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How a Six-Year-Old Kid Saved Himself from Being Lost in the Woods

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 26, 2018

When he was six years old, Cody Sheehy got lost in the woods near his home in Oregon. Rather than panic or hunkering down to await rescue, Sheehy hiked more than 15 miles over 18 hours to a nearby town, finding himself in the process.

Cody believes that he was changed by getting lost. “Over the course of your life, you push through a lot of physical barriers,” he says. “As you grow older, your first coach helps you break through barriers, and maybe in the military you learn to push through barriers or maybe in your first hard job. As a little kid, I had this opportunity to be tested and learn that there really aren’t any barriers. I think a lot of people figure that out. They just might not figure it out at six.”

It’s a great story and a sharp rebuke of today’s helicopter parenting, not letting kids do their own thing, etc. I wonder about something though. We would think a lot differently about this tale if he hadn’t survived. If it had been a couple of degrees colder or if those coyotes had been a big hungrier or if he’d have turned a different way on that road, he might have died. Sheehy’s story is an example of survivorship bias. We hear of his adventure and how it transformed his life only because he survived, but it’s possible that nine out of ten kids in similar situations don’t survive…and we hear those tales only briefly and locally, not as features in national magazines.