Initiative ’17 – Part #5: Flipping the Switch

note: This article was originally published in May 2017, then lost in the site crash. I thought it appropriate and timely to reconstruct it for re-publication now. I took the liberty of some limited editing to improve grammar, readability, spelling, and content.

What the heck does “flipping the switch” mean?

Some of you probably already know, some may not. But let me give you my take on what it means. I will do it somewhat long-winded but for a reason. Hang in there with me.

Most people don’t grow up and live their life having to flip the switch. If you played athletics you got a small taste of it when you trotted onto the field. I on the other hand, had to learn switch flipping when I was a young teenager. Why? Because I spent my early teenage years in a military school. But, it didn’t end there, I spent the next four+ years in the military…flipping the switch.

Can you image at the age of 13 hearing a bugle sounding “reveille”…and you better be jumping out of bed, dressed, and standing by your bed for your company commander to come walking by. You learn to wake up very quickly, alert, and to move quickly.

Then comes my time in the US Navy. The same style of waking-up, etc., so not much changed. Then came along “general quarters”…life changed again. General quarters is a call for everyone on the ship to go to their battle stations. You have to drop whatever you are doing and get to a specific place in the ship and prepare to go into battle. And you have precious little time to do it. Should you be only a couple of seconds late hatches are slammed shut and you are caught where you are…not at your battle station and not ready to do your job.

When in-port I was also part of the damage control team. When a fire broke out onboard ship we had to react quickly to fight the fire. And as you guessed it by now…another flip the switch moment. And then when I became a structure firefighter it was all about flipping the switch. Sometimes it was a house fire, sometimes a bad wreck on the Interstate, maybe a baby choking, sometimes a big brush fire, but the “alarms” going off during our shift made us get into high-gear quickly. And that meant our minds had to be entirely focused on the job at hand once the alarm bell sounded.

So, is there a difference in emergency preparedness when it comes to emergencies, disasters, or especially in the case of a grid-down event?

Look, I’ve come up on an accident scene and observed people just standing there looking at what is happening…instead of helping. It just never entered their mind to actually roll up their sleeves and help people that were injured or put out a small car fire with a fire extinguisher. They simply froze, unable to take action.

I remember one time a hurricane was expected to hit near our area and the flooding was expected to be intense. And we drove by a house where the homeowner was mowing his yard. What!?! Yup, he was in denial that the flooding would be bad from the impending hurricane…and engaged in Normalcy Bias.

What does any of that have to do with switch flipping?

Simple, you have to be ready to be in a state of mind to deal with the myriad problems that will come along in emergencies, disasters, and grid-down events. You have to forget mowing your grass and start filling sandbags.

It would be a legitimate question right about now if you asked, “How do I learn to do that?”

Well, go to military school, join the Navy, become a firefighter, etc. But, for most folks all that isn’t possible or practical. So, how does the average person learn that skill? Drill.

Yeah, pretty simple really…you drill. “Drill” means practice for those of you that might not clearly understand what I mean.

Here is how I would go about it if I was just learning this concept:

  1. Hold a day time fire drill with your family.
  2. Hold a night time fire drill with your family. Yeah, that means when your family is asleep.
  3. Set your alarm to go off 1am. When it goes off you must accomplish –
    1. You must get fully dressed.
    2. You must be in your car with the car running and out of the garage.
    3. Do that in less than 2 minutes.
  4. Have your spouse set your alarm for you at whatever time they choose. Accomplish everything in #3.
  5. During the day have your alarm set for a random time. When it goes off –
    1. You must change into your tactical gear, including vest.
    2. You must have your pistol and long gun on you in battle configuration.
    3. You must have all of your other battle rattle on you as if you are going to war.
    4. Yeah, don’t go running outside and stand in the driveway for this one.
  6. Go to your favorite shooting location with a couple of your buddies. Explain to them what you are trying to accomplish. Here’s how I would like it to go –
    1. You set up a series of targets that you have to move to and in between. A couple are long gun targets, a couple are pistol targets. Each one takes a different position (i.e. prone, lying down, hide behind a barrier, etc.). And one movement between targets must involve a transition from long gun to pistol.
    2. You are in full battle rattle, ready for war.
    3. You sit around, or stand around, with your buddies just enjoying the friendship time.
    4. Any one of your buddies at any time can sound the alarm. That is your cue to flip your switch.
    5. You proceed to each target in an expeditious manner. While you are engaging your targets your buddies are yelling at you, they have an air horn that they are sounding…anything for distraction.

