part, dead rise, and blind see.

Look in today’s headlines, too.

But at all times, God’s response to our call is spiritual.

Search your own “text,” your world, for minds cleared, spirits raised, and hardened hearts transformed. Perhaps all this has happened to you.

The 66 books of the spiritual survival manual are replete with God’s hand of deliverance and restoration for those who employed “spiritual critical thinking skills”.

That’s how it is these days, too.

Does this take some training, diligence, and skill?


Believers are advised to “armor up,” as it were, for the daily, sometimes “minutely” attacks from the real enemy of us: the unseen terrorist who never sleeps. See Ephesians 6:10-13 for the drill.

But one needn’t have previously passed all manner of survival tests, and/or acquired a tough mind and body.

It can start with a simple plea. Maybe, sometimes, that is all there is time for!

Peter illustrated this in the famous Bible story where he calls out to Jesus Who is calmly walking on stormy waters toward His disciples “freaking out” in a boat.

When he (Peter) accepts the invitation to step out and meet Him, the roiling waves beneath induce panic and Peter starts sinking.

Here, just three simple words worked his salvation: “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30).

We are encouraged elsewhere (actually in many, many places in the old text) about God’s ever present help, whether in a stormy sea, stormy heart, or stormy circumstances: “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1).

To our task today: nor is He intimidated by the storms brewing globally by the perpetrators and traitors among us who are still working for the same old enemy.

Indeed, it is He Who “knows the end from the beginning,” (Isaiah 46:10*) and Who has warned us.

In short, He is still in the rescue business.

And, I suspect, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Pay Him mind.

I’d start today.

Here’s a good place to begin unpacking God’s survival kit, suitable for body, mind, and spirit:

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,[
knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.[

The fear** of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge… (Proverbs 2: 1-7).

BONUS (update, 3/17/20)–for some more encouragement in hard times, and a few stories of what were arguably answers to prayers read here.


* Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; 11Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.…(46:9-11).

**(yirah—awe, reverence, and fear).

[1] As quoted in The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life, by Ben Sherwood, Grand Central Publishing, New York/Boston, 2009. 34-47.

Image from www.pd4pic.com

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4 Responses to On “The 10/80/10 (Physical ) Survival Theory” and “The 66 (Spiritual) Survival Plan”

  1. Carl Gordon says:

    I needed this…


  2. healingInHim says:

    Appreciate the way you brought this all together. Praise God for His wisdom and warnings to us.
    I must confess to being somewhat numbed concerning my circumstances. Just when I feel I’m in survival mode, another shock wave knocks me down but doesn’t destroy me. Praying for a Spiritual rescue team. There are times where God’s Word exhorts us to care for “the one another’s”.


    • pnissila says:

      HealingInHim: I love how you put this: “Spiritual rescue team.” 🙂

      I spend a lot of time in the “Psalm life boat,” as it were. As noble and wise and skilled and important as David was, he still blew it big time AND the enemy singled him out constantly, it seems. I love it how he didn’t hold back his angst, doubts, and fears. Good stuff, there. And God heard and answered him. Better stuff ;).

      Blessings and peace to you today!!


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