Many (if not most) people seek wealth, yet few can define it. There are many practical definitions. One author defines wealth as having sufficient assets to provide the cash flow necessary to meet your monthly living expenses. That’s a great definition for normal times, but having a bunch of rental houses when the dollar is worthless and the hungering hoards are loose upon society won’t do you much good.
If you are at all familiar with the concepts promoted in this blog you know what you need to have for basic survival. I will not spend space and electrons reviewing what we already know. But what do you do after you have the basics? Do you continue to accumulate more of the basics until you need a multilevel secret subterranean warehouse to house your supplies?
When you have your basics squared away you need to look to the concept of vertical integration. Vertical integration was used by the so-called robber barons of the late 19th and early 20th century. The man that owned the steel mill also owned an iron mine, a coal mine, a limestone quarry, and the transportation capability to move the raw materials in and the finished product out. Now before you start giving me that funny look I do know that most prepper budgets would not support the purchase of mines and mills. But the ability to go from raw material to finished product is the definition of wealth for a prepper in a post-TEOTWAWKI situation.
This concept applies to every element of your preparations. Food, defense, medicine, etc. And it not just about tools but knowledge also. Let’s look at food as an example. The first step is to store food. You start small, maybe a month’s worth at first. You build up to a year then two years. You purchase a grain mill to turn your stored wheat into flour. This is as it should be, but what is next.
Now, you look to food production. After all, you can’t practically store a lifetime’s worth of food. Gardening is a great place to start. You read and research different techniques. You develop a place for the garden, starting small so you don’t overwhelm yourself. You acquire the tools necessary for a small garden and learn how to use them. You put this knowledge into practice and learn from your failures and build on your successes.
As your successes increase and your failures become rare your confidence increases, and so does the size of your garden. You acquire the tools necessary for a bigger garden. You start using open pollinated seeds and learn how to save seeds for future years. You learn how to start bedding plants. After a few years your small garden that produced a few salads and tomatoes is now producing a tremendous excess of a large variety of vegetables.
Now you turn your attention to food preservation. You learn pressure canning, pickling, and dehydrating to preserve your excess harvest for the winter months and the lean years. You have vertically integrated your food production. You can take seeds and produce finished storable food and produce seeds for future years. You can expand your garden to produce far in excess of your needs. The ability to sustainably produce food in a world of hungry people is wealth. You can now take your basic skill set and expand laterally to small-scale grain production, herb production, and/or animal feed production.
Along the way you have learned associated skills such as how to repair and maintain your gardening tools, how to produce the power necessary to run your food processing tools, how to keep the pests out of your garden, and how to produce natural fertilizers for your garden. You cannot focus on a specific area and learn in a vacuum. There are always associated skills to learn.
This same principle can now be applied to animal production. Start with chickens and build from there. Add goats then cows or pigs or both. Continue to grow and expand your capabilities adding skills and tools, as you are ready for them. Many people, especially those new to the preparedness mindset, will see the enormity of the task and panic. They will try to do it all at once and set themselves up for failure. Proper preparation is like eating an elephant, you have to do it one bite at a time.
This process happens in measured steps and assumes that you have taken care of the basics first. You have your “beans, bullets, and bandages” stored away and you have a place to work that you can call your own.
Start at the end. Identify how the end result will look. List the capabilities that you want to have when you reach your final goal. Be specific and detailed. You cannot start a successful project if you do not know what the finished result will be. You need to know when you have reached the end.
Next, go back to the beginning. Determine when, how, and at what level you are going to start your project. The chances are good that you have some basic knowledge to start with, knowledge that will allow you to begin the project at a level within your comfort zone. This point will vary from person to person. Some will start with no knowledge at all on the subject, some will start with knowledge that they haven’t used for years, and yet others will start with a firm grasp of the basics.
Now that you have identified the starting point and the finishing point, you can determine the actual size of the project. You can now accurately identify what tools you need to acquire and what skills you need to learn. You can divide the project into manageable bites or phases and set goals to be accomplished at each phase. The beauty is that you can make each phase as big or as small as you like. You can customize each phase to your time and resource availability.
You can use this method to focus on a single project or to steadily advance on multiple projects simultaneously. This method will work no matter where you start or where you want to end up, whether you have many resources or few to devote to your projects. You can make this system fit your needs. This is how you develop your assets to produce the kind of wealth that will benefit you in difficult times.
Allow yourself the time that you need. It is easy to look around us at the negative indicators and panic, thinking that you need to do everything now. That type of thinking will only lead to failure. You must lay a solid foundation of knowledge to build on, a process that takes time. You should develop at least a degree of confidence at each phase before moving to the next. Otherwise, it is easy to overwhelm yourself. Should the world go to Schumer sooner than expected you can be confident in what you know and take comfort in the fact that you are far better prepared than well over ninety percent of the rest of the people.
“A man has got to know his limitations.” (Harry Callahan). The technology exists to do many things on a small scale. You can produce energy from wind, water, and sun. You can produce fuel from grains and oil seeds. You can produce your own food, grow your own medicines, produce your own transportation, and many other things too numerous to mention. However, even with all of these possibilities there are still some things that you will need to store. While you can cast or swage your own bullets you will be hard pressed to make primers or powder to match what is commercially available today. The same applies to lubricants, matches, canning lids, and a large variety of other vital supplies. Be realistic in your expectations and don’t plan to do more than you are capable of.
“Specialization is for insects.” (Robert Heinlein). If you have a group it is tempting to divide workload and then stay with your assigned tasks only. This type of thinking is a key ingredient in the recipe for disaster. The loss of one specialized individual can greatly harm the overall effectiveness of a group. Cross training avoids this. You should learn as much as you can about as much as you can. Additionally, should you find yourself on your own, a broad base of generalized knowledge could make you a valuable asset to a group.
When the day comes that the paper dollar is little more than mediocre tinder, wealth will be the ability to sustainably produce a finished product in excess of your immediate need. The knowledge and tools that you need produce that product are the assets that will generate that wealth. Develop a plan that will take you from where you are to where you want to be and then act on that plan. The most important step that you can take is to start.