The Survivor’s Mindset
Here at Prepper Skills, we want to prepare you physically and mentally for survival situations. These can vary from short duration crisis to prolonged and extended periods of deprivation. We have a holistic approach to take you through four phases of any operation: Preparation (or Planning), Initialization, Operation, and Recovery. The first and most important step is that you have mentally prepared yourself to overcome the circumstances and are ready to act quickly and positively to survive and thrive.
US Army Field Manual FM 21-76 Survival immediately begins addressing the psychology of survival. This priority is reflected in placement of survival psychology right after the introduction. It is the first chapter after the introduction.
“A key ingredient in any survival situation is the mental attitude of the individual(s) involved. Having survival skills is important; having the will to survive is essential.”1
So the first thing we want to stress is that you need to start thinking about your everyday activities and in your head asking, “What if [some technology was no longer available, some services were interrupted, or some tools were not available]?” What if there is no one there to assist you except you? If you get a chance, check out BBC’s Connections by James Burke. The first episode of the first season “The Trigger Effect” really brings into focus the amount of technology that we rely on every day and then posits this same question: “What if it all stopped working?” He uses the example of the New York City Blackout in 1965. Our cities are intrinsically dependent on a network of systems that provide power, heat, bring in food and needed good (and luxuries), remove garbage, provide clean water, dispose of sewage, all serviced by a transportation system of road, rail, air, transmission lines, phone lines, tunnels, pipes, conduits, cables that makes cities habitable.
In Special Forces, we constantly were looking at critical infrastructure to determine vulnerabilities - was there a system that we could disable and cripple large areas? In many cases, it wasn’t just one system that was vulnerable, as disruption in one area has a ripple effect that can bring other systems crashing down in a cascade.
Society has benefited greatly from specialization and our quality of life has made enormous leaps in just that past few decades - my life as a child is almost completely removed from life in today’s world. But what happens if that critical infrastructure collapses? The last thing you want to be doing at that moment is wondering what to do next. So as part of our holistic approach – Preparation: The survival mindset begins with contemplating the unthinkable – what would I do if…? Now is the time to start thinking through these contingencies. And now is the time to decide that you want not just to survive through these situations but thrive. During a major crisis are you going to be the person waiting for someone to come help you or are you going to be ready to help yourself, your family, and possibly others?
At Prepper Skills, we want to take you on a journey that not only provides you with the technical knowledge and skills to survive and thrive, but also helps you plan how to implement those skills through various situations. We use a 3-3-3-3-3 approach (I know it would have been so much cooler to only have three 3 but…). Are you prepared to survive short duration emergencies up to 3 hours? Are you prepared to survive for 3 days? 3 weeks? 3 months? or even 3 years? Planning to survive and thrive through emergencies can be a daunting task – there is so much material out there. But if you try to leap from zero to 3 years (which is essentially off the grid sustainment), it can be an overwhelming and quite expensive task. So if you start with a plan for 3 hours (your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere) and then graduate to a 3-day plan (a storm knocks our power for three days), you can incrementally increase your own survivability, expanding on previous preparations at incremental costs.
Prepping can get expensive, particularly if you don’t plan your approach carefully. There is all sorts of neat gear out there – we want to help you identify the right gear for your situation. There are also a lot of “life hacks” that can increase your survivability without costing a lot of money. One of my co-workers recently had a bad tooth ache and couldn’t get to a dentist. Crushing garlic and mixing it with salt and packing that on his tooth provided him with temporary relief. We will provide you with a recommended reading list and even a recommended reference library that you can leverage to your benefit.
But the key to it all is going to be your conscious decision that you will survive and you will never quit. I have seen too many people in Army training who let themselves beat themselves. For many years I have listened sympathetically when someone tells me, “Oh, I was going to go to Ranger School.” Or “I wanted to join Special Forces.” These statements are always followed by a sentence that begins with “But, ….” When I volunteered for Airborne, Ranger, Special Forces, Army Scuba School (note – they will drown you at least one time), and Survival School, the word “quit” was not in my vocabulary. It never entered my mind although I do recall wondering to myself when I was chest deep in a swamp one night in the Uwharrie Forest why I keep volunteering to go to these schools in the winter! Even so, there was no way I was getting out of that swamp unless I walked out by myself. Special Forces was one of the only places in the Army where you operated alone. You had to have the cojunes to improvise, adapt, and overcome (I need to give credit to Clint Eastwood’s Gunnery Sergeant Highway in the movie Heartbreak Ridge for that phrase).
Next you have to commit to be a life-long learner. Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” We (humans) have developed so much technology that helps us discover even more technology. There is no need to forget what has been learned before, we need to leverage those things we can to enhance our survival. Botany, Zoology, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and many other scientific disciplines have discovered things to make our lives easier, better, more productive, more enjoyable. But knowing the basics of how to care for chickens, milk cows, grow food, trap, hunt and fish, while you may not have to do it to have dinner tonight, are good skills to be able to employ if you need to. While knowing how to build a fire by rubbing two sticks together is great – I usually carry a lighter...just in case.
Finally, when you have the right attitude and have learned needed skills, you have to integrate that into a plan that can feasibly be implemented (remember Phase One). You should use the word PACE (Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency) to guide your planning. When you have your primary plan you need to have an alternate plan. Your alternate plan needs a contingency plan, and your contingency plan needs an emergency plan. Basically, you should never run out of options. This was drilled into us in Special Forces. And we had our “WTSHTF” plans too which we sealed in an envelope and left with our headquarters when we deployed. Your plans will reflect your current circumstances, include those close to you and be relevant to your environment.
Attitude, skills, and knowledge, integrated into executable plans. Armed with these “tools” you should be ready physically and mentally to survive and thrive when it comes time to Initialize, Execute (Operate), and then Recover from any situation.
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