Next Steps: Prepping for the Middle Expertise, Middle Life, Middle Philosophy Preppers, by A.L.G.

Salutations! And for those of spiritual and religious bent, Blessings, from my wife and I in these troubled time.

A few weeks back, after my assistant’s grandson returned to his school year, he brought home a “bug” as the kiddies often do. My assistant naturally fell ill, and a week later, sure enough I found myself on my couch with my wife good-naturedly giving me some grief (and chicken soup…) With some time on my hands, and not much energy to actually do anything, my mind started turning as I laid there and watched an earthquake hit D.C. and a hurricane beginning its topsy turvy track towards some portion of the East coast a week later.

Thankfully, all of my friends and family out East were safe in both events (my first concern, as the wife and I live in the suburbs of Chicago.) After sending my assistant an email asking her to check on our customers and business contacts (it turns out the bug was strep throat, and after calling immediate family and best friends, I really did not want to physically speak any more,) I began contemplating the status of our preps.

All the books I have read or perused written on our lifestyle (I use that word very deliberately) seem aimed at those who know nothing about prepping/survival and are starting from square one, – giving the reader a course of recommended actions to take, to ensure their long term viability. There are several philosophies in the range of books and manuals, some are urban survival guides, some advocate a move to secure locations (the better half and I have a long term plan to follow Captain Rawles to the American Redoubt area, but that is 2-4 years away from being executed) some are of the hunting in the wilderness variety, and others are shall we say, more militant.

Not a single book I have read really addresses where we are in life currently. I can only assume as the popularity of survival/prepping has increased exponentially over the past few years, that others are now in the boat that the wife and I find ourselves within. Namely, having our basic preps complete, a plan for the future, but the feeling that we can do more today, and not quite knowing what it is. What follows, as I am in no position to write a full book, are just a few thoughts I had while laid up on the couch for half a week watching our economy continue its slow collapse, a shocking geologic event hit the East coast, and a hurricane heading towards heavily populated areas.

Jack Spirko over at The Survival Podcast has many times mentioned his idea that what he provides is a “framework” from which to operate. As a sometimes business consultant and coach, this idea resonates with me – give folks a flexible system to adapt and adopt to their particular custom circumstances. There may be 99% overlap between my checklist and yours, but that final 1% is mine or yours – not both of ours. That said, on the couch, I realized we (the lady and I) had not rebuilt a framework in a looooong time. Something like a eighteen years of prepping – well before the word was coined and it was just survivalists – multiple checklists, plans to be executed in binders, financial acumen and execution, food storage, BOBs, armament, BOLs, continuing education, new skills, laughter, failure, success, etc. We had gotten older, our plans somewhat evolved, but I no longer know what I am doing day to day, why, and in what priority; to embrace the future with a sense of excitement and hope that we shall prevail.

The business metaphor I might use, is that of an established successful small business that has some contingency plans in place, but plods along executing the activity of its business every day – with absolutely no innovation program to address the future. We are merely relying on an old business plan. Rather ironic as my business consulting revolves around innovation topics. The shoemakers son goes shoeless!

This is primarily a mindset issue – we need to move from prepping caused by fear (healthy to begin the journey and get us off our rear ends,) to a sense of accomplishment at what we have done so far, and then further into a sense of comfort in doing what needs to be done going forward. We need to move from our checklist which we keep searching for holes as we move from beginner to intermediate middle of the road, to a martial arts type flexibility of “flowing” with the energy of life as we tweak, improve, and search for new arenas and opportunities. We need to expand our focus from the immediate concentric circles that may never be 1oo%; to the next adjacencies where we are not really playing actively (business metaphor – I own the market in my town, lets look at the same business in the next town as we expand, which we had not considered doing previously.) Further business metaphor, we own this town, and the next, we better look at additional products or service lines to provide to our customers who already love us.

