Survival Mindset — or How I learned to love Murphy’s Law, Coronavirus, and the Atom Bomb

By Matthew Bow

Fancy Comma, LLC is excited to publish this article by U.S. Army veteran (and Sheeva’s high school classmate) Matthew Bow. Matthew wants to remind everyone to not just thank veterans for their service, but to actually talk to them and ask them how they’re doing.

Military servicemembers carry flags during a 4th of July parade in Miles City, Montana. Photo by Ian MacDonald on Unsplash.

Every Veteran who has deployed to a combat zone or has done humanitarian missions can tell you about survival mindset. It is a mindset only to be used in times where you need the extra 15 percent you can give. Civilians may know this type of thinking as “growth mindset.” A lot of times we fall into a mental trap of thinking that we need to do things 100 percent perfectly — but that’s not always possible. If we can do something 93 percent, that’s still an A. Sometimes, it’s important to think big picture and not get caught up on small details. Also, the most important thing is to sign a contract with yourself for how long you are willing to do this. Businesses fail, and it’s not worth sacrificing your joy and happiness of making your every day a Tuesday because Monday would start something…

The first step is to make things simple. One way to do this is by automating or outsourcing things. Hire an assistant, whether virtual or in person. Maybe don’t care about your clothing — adopt a utilitarian approach to life. I remember that when I went to bootcamp they shaved all the guys’ hair, so it’s one thing less to worry about. If you are the primary breadwinner, offer to pay your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, cousin, and auntie to handle things you don’t need to worry about. Also, chunk your time into two-hour increments with fifteen minutes of meme time or something else enjoyable.

If the headline intrigued you … well, it should. There is no one more equipped to handle Murphy’s Law than those listed above. Murphy’s law states that “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Anything can and will happen, and it will mess up your plans. The important part about dealing with life is to adopt the right mindframe that can allow you to adapt to life’s challenges.

The important part about dealing with life is to adopt the right mindframe that can allow you to adapt to life’s challenges.

That’s why another key to survival mindset is forgiveness. Ladies going to their hairstylist can attest that, if a haircut is 0.75 inches away from being perfect, allowing yourself to forgive your hairstylist for mistakes will unleash the extra 15%. Forgiveness is especially useful during the COVID-19 pandemic, when things often don’t go as you think they should. It can also be useful in entrepreneurial ventures. The extra percent of energy for a startup or survival mode for businesses can make a difference.

Forgiveness mindset has been studied since Air Force pilots were taught about the ways that a stiff cross breeze can change a missile’s trajectory. Forgiveness frees you from mental self-sabotage. The mindset of allowing yourself to make mistakes and take calculated risks allows you to live a more freeing life.

You can apply this to a start-up, if you are in charge, or if your home business is in survival mode. Survival mindset can also be applied to leadership. Remind your employees no one expects you to be a cyborg. The most effective leadership style is the servant leader — meaning a boss who has done what you are doing. One example is Sheeva, being a blogger and boss, knows she asks me to be creative to get paid, but she has written before and knows how it is to write. Thanks for the editing, Sheeva! Also leaders, start cross-training your employees, so Mike from IT doesn’t feel like he has to come in while he has a cold — the machine of the business will go on.

“The mindset of allowing yourself to make mistakes and take calculated risks allows you to live a more freeing life.”

Being thankful for things not being worse will free you as well as far as pandemics go. This isn’t 1918 with the Spanish flu; those of us not super adversely affected by Coronavirus have internet and Netflix, which can provide endless entertainment. Being thankful also allows you to laugh at dark humor, which is a stress reliever. 

Being able to laugh at yourself frees you to stay mentally sharp, admit you are washed (in other words, old), and if you remember MySpace, you are washed. Reminds me of a funny story — when then-Captain, now Lieutenant Colonel Stokes had me punt a fruitcake, it made the number one video on MySpace with over 208k views. I am washed — everyone above the age of 30 is washed. It’s cool.

Survival mindset is how we get more done. Think of the meme of the dog with everything around him on fire and he says, “this is fine.” He thinks: it could be worse. Survival mindset! You think of the big picture, accounting for Murphy’s Law, and you made the best call you could make at the time. This allows you the most freedom in your life. Remember, everyone contributes to the common good. Don’t worry about the trolls, they probably ain’t getting paid, and if they are, OK, well they are contributing to the economy.

Perhaps the dog in the “This is Fine” meme, pictured above, is using survival mindset strategies to be okay with his situation.

Reintegration is hard for both sides — for vets and civilians alike. I get the impression that civilians think we are working nonstop in the military. It doesn’t matter how much combat you faced, you weren’t doing it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There were often refit days, as well as other tasks, such as getting paperwork and medical stuff done. We were all bored at one time or another. Though we didn’t have a whole lot of awesome free time, there were internet phones, maybe even a coffee shop.

Honoring Veterans’ sacrifices means not just interacting and not treating veterans as walking, talking museum pieces, but as people who endured hardships due to foreign policy.

Honoring Veterans’ sacrifices means not just interacting and not treating veterans as walking, talking museum pieces, but as people who endured hardships due to foreign policy. We know how to communicate — just ask us what our job was and what duty station we had. As for me, I was twice deployed to Iraq and 101st and 25th infantry divisions. There, that wasn’t so hard. I also was deskside Information Technology (IT) support and I fixed radios, too. Jack of all trades, master of none.

photo of military servicemembers
Matt’s unit in Kuwait Camp Virginia before deployment to Anaconda Logistical Support Area (LSA Anaconda) in Balad, Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom 3. Photo provided by Matthew Bow.


Matthew Bow is a special featured guest writer and Sheeva’s high school classmate. Matthew served in the 101st Division in both his deployments in Iraq, from 2004 to 2005, and from 2007 to 2009 he also worked desk-side Information Technology (IT) support and as a secure communications specialist. He was tasked with fixing computers, amongst other things; in deployment, you often find yourself taking roles outside of rank structure. As an IT guy, Matthew has had unique experiences, whether he was working Operations in Battalion, or working with the Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) and Sergeant Major (SGM), who can be thought of as the CEO and senior Human Resources (HR), respectively, of about 500 to 700 troops. He also served with the 25th infantry division. He would also like to personally thank all of the fellow communication soldiers and the fact that Augusta still doesn’t have sidewalks in downtown. He would also personally like to thank two Commanders from his second deployment: Captain Kimberly Tully, now retired (and also married, so now Kimberly Cody), and Captain Martin, who taught him about servant leadership and game theory.

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