The Survival Mindset: The Overlooked Prep, by B.D.

In prepping, the details matter. In most articles, blogs, and social media posts about prepping, you read at length about others’ preps: food storage, water filtration, alternative sources of energy, bug out strategies, vehicle maintenance, weapons/ammunition caches and military style training. These are all informative and necessary. However, the one prep that is often overlooked, but the preps that matter most, are the details regarding your human “preps.” I don’t mean physical fitness or skills training, though those are vital. I am talking about choosing potential Schumer Hits The Fan (SHTF) team members to better insure your ‘surthrival’ in one of these scenarios based not just on skill sets, but also on mindset. This is a three-stage process which starts with discernment (in my case spiritual and mental) in choosing your potential team member, an interview and then through a purposeful time of working together.

I will begin my discussion of the team member selection process by stating that my family will always come first when/if SHTF, despite their ‘fit’ on the team. This includes my immediate family of course, but also includes my extended family: my parents, brother and sister and their children, and especially my mother-in-law, who is the best prepper among us and easy to get along with. That being said, there are the extended non-family prospective team members to consider. The first step in discerning whether to even put forward someone for your larger team is a thorough consideration of the person’s skills, personality compatibility and prepper mindset. Once you think they might be a good fit for your team, then you pray sincerely about it and ask for spiritual discernment in the matter. I am a believer and this is vital to me. If you are too, this is the first and last step of this process. You begin in prayer and end in prayer. If you are not, then consider everything else I am sharing, as it is based in research and applicable in the secular world. However, for me, nothing else will work without the finished work of Jesus and the discernment only his Holy Spirit gives us. The process of selection for me is wholly informed by my faith. Should you receive confirmation of a person’s fit for your team, whether through prayer or a gut feeling, you move on to the next step.

Common knowledge dictates that you need to select people for your team that have prerequisite skills sets: doctors, mechanics, horticulturists, security and/or military, logisticians, etc. This is true, but what is often overlooked are the mental competencies needed to be valuable team members. Much research in the education and business world has been done into what it takes to be a “turnaround leader,” one with the competencies to take an organization and turn it around towards a path of success. The forerunner of this is an organization called Public Impact, where I have taken their competencies of the turnaround leader and applied them to prepping. Though my professional background is not important, it’s sufficient to say that I’ve done much training in the public sector in this area and have evaluated many individuals, both professionally and for prepping, mining for these competencies. What I have done is taken these research-based competencies and applied them to prepping, something that is also very important to me. The competencies fall into four clusters and I will only focus on the main competencies needed for each:

  • Driving for Results
    • Initiative and Persistence – the will and actions to go above and beyond what is expected to accomplish stated and shared goals
    • Planning Ahead – preparations an individual has made towards providing future well-being for themselves and others
  • Influencing for Results
    • Impact and Influence – act with the purpose of affecting the perceptions, thinking and actions of others, inclusive of bartering, bargaining, motivating and convincing others of doing what is best for the collective
    • Developing Others – working with others to increase the short and long term effectiveness of another person; ability to think of own and team members’ strengths and weaknesses and constructively provide feedback with the goal of improvement
  • Problem Solving
    • Analytical Thinking – ability to assess a problem and break it down into a logical way, recognizing cause and effect; then acting calmly to remedy the problem
    • Conceptual Thinking – the ability to see patterns and links among unrelated things and “think outside the box,” bringing solutions others had not previously thought of
  • Showing Confidence to Lead
    • Self confidence – a personal belief in one’s ability to complete tasks and actions that support this belief, while able to receive instruction and/or criticism, gleaning what one can to improve themselves

How do you find out about an individual’s competencies in taking a terrible situation and making the best of it, and even taking it a step further and being victorious? Though no approach is perfect, the research suggest you interview them. This might sound ludicrous, but think about it for a moment. We interview everyone from wait staff to CEOs. But do we think about interviewing someone who you may have to trust your life and the life of your family to? What is most interesting in my experience and research is that these internal competencies are relatively immutable. Hard skill-sets and the amount of physical resources can be improved upon more easily than the competencies. These are ingrained behaviors and ways of acting that have taken years to develop, and are intrinsic in what makes someone unique, and thus, they are difficult to alter. I am not saying they cannot; it’s just that in a collapse situation, you will not have time to develop someone’s baseline of these competencies.

You see the equivalent of a basic version of a “prepper’s interview” in the popular post-apocalyptic zombie television show,
The Walking Dead. When considering a new member of the community, the leader Rick asks, “How many walkers have you killed? How many people have you killed?” The problem with these questions is that they are not open-ended questions. They do not go into what the person was thinking, their feelings or the actions themselves and thus do not lend themselves to providing a clear picture of a person. The research is out there on a new type of interview, one that goes deep into finding out about someone, how they think and what motivates them. Again, this comes from Public Impact and others doing turnaround work. It is called the Behavior Event Interview, and it only consists of the following two questions (which I have tailored for the purpose of vetting a prospective prepper team member):

  1. Tell me about a time when you were victorious/successful
  2. Tell me about a time when you faced an overwhelming challenge

