Dina Bennett is the Vice President and Instructor for Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School in Catawba, Virginia. After more than two decades in the corporate world training and coaching sales staffs, her life changed in 2006 when she attended her first survival course with now-husband Reggie Bennett, which pulled her out of her comfort zone and gave her the appetite for survival training leadership and adventure that drives her today.
1. Where are you from originally?
I moved around a lot growing up. I was born in California but spent most of my early childhood in the Chicago area, and junior and high school years in Roanoke, Virginia.
2. How did you decide to get into survival training education?
I have always loved the outdoors. My first and fondest memories are with my dad, playing sports, hiking, canoeing, biking and skiing. Sleeping in the wilderness, among other things, wasn’t on my list of favorite things.
Then I participated in my first Survival 101 course and was hooked. It became vividly clear early in Reggie’s course that the 7 survival priorities correlate to leadership, to life and to family. From that first course in the Winter of 2006, I began to formulate the business plan and develop the courses to bring the world of wilderness survival to everyday life.
3. What did you do before your current career?
I enjoyed many years in the corporate world consulting business owners; managing projects; and leading, coaching and training sales teams in the weight loss, printing and newspaper industries. It was a rewarding and eclectic 24-year career helping others succeed.
4. What motivates you to teach survival training?
Teaching people, especially women, how to do something they didn’t know they could do is the most rewarding experience.
Making a difference in the lives of other people has always been my motivation. Watching the expression on someone’s face as they take the skills I teach to start a fire or build shelter, something that they may have never done before, and succeed gives me an amazing sense of accomplishment.
Having a woman tell me she is confident and empowered to take care of herself in any situation is a reward like no other. I had coffee just last week with a woman who attended one of my first courses two years ago. She told me “not to sound like a cliché, but your course changed my life. I’m living the life I want both personally and professionally because of your training and the women who were there. Please coordinate a follow up course!” Who could ask for more?
5. Why is survival training important for everyone to know?
From the pure outdoor survival perspective, you never know when a wrong turn on the trail, a change in the weather or a natural disaster can turn an everyday occurrence into a survival situation. Knowing your priorities saves lives, your and those around you.
Hopefully, the skills we teach will never be necessary, but it’s important to be prepared to help yourself and also others. Can you imagine coming across someone who is hurt, cold and lost and not able to help them? We just had a student come to a course for just that reason. He came across a young girl, lost from her family, who was hurt, cold and scared. He didn’t know what to do. Now he does.
6. Why is it especially important for women?
Now, more than ever, it’s important for women to be prepared and confident to handle any crisis in any environment – whether they’re on a wilderness adventure, traveling or at home.
Not being dependent on others is empowering. Knowing what to do in a survival situation eliminates fears. The more knowledge you have, the less fear you have. The less fear you have, the better decisions you make.
Often, women tell me their fears are eliminated when they are out on hikes or just camping, because they know they can take care of themselves. Others are now ready to take on outdoor activities they were afraid to try before.
7. What are some of the most common myths and misconceptions about survival training?
Survival training isn’t about pain and suffering. It’s not about learning to live a primitive lifestyle like our ancestors suffered through day in and day out.
Survival training is all about learning to prepare and to practice so that you prevail in a survival situation resulting from an outdoor adventure gone awry, a wrong turn, a change in the weather or even a natural disaster. It’s about being prepared to help others. It’s about improvising in our modern-day world with modern-day conveniences. Survival training builds confidence to enjoy the outdoors.
Oh, and we’ll show you what bugs to eat, but actually eating them is optional!
8. What is your favorite quick & easy survival training tip/technique?
Think. Your mind is best survival tool, always!
9. If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I feel like I found my calling, my place to make a long lasting difference in the lives of other people. There is nothing else I would rather be doing! I help women build confidence to be self-reliant; I’m living the dream!
10. What’s your secret to personal success?
Success is applying the 7 priorities everyday. It’s getting in the right mindset and staying in it.
Success is taking care of your body as well as your mind.
Success comes with finding some time for yourself, a “shelter” away from negativity and stresses from those things outside of your control.
Success comes from finding your passion in life, knowing how to spark its flame and keep it burning. Know who or what may try to douse the flame and have a back-up to fuel your fire and breathe oxygen into your life.
It’s communicating effectively with others to receive and give help.
Success comes when we look for and take in those things that nourish us and don’t waste time on things that don’t matter. It’s about surrounding ourselves with positive people who nourish us.
Success comes from knowing what works and doing those things the same way every time until it becomes a habit, as well as knowing that sometimes improvising to get you through is OK, too. Save time, energy and resources where you can so you have it when you need and want it.