Initiative ’17 – Part #3: Prepared to Lead

I just completed the rough draft of my fourth article in this series. I was sitting there thinking to myself that I didn’t really have a clearly defined “mission” to this initiative. Those of you that have been visiting the site for a while know I am a big believer in defining the mission of anything, especially when it comes to gear & equipment. But, the same mission identification should, and normally does, apply to every article I put up on this site. But, such was not the case with the Initiative ’17 series. I apologize. And, I’ve corrected that with this article.

As I was saying…I was reviewing in my mind the articles that I had written so far and it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was writing articles that would make you a leader when there were emergencies, disasters, or a grid-down event.

There will be people who have some food storage, maybe a gun or two and some ammo, and there might even be some folks with radios and solar charging capability. But, who will know how to assign people to cover the four basic areas of organization of an incident? Who will know what the proper priorities are for any emergency, disaster, or a grid-down event? Who is going to know how to spot folks who pose as threats or are prospective assets? Who are going to be the people who understand Situational Awareness, Tunnel Vision, Complacency, Normalcy Bias, etc?

Well, that answer is you! Yup, plain and simple…you will be that person.

Why not someone else? Well, maybe. But, if not you, who? And why not you?

What if your church, neighborhood, or community already has leadership? Really. What qualifies a person to be a leader?

What does your neighborhood leader do for a living? What training, knowledge or experience does that person have that you would suddenly trust them when the world falls apart?

“Ah, my church leadership will run everything!” Really? And exactly how will they do that?

“They are called of God and will follow Him!” Really? So that person, without any training or experience, will suddenly be able to have God just tell them what to do? What if God tells them to organize their congregation to deal with whatever the calamity is? Will you be prepared to lead one of those areas of effort if asked? What if your church leader needs to maintain his position of spiritual leadership and turn over the more temporal needs to someone else…who would that leader be? Would you be prepared to be that leader?

So my point is, I want to make sure I am providing tools for you, to enable you to step up and be a leader regardless of your situation.

What makes me qualified to do that? Well, my professional background of well over 30 years providing emergency services all over the US and even internationally. Or, my 1000’s upon 1000’s of hours of formal training during that same 30+ years. Or my 1000’s of hours of research in these subjects outside of all of that training. Then again…maybe it is just my desire to sound like a know-it-all.

Whatever the case is, you may well find some valuable information that will help you be that leader that people will need with it hits the fan.

What is Leadership?

Ah, there is a problem here. If you look online you will find hundreds of different definitions of leadership. And then you will find 1000’s of articles about what makes a good leader. And, for the most part all of it sucks. Yup, they aren’t good enough. So now what?

Have you ever experienced a good leader? How about dealing with a bad leader?

So after contemplating that for a minute are you starting to see a picture of what makes a good leader and what makes a bad leader?

So, now define “leadership” if you please…

I worked on that task for quite a while…and for the most part I came up empty handed. But, then I started thinking…what if people don’t see a need for a leader? Wow! That hadn’t dawned on me, that there wasn’t an actual need for a leader. So imagine this, a group of 20 people standing around knowing that something needs to be done. OK, now imagine that picture with no one stepping up and making something happen.

Yeah, pretty ugly picture. So, for this part of the conversation we will imagine an emergency, disaster, or a grid-down event has taken place and there is a group of 20 folks meeting in the neighborhood. And someone says, “Well, what do we do now?” That establishes the need for a leader.

Back to defining “leadership”, have you come up with anything yet?

Mine was simple, overly simple actually, but spot on if you ask me…

The action of leading a group of people.

Notice I didn’t define a leader, just the term (verb) leadership.

But, now that we have the foundation of what leadership is, we can move on to defining the traits of a good leader. However, I want to work backwards. What are the traits of a bad leader? Of course we are working in the context of emergencies, disasters, or a grid-down event.

Here are some of the traits of a bad leader that I have seen in the military and firefighting in my career:

  • Someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about; either stupid or ignorant.
  • A person who is disengaged. They show up, tell you to do something, and then disappears until the next visitation and order.
  • A person who makes decisions in a vacuum, or from the top, and doesn’t understand conditions on the ground.
  • A person who won’t actually listen to or take advice from peers or subordinates.
  • A “pretty boy” or “politician”.
  • A person that always “one-ups” you in a conversation or always has to have the last word.
  • A micro-manager.
  • Almost worst of all…someone who won’t make a decision.
  • Worst of all…someone who won’t back their people, even when those people make a mistake.