The Behavior Event Interview goes like this. You have selected someone for your team based on your discernment, deep consideration, and an aforementioned desired skill set they possess. After then assessing their “prepper readiness,” i.e. their openness to the prepper lifestyle and the possibility of joining a team should there be societal instability or collapse, you decide they might be a good fit. Once you understand they are like-minded and/or they know your intent to “recruit them” you schedule time for them either informally, or formally with someone taking notes. Whether you are formal or informal, you are transparent about the process up front. Without giving too many details about the competencies, you explain that you are assessing their fit for your team. You explain that if they should not qualify, it doesn’t speak to their worth as an individual or skills as a leader. It just means that they do not currently demonstrate the competencies you are looking for. Also, set a time limit for the interview. I have been in interviews that lasted up to an hour and half, as unbelievable as that may sound. I recommend an hour to an hour and a half as the time limit. You will know what you need to know at the end of that time. The point in this interview is to get them talking about that time when they were successful and that time when they were challenged. If you are going formally and scheduling a time, ideally you use a note taker, your interview partner and someone who is already on your team, transcribing [the gist of] everything they say which you both will review later. From my experience, the interviewee often doesn’t believe they will be able to talk at length based on these two questions. However, in this kind of interview, the details matter. Some interviewees tend not to want to talk about themselves or their motivations and do not offer much in the way of details. Sometimes this demonstrates evasive behavior, but more often than not, it belies our societal value not to “toot our own horn.” To address this, at the beginning of the interview, again be transparent about the process and then ask them to only use the ‘I’ pronoun even if they feel the temptation to use the preferred ‘we.’ And to really get into that person’s mind and begin to understand them, there are four questions that are asked throughout each person’s scenario:

  1. What were you thinking?
  2. What were you feeling?
  3. What did you say?
  4. What did you do?

Having done many of these interviews myself, the tendency for many is to be vague and not offer much in the way of details, and again, to avoid talking about scenarios in the first person. However, when asked one of these prompting questions, I have found that individuals tend to really open up and move past the generalities. I have also seen how someone who I thought might be a good fit, was actually not, based on the details that they ended up sharing.

If you are interviewing a potential team member informally, over coffee, schedule the time with you and someone else close to you and then debrief afterward, discussing whether or not they would be a good fit. If going formally, a rubric is to be developed with committee member(s) beforehand that lists what potential behaviors look like for each competency. The interviewee would then be scored against this rubric on a scale from 1-4 for each competency and a determination would be made on their inclusion on the prepper team. I have such a rubric but for sake of time and length here, I will not be able to include it.

The benefits to this process are two-fold. For one, you make a more objective determination on who will be included in the team, looking for the best fit. Secondly, you are communicating unity to others who are already on the team. You have a process that is sound, agreed upon, and objective. This minimizes any suppositions of favoritism. The opposition for this process might be based on the desire to follow a military model of leadership and recruiting, and if that is already the composition of the team, then by all means follow that. However, in my experience with the prepper community, many of the individuals do not have a military background and do not possess that prior knowledge and way of thinking.

Should the interview reveal a person who you may feel is right for your team, the next step is to schedule time to work with the individual on a project. Spend two to three days working on something together, a project that might raise stress levels. I did this recently. After spending much time with a young couple who my wife and I had often prayed with and for, who had worked with us in ministry, and even watched our children many times, we agreed that we thought they would be an ideal fit. To all prepper observers, the husband, who is a late twenty-something artistic college student, seems to be a poor choice. His wife, however, would seem to be a perfect fit as she is a physician’s assistant, the closest to a doctor I personally know. I chose them because I had spent much time with them and found them to be open to suggestion, seeking our guidance and leadership. They are also both hard working in their own ways. For my husband and wife prospective team members’ final test, we had a thick 3-acre field of huisache brush that needed clearing and disposal. Huisache is the nastiest invasive plant species ever known to man, fitted with sharp thorns and gnarly trunks that are difficult to cut. Over a series of 5-6 Saturdays, we scheduled time to clear out that field using hand clippers and saws, also inviting others from our church to come and help us. From this, I learned about my potential teammates’ work ethic, physical stamina, competencies in dealing with adversity and increased stress levels. I paid attention to my understanding of the competencies and got to see them at work. Of the seven individuals who worked with me over those days, I was glad to see that my discernment had proven to be accurate. The twenty something college student worked without complaint and proved to be able to put his artistic carpentry skills to work. His strongest competency turned out to be Developing Others, as he worked alongside some youth and guided them well, always patient, but holding them to our expectations. It came as no surprise that his wife’s greatest competency was in Analytical Thinking, as she has a scientific mind. They had both already scored high based on all of the stories they had told me over a period of four years, and now they demonstrated the competencies in real life. They also complement one another as he demonstrates patience with others and an ability to motivate even the most difficult worker, while she is a no-nonsense thinker who is always rational. I am blessed to have them on my team, should the need arise.

The details matter. What kinds of food you have and how long it will last matters. Your security details, ammo counts, and variety of firearms matter. Your teammates’ medical, tactical, horticultural and mechanical skills matter. Your sustainability matters. However, the innate competencies of your team members, in the face of overwhelming odds, matter the most. Isn’t it time you started prepping for this?