So how does this shifting in mindset, translate into direct actions (if you are still reading my ramblings, I assume you do feel like you are to some extent sharing my disquietude,) we can take in our current lives?

Well, I am sure of one thing, that is the fact that I do not have all the answers, but here are some further thoughts I had on my sick-couch, as I began this mental exercise (and yes, now that I am well, I am taking action on thought.)

First, let’s re-examine the question of why we prep? I can’t remember the last time I actually formally created a threat analysis matrix! All action comes from the, “Why.” It is long past time to revisit the old business plan!

I am an idiot. Everything I do is based on a document (the long lost threat matrix) from another era (remember the days of plaid flannel shirts, grunge rock like Nirvana, Waco, and Clinton coming into office) Really? The last time I thought holistically about threats was in 1993? Somebody please grab a crowbar and remove my palm from my forehead where I just smacked myself silly! My mindset and planning is entirely out of date, or maybe not, but I need to know and not assume.

Years ago, I created a matrix that listed all the various threats I was going to plan for, and from there took action to mitigate. As the years passed, and a new threat was discovered, I just tweaked purchases and plans accordingly. It is high time I start again (on paper at least) from scratch to ensure my actions and investments are aligned with multiple scenarios of what might be.  Who knows, perhaps not much is different, but considering how the world has changed, I am confident I will be finding many holes and fallacies in my thinking. The end result of what preps are in place may well be the same – but I need to examine the foundation for cracks, and I certainly need to shock myself out of an 18 year mental rut.

Second, I need to look at the CARVER matrix for each specific threat I identify  within my mission planning. Yes, I am a business guy, but I freely take the best planning tools and frameworks from other arenas (in this case, the military.) Again, my plans may or may not change according to this holistic re-examination of our planning and SOPs. I do know however, that I will feel much better updating everything to today’s (and tomorrow’s) environment with a fresh look at it – as opposed to plans that have been updated and tweaked on an ad-hoc basis over the years.

Third, one concrete task I stink at will be given a weekend and just plain knocked off the to-do list. Namely, examination of all food expiry dates and rotations to ensure the system is operating properly. I also intend on traveling to our caches and performing maintenance on all items stashed away (unpacking, checking of expiry, re-lubing, updating as necessary according to our inventory lists.)

Fourth, I will focus on (business metaphor again) human resources over the coming year. This is perhaps one of the most important, difficult, costly, and painful tasks in business and likewise in prepping. What do I mean by this? Two things.

First, for the family “on board” with the lifestyle, I will re-examine our planning, communications, and joint training to ensure it is operating smoothly.

Second, I wish to expand: Easier said, than done.

How does one expand? In business, you write a job description, post it somewhere soliciting interest, interview, background and reference check, psyche test, try to take into account variables such as cultural fit, personality type, alignment of goals,  (illegal in business but not in prepping – religious views,) dither over the decision, and then jump – hoping it is a pillow at the bottom, and not rocks.

Human resources management is an art, not a science. I have the pleasure and honor of collaborating from the innovation side with some of the worlds leading experts in HR/workforce topics/and academic theorists, there is no one right answer. You play, sometimes you pay (and hopefully, sometimes you get paid.)

On an ad hoc basis over the years I have met like minded preppers at national gatherings, I have hosted events locally hoping to identify others in my community and participate(d) in numerous internet forums. Again, there is no right answer. I am however, definitely changing my mentality from one of laissez faire.

This years project is to do the hard work of building, once the re-examined plan is in place.

I will keep talking to people. I will keep making new contacts. However this time, I will be taking notes on which of these contacts I will deliberately continue with in private discussion to better ascertain suitability for placement in an extended secure network and community. However, it brings me back to the foundation document I am holistically re-building. I am now creating a “job description.” The military has their various “slots,” business has its “roles;” why do I not have a listing of the skills, personality types, attitude, etc. I am looking to identify with contacts? Operating with no framework is only marginally worse than operating from an 18 year old framework that hasn’t [been] updated.