Now, what I have seen of good leaders:

  • Someone who listens to his people and takes their advice.
  • A person who trusts his subordinates and empowers them to make decisions.
  • A person who always passes the credit to his people.
  • A person who accepts the blame when things goes wrong.
  • Someone who looks out for the benefit and welfare of the people they lead.
  • Someone who is willing to make a decision and stand by it.
  • A person who knows what they are doing and talking about…”been there, done that” experienced.

What does your lists look like when you are posed with the questions; 1) What does a bad leader look like? 2) What does a good leader look like?

I was having a discussion with my peer at work the other day, we were talking about our boss. We are amazingly together in our view of our boss. Basically…he sucks as a leader. Nice guy, but he is a terrible leader. What makes him so?

  1. He is disengaged with our department and the people in it.
  2. He is all about himself and his advancement, he just wants us to do our job.
  3. He is gone most of the time.
  4. He doesn’t ever (or very rarely) express appreciation to his folks for what they do, even when it is above and beyond what is normally expected of them.
  5. He is a “black hole” of communication…communications go to him, and nothing rarely comes out. He sees information as power…and doesn’t like to share it until it is needed.
  6. Anytime a suggestion or solution is offered by one of the guys, he then relates that is exactly what he was thinking, or that is what he was going to suggest but was waiting to see if anyone else would come up with it.

And so, what exactly is the end result of such poor leadership on his part?

The folks in our department don’t respect him. They don’t trust him. They see him as someone only out for themselves. And how do you think that affects the people and morale in the department?

Are you a leader? Might you be called to be a leader? Might you be the only logical choice to be a leader when an emergency, disaster, or grid-down event hits?

Personally, I think you would be the logical leader, the most qualified leader, the most prepared to lead.

Summary –

Initiative ’17 now has a mission…Preparing you to lead when an emergency, disaster, or grid-down event hits.

Here is what I will ask of you…do not judge yourself at this point. Let’s get through these articles and absorb the information that I will present. Learn whatever you can from each article. Let each one sink in to your mind and allow your mind to form pictures of what may happen and how you would react to it…if you were the leader.

YOU can do this! When the world falls apart, and I’ve seen that happen hundreds of times, people are capable of amazing acts of courage and bravery. I have seen people do almost unbelievable things to help each other out. I have seen the absolute best of people committing acts of amazing compassion and service. What I have also seen every single time…people wanting, even begging, for leadership. People are willing to march into hell itself with buckets of water if the right person will lead them.

Now, let me go religious on you for just a short minute. I thought of a man, a simple man, plainly dressed, humble family origins, little education, no worldly means, no fancy job or profession. That person established the largest religious organization the world has ever seen. And it has lasted, actually grown and flourished, for 2000 years. His name was Jesus Christ. And how did he do it?

You could give many answers to that question, but I think one reason that rates right up at the top is His desire and ability to serve others. He healed people. He fed people. He taught people, He listened to people. He washed people’s feet. He comforted people when they needed it. He served.

Sure, a cynical man might say…Yeah, but they killed him and his 11 best friends. Yes, that they did. But, I ask you this, would you say Christ succeeded as a leader, or failed?

For me, I say He was an unqualified success. And He did it by serving. And the more I think of it, the more I realize a great leader is one who serves his people with a sincere heart. Is that the only attribute a person needs? Of course not! A good leader has many attributes that we listed earlier. A great leader has all those traits…and then serves his people through humility, love, and sincerity.

Let’s work together over the coming weeks to develop in ourselves…Prepared to Lead.

Please share with me topics you would like me to cover during Initiative ’17 –

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Initiative ’17 – Part #2 :Training, Experience, Knowledge, and Wisdom

This is the second article in a series called Initiative ’17. This initiative is designed to provide you some of, what I consider to be, the most valuable information a prepper could learn. It includes the “mentality” of surviving emergencies, disasters, and grid-down events. Most of life’s challenges are mainly mental. If were have properly prepared our minds we can just about survive anything that life throws at us. Or, at the very least, make it just a little easier to deal with.

I can’t tell you, or even predict, what you might get out of this article…or the series. But, there are very valuable nuggets of knowledge laying around in every paragraph. I will leave it up to you which ones you seize and which ones you leave behind.

Not that many years ago I was in a heated discussion with an individual in the fire service. He was challenging a decision that was made. Rather than make a cohesive and informed argument against the decision he simply used the “I have almost 30 years’ experience and I know what I am talking about!” The problem is…the guy is a moron. My response to him, in front of the group, “Yup, one year of screwing up, repeated 29 more times.”

Yeah, I can be the life of the party. But, the point I was making then, and the same I am making now, is that experience doesn’t equal competence. In actuality, experience can truly work against us being successful at times. Falling back on your experience alone can induce both complacency and tunnel vision. In can also drag us down into delusions of grandeur.

So what are we looking for?

We are looking for balance once again. We need all the pieces of this pie; training, experience, knowledge, and wisdom.

Years ago a highly respected SpecOps trainer said “Training matters!” and he has also maintained, “Training trumps gear.” Of course he was right on both accounts. And, I believe him to have nailed the #1 priority of all preppers. Without training no fancy gear or food storage will make a difference…a person will still be too stupid to survive. Yeah, kind of harsh, I know. But, I am right.

There are times when I hear that experience means more than training. Really? German soldiers were some of the most experienced men to ever enter the battle field in the 19th and 20th centuries. Yet, Germany was twice defeated…rather badly each time.  And a case could be made that they were some of the best trained soldiers in the world…and they still got beat. So then it boils down to knowledge and wisdom. In both of those areas the German leadership and their military really sucked! They lacked accurate knowledge of the capability of the USA and our ability to mobilize massive amounts of men and material. They also lacked the wisdom in going against virtually the rest of the world, including an emerging super-power.

So where is that balance I spoke of?

I am not 100% sure. The more I research it and then ponder it, I think that balance is different for each person. Each person is in a different place in their life, in a different prep situation, different prepper mission, etc. Hence, each person has their own balance of those four pie pieces. But, lets not have that relatively minor point hold up the discussion of each piece.

Introduction –

For our conversation training is defined as “the process of acquiring knowledge and skills.”

Does that appear to be an oversimplification? Does it appear to be inaccurate? Why is “process” mentioned?

Defining training is a simple action because it is an acquisition process. And it does combine the acquisition of both knowledge and skills. Turn it around…without a valid and reliable process you follow, how can you obtain quality knowledge and skills? Osmosis?

So let’s agree that…

Training is a process by which you obtain knowledge and skills.

That implies that training is important, virtually vital, as a prepper. Agreed? We will come back to that in a minute. Let’s move on to the next item…knowledge.

You want to have an interesting experience…go look up all the different definitions of “knowledge.” The various definitions are all over the place. None of them really meet what I think the definition should be in the context of this article. That being the case, I will make up my own definition that I believe is just a valid as any of the “official “ versions.

Knowledge is the information that is gathered through training or experience.

My first mother-in-law, a truly wonderful and spiritual person, taught me one day a very valuable lesson. She told me “You can learn two things from every experience and person. What to do and what not to do.” I swear by that simple, but meaningful, statement! The point is, you can learn from anything and anybody…some it good, some of it bad…but you learned,

Next up is experience. Once again I find all the main stream definitions somewhat lacking in any meaningful context to prepping and this article. It is very frustrating to not find a single existing and appropriate definition. So here goes…

Experience is an event where actions reinforce what you know or expose what you don’t know.

In other words, experience can reinforce your knowledge or expose your lack thereof. But, then it can become a learning opportunity to acquire knowledge that you didn’t previously have. And just for clarification, I am not talking about good experiences or bad experiences. I am simply referring to all experiences.

Now let’s touch on wisdom.

The standard definitions really do a pretty decent job of defining wisdom, I was impressed. I liked several but I wanted to ensure that I related something plain, simple, accurate, and applicable to our discussion here. Here is the result…

Wisdom is the ability to make good judgements.