Years ago, we were all individual survival types, as we went from wacky to not quite mainstream, we have flipped the problem to not identifying our own (other preppers,) to rather, there are so many choices, who do I want to associate with and trust? Yes, the racist militia survivalist the media portrays, shares some preps with me, but is diametrically in opposition to my values. (Also, in my experience, those guys lack a sense of humor, and tend to dislike educated Jewish-background preppers… )

The fifth and last thought I had on the couch that I wish to share in this rambling article, is that of why (there it is again, I believe in answering, why?) I am looking to add folks to my network?  The why, of course informs the who, and the what. I am not lonely, nor overly narcissistic in needing the affirmation of others, so why do I feel the need to expand in terms of human resources, instead of just adding prep supplies?

I should add, that I am not looking to build a retreat per se for TEOTWAWKI in “Patriots” style. That may be the best solution, but for any number of reasons, impractical for me today. My focus is more of a loose mutual aid network, or borrowing from defense thinking, a cellular structure. Today, the network provides expertise and occasional meetings to share skills, knowledge, and good times. Tomorrow, it may be logistics support mid-bugout.  In TEOTWAWKI the network may be the immediate surrounding neighbors and community wherever we can make it, if as in the case of some characters in Patriots, we haven’t yet bugged out.

So, several reasons for the “why” of network and community come to mind.  Perhaps as I continue my examination and organization over the coming months, I will submit a follow on with my findings for my personal what and who…

Practical Why?
I am maturing (read that as getting old(er) and creaky(ier.) With maturity comes the conviction that I can not do it alone, and what’s more, I like to outsource [or delegate] tasks that I dislike or that can be more efficiently accomplished by giving them to others better suited for them (or, in a business sense, more economically pay others to do, freeing one to create more value by focusing on other higher worth activities.)

Reality Why?
I am, as of many years past, disabused of the lone wolf mentality endemic in some militant survival books, and on a more pop culture basis fostered by some action movies that focus on a hero. Captain Rawles certainly seems to agree with this on a macro level in his novel “Patriots” where much of the book focused on the group and it roles – as opposed to one dude in the forest fighting a guerilla war and surviving on grubs and hunted meat.

Social Why?
I know my personality type, that is one of gregarious sociability. I enjoy the company of others. I can also make a case of the total being greater than the sum of its parts. If you are an introvert, well, instead of community, your focus in prepping may be better directed at fortress building for your homestead. Bison over at Bison Survival seems to take that approach. Great for him, not so much for my family.

Redoubt Why?
For me, the American Redoubt move a few years out, is not meant to take us just to an area of lower population, but a move to an area where what population exists is of a similar mindset.

If you will, I want to go home.

Home Why?
Home is where we find comfort and solace, not to mention support. I can find this in suburban Chicago, but I also want the lower population, economics, and politics of the Redoubt. Hence, a number of factors in confluence, as I search for a communal home to get old in.  Yes, the geography is important, but a completely barren landscape of isolation is not where I see us in the future; small community is where we will flourish. After all, what is prepping and survival but the desire to grow old gracefully and pleasantly, sharing joy, while watching the future generation flourish?

I end this article as a direct wish from the far better half and I, that this article perhaps be of some assistance to you in the words that resonate (go ahead, ignore those that do not.) We also wish: That you find success, and ways to improve yourself and your community. That you find peace of mind in the midst of turmoil. That our once great nation innovates and rebuilds itself. That you maintain your sense of humor. That your health improves. That your children make you proud. That our dogs have fleas that are easily banished, and that the skunk spray easily rinses off (my dog-ownership week has been a bit extreme.) That our appropriately dirty children (come on, more playground, less Play Station, you know its better for them) come home with, and transmit nothing worse to us, than strep throat. That whatever your personal spiritual or religious affiliation, you extend and receive good karma, blessings and tidings – as we extend to you.

May God bless us and the United States of America.