What I noticed about that definition once I pondered it for a little while the term “good” which could be highly subjective. What might be good for one person, might be horrible for another. So that begs me to define good. And brother…do I really think I am capable of that!? But, I felt I had to define it anyway. So I decided to define the term “good” out there for you in light of prepping.

Good is; minimally, not harming a person that you are responsible for, and ultimately not violating any basic tenant of the Judaeo-Christian value system.

But, a judgement is a judgement…and they will have to be made in any type of post-event relating to prepping. Example: Is killing another person a good judgement call? No, not according to the Judea-Christian value system. However, there are instances where it is acceptable to take another person’s life. The right of self-defense is a God-given right (a.k.a. Unalienable Right). So a “good” judgement would be to use fatal force to stop a person from killing your family. A bad judgement would be to kill someone just because they approach your property and you don’t know why they are doing so.

So I don’t start to belabor the point and get side tracked, let’s work at seeing how training, experience, knowledge, and wisdom work together for the prepper.

Training & Knowledge –

What do you need training in?

I have no idea!

How’s that for a revelation?

But, you can answer that question because it applies to you, not me, not your neighbor, just you. Once again you have to establish some foundation before you can even pose that question. That foundation must be a way to prioritize what is really important and what is not. For that you must have a priority system of prepper needs. And that is an easy one…

There are a wide variety, almost an endless list, of emergencies, disasters and grid-down possibilities. But amazingly, they all fundamentally present virtually the same threats in relatively the same priority order:

  1. Violence
  2. Sickness/Injury
  3. Lack of, or Poor, Communication
  4. Lack of, or Poor, Organization
  5. Dehydration
  6. Hyper/Hypothermia (clothing & shelter)
  7. Starvation

Using the threats/risks in the priority order that they appear, what area do you have the least knowledge in?

OK, great! Now go find some training in that area. Yes, it’s that simple. You can find that training on-line on a website such as this or you can go take a tactical carbine course at the gun range or Frontsight in Nevada, or go take a wilderness first aid class at the local community college. But, take the training!

Caution: What is the level of quality will the training be? Yeah, better ask yourself that question. There are a lot of so-called expert preppers out there. I’ve read many of their articles. They are no experts and the training they are giving through those articles are likely to get you killed. Whomever you take training from, make sure they are qualified to be providing that training.

Experience –

It is hard, if not impossible, to gain much actual experience in emergencies, disasters, and grid-down events. Well, unless you are blessed to be in the emergency services profession. The better “in-person” training will give you scenarios to work out in real time. Another area is to volunteer whenever you can to provide service in emergency and disaster situations with a quality organization.

You can also “war game” situations. In your mind develop a scenario such as a power outage. Now, go step-by-step in your mind what you will do. Once you have done that, write it down. Now that you’ve completed that, take your list and walk through it doing each step (is possible) just as you would in the actual event. Do the same thing with your family. Do it again with your prepper group.

While actual real-life experience may be hard to come by, thankfully, you can acquire experience in creative ways. The more you do this the better your mind will be able to handle the actual, or similar, event when it does occur.

Wisdom –

This is an almost impossible topic to train you on. I firmly believe that “wisdom” is acquired over time, through experience, with a solid foundation of knowledge that has been acquired from high-quality sources. In some cases such as the Ten Commandments you can utilize this great guide. In other cases wisdom is an intangible that just has to be figured out one painful event at a time. But, one thing wisdom requires -in my opinion- is a set of principles that have proven to be reliable, fair and just.

In my mind that already exists, so I ask the question, “Why reinvent the wheel?”

I am speaking of the Judaeo-Christian value system. Listen, when properly applied, it works. And it work every single time. It has proven to work for the last 2000 years. Yes, yes, there are plenty of examples where Christians and Jews have made horrific decisions that were anything but wise. However, when you look at those decisions and the outcomes you will clearly see they didn’t stick to the values themselves. They took on the mantle of those values but were almost universally narcissistic and making decisions for their own gain and profit.

Whatever your value system, ensure that is will allow you to learn and apply good judgements when emergencies, disasters, or grid down events occur.

Summary –

The best gear in the world won’t help you if you don’t know how to use it. When the horde is headed towards your house…your fancy tricked out AR-15 and 10,000 rounds of ammo won’t mean a thing unless you’ve acquired the knowledge and skills to employ the right tactics. When you are faced with a person that tried to steal your food will you know how to treat them? Wisdom better let you consider that maybe they are just trying to keep their three kids from starving to death.

This isn’t a tough subject to figure out. You probably already know what you need training in, where your knowledge it lacking. Go fix it!

Gain experience, gain wisdom. When the times really get tough you are going to be faced with decisions that could easily overwhelm you. But, that doesn’t have to be the case…no, not at all. If you have taken the right training from the right people, gained experience through training and real-life, you should be able to survive. If you can throw wisdom into the mix you and your family can thrive!

The last element of this article is motivation. But, it doesn’t get its own section, just a simple short paragraph. Motivation is something I can’t give you. Motivation is something you either have or you don’t. But, the good thing is, if you don’t have it, you can get it. Motivation can start as easily as looking up a class in your local area on first aid or tactical carbine, or read a couple good prepper articles online. Go have some fun with it, and then more motivation will come.

Prepping will not fail you! We can do this! We will do this!

Our families will survive and thrive because you can, and will, do your part!

Please share with me topics you would like me to cover during Initiative ’17 –

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Initiative ’17 – Part #1: Complacency vs. Tunnel Vision

Initiative ’17 –

Of course like anyone with an exaggerated view of who they are, I had to come up with a catchy name for the project I am going to share with you. I wanted to make it sound cool, meaningful, and something that would stick in your mind. I hope that Initiative ’17 is just that.

Opening –

I had to consider where to start Initiative ’17. I could be like every other prepper website and start talking about food storage, the top 10 ways to dry venison, how to feed a family of 12 from a 5-gallon bucket garden, what is the best…AR-15 or AK-47, or a thousand other topics. But, I didn’t like any of those options. I wanted something better, something that was directly related to making a real impact in lives. So I felt “mentality” was the best place to start.

As I gathered my initial thoughts I quickly realized that I was outlining two distinct areas; 1) balance in your life right now, 2) balance in a post-event situation. And that is exactly what I wanted to accomplish…an impact now that is useful and an impact when survival may be your #1 priority.

Having a proper mindset during emergencies, disasters, and grid-down can be a tough thing to do. We all want to be able to focus our attention, skills, knowledge, and training into fixing problems and saving the day. But, are we too focused on a single problem or a single task to the point of tunnel vision (i.e. exclusion of everything else)?

At the other end of the spectrum we have complacency. Have we seen this all before, “this looks like and matches what happened two years ago”, “this mimics a training scenario we went through last year”, or “this is just another power outage.” So with a complacent mindset we just simply go through the motions or attacking the apparent problem and ignore the important aspects of what is actually happening around us.

All of that leads to proposing the solution to the “complacency vs. tunnel vision” contradiction. But first, we have to truly understand what we are in-fact talking about regarding complacency and tunnel vision.

Complacency –

There are multiple definitions of complacency, none of which are particularly complete for this application. For this conversation let’s go with, “state of satisfaction while being unaware of actual dangers.” Applying that to our prepper situation is relatively easy…we’re just fine with not understanding the dangers involved in what is actually happening around us. Notice I use the term “not understanding.” I am not referring to a person ignoring what they do see around them, which would imply a sense of willfulness (albeit stupidity). The difference is “awareness.” Complacency means you are not aware of the dangers vs. ignoring the dangers you do perceive.

Actual complacency is not seeing the dangers rising up around you. And it matters not why you don’t see them, they are just as dangerous, and just as potentially fatal.

Seeing the dangers and choosing to ignore them, willfully not taking action, is just plain stupidity. When it comes to stupidity I lose patience with people and for the most part I feel they get what they deserve. Unfortunately, those same people all too often spread the hazardous fallout to those around them…innocents. At that point they are guilty of malevolence as well as incompetence.

So exactly how can you spot complacency? Ah, that can be tougher than it might seem at first glance. Confidence, swagger, and self-assurance can all be danger signs of complacency. But, those same attributes can also be a manifestation of a good leader. So how can you tell the difference? Humility.

Humility is the ability and willingness to be taught. So a good leader can possess those same three attributes that I just mentioned but they will also be open to external input from the situation and/or from people around them. And no, the people around them giving that input don’t necessarily have to be experts to gain the required audience with said leader. Actually, some of the best leaders I’ve ever known were able to seek out and listen to the youngest, newest, least experienced folks in their organization and at times learn from them.

So what about the more experienced and well trained people providing input to a leader as well? There shouldn’t be any barrier to that either; the leader must be accessible both physically and emotionally. However, I’ve seen the absolute worst case scenario – a crowd of experts all agreeing with one another…and with their leader. Yeah, commonly referred to as “group think.” Here you usually have a strong leader, maybe even a competent leader. Then that leader has folks around them and who the leader depends on to know what is happening. However, those that should be working diligently finding flaws in the leader’s plan and thinking, will agree with –or at least not object to– whatever the leader is proposing. Those advisors will then intentionally or unintentionally form a group opinion that agrees with the leader’s proposal.

Any plan that has an initial unanimous voice is probably not a plan that has been well thought out, and that plan will normally have a low probability of success.

Overcoming Complacency –

Without continuing to bore you to tears…how do you avoid complacency and group think? Free yourself from bias. And I am talking about bias in all its forms. And how do you best relieve yourself of bias? Situational Awareness (SA).

SA is best explained as… the acquisition of, the processing of, a state of, and taking action on that knowledge. That knowledge comes from the environment around you…and your awareness of it.

< click here to learn more about Situational Awareness >

Tunnel Vision –

Once again I could spend 5000 words on defining tunnel vision, but to save you that pain let’s go with, “an extreme narrowness of view resulting in a focus on a single objective.”

Wow! You say that sounds great…we can focus on doing one thing and doing it well. However, it never works out that way. Why? Because the environment that we work in, or will find ourselves in during an emergency, disaster or grid-dwon, is commonly dynamic and hugely multi-faceted. By limiting our vision of all the activity taking place in our setting we lose perspective, we lose awareness…we become ignorant. And, that ignorance is a void.  Aristotle once said “nature abhors a vacuum.” The same can be applied to this situation…if we too highly focus on a single objective we leave a vacuum in the entire area outside of our immediate focus. Since nature will find a way to fill that vacuum, failure will creep in, normally before we ever realize it.

As I mentioned, the environment in which we will operate will be dynamic and complex. By narrowly focusing our actions we intentionally or unintentionally disregard all other areas. And those other areas are not benign. Example: we are so highly focused on acquiring water that we ignore the threat of violence. And as we overly focus on acquiring water, the pressing threat of violence is ignored…much to our detriment. But once again, we don’t operate in this environment as a single entity. Therefore, those that become the victims of our exclusionary vision may be our closest loved ones or fellow preppers.

Overcoming Tunnel Vision –

As it applies to our disaster-free current environment, how do we avoid tunnel vision? Balance.

Among the various definitions of balance is, “a means of judging or deciding.” Kind of like a cheat sheet if you will. A guide to assist us in making both judgements of the situation and deciding on how to act in response. Who could object to that!

In our situation we can view it in two ways; pre-event and post-event. Event being the initial second that some action has occurred.

Pre-event balance can be best described with a visual aid…

Post-event balance is similar, a visual aid is the best method to convey the concept…

Summary –

If you are complacent you will not be able to make informed and timely decisions. If you have tunnel vision you will not be able to know what is happening around you. That lack of knowledge from either situation will preclude you from being able to make timely and intelligent decisions. Both complacency and tunnel vision can kill you…or those around you.

If you can maintain reasonably decent Situational Awareness you have a great chance of understanding your environment and making decisions that will go a long ways towards survival, if not actual thriving. If you can balance your judgements and decisions both pre- and post-event then your actions will most likely be appropriate for the situation and you will be less likely to miss important activity around you. But, for that balance to be correct for any given situation, then the tool(s) you use as the basis of judgments and decisions must be high-quality. No, the tool(s) need not be perfect…Just good enough.

Just like you, you don’t need to be perfect during an emergency, disaster, or grid-down event…just good enough. You have to avoid complacency and you have to avoid tunnel vision.

Can you?

Please share with me topics you would like me to cover during Initiative ’17 –


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