By now you get the idea. You are learning to go from 0 to 60mph as fast as possible. You change your state of mind from the everyday life mode to the “I’m fully engaged” mode as quickly and completely as possible.

Here’s what you accomplish by learning to flip the switch:

  1. You learn to become instantly engaged in situations that are potentially dangerous.
  2. You learn to hyper-mode your Situational Awareness very quickly.
  3. You learn to overcome cognitive dissonance.
  4. You gain confidence in your ability to handle potentially bad situations.
  5. You greatly increase your ability to survive and protect your family.

Over the years I’ve seen so many people simply freeze when facing a bad situation. Their brains simply become overloaded with their circumstances and they become mentally and physically immobilized. That may well kill you when facing emergency preparedness situations.

On the other side of the coin I’ve seen folks do some amazing things because they’ve learn to act quickly. They don’t wait for events to overwhelm them, they control the situation, and they take action. You can be one of those people.

A couple of years ago during a class I was taking to be mentally prepared to survive deadly situations they had people stand about three feet apart. Then when the instructor said “go!” they had to raise their paintball guns and start shooting. Why? True, it was only paintball but they still hurt. And it was amazing to see that it was only a small fraction of a second between the first person getting off their shot…and the other person getting off their first shot. So, who would win in a real life gun battle? Almost always it is the person who lands the first shot…like 98% of the time.

It was who flipped their switch the quickest.

Don’t be the dolt that freezes up. Don’t be that person who doesn’t take action quickly enough…and their family falls in the victim category. Your family deserves more.




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Initiative ’17 – Part #4: Leader’s Intent

note: This article was originally published in May 2017, then lost in the site crash. I thought it appropriate and timely to reconstruct it for re-publication now. I took the liberty of some limited editing to improve grammar, readability, spelling, and content.

In the previous article in this series I finally defined the “mission” and was really pleased…I think it is very appropriate and applicable to you…my loyal website supporters.

First off…yes, I know I didn’t define “Prepared to Lead” until the third article and I apologize for that. It just wasn’t clear to me till that point. When it hit me I realized that a lot of people have water and food storage, some folks have plenty of guns and ammo, some people even have seeds and other more rare preparedness items and gear. But, I honestly believe that the biggest shortage after any grid-down will be leadership.

I have seen it a hundred times right after emergencies and disasters…disorganization, lack of direction, low initiative, and disbelief. All of that stems from absence of leadership. Let’s change that!

In addition to all of the other great emergency preparedness steps you are taking we are going to add one more…albeit vital…trait to the mix. And that trait will be the ability to step up and lead. That will be you!

Background –

In high-stress, high-risk environments someone has to lead. However, in today’s new-age world, the definition of “someone” can vary widely. Over 15 years ago I held a computer job on days that I was not at the fire station. I was hired to run all aspect of operations. The corporate management prided themselves on being progressive thinkers. The president of the company even had a personal “life coach.”

When I started there their productivity was very low and their profitability was dwindling. During my orientation I was briefed on their organizational structure. They shared with me that they were using what was called a “flat organizational structure.” On the white board it looked something like this…

As you can assume, I asked them about my position and role in the organization…my duties, responsibilities, and who I supervised. I was reassured that I was responsible for operations but the company ran a “flat organizational structure” and we operated as a team through mass meetings to resolve issues. Yeah…OK…right… We had a discussion for several hours regarding the structure and my role…and the changes I proposed. They finally acquiesced that it would change slightly to this…

This environment was decidedly different than my leadership role and organizational structure in the firefighting world. I lasted about a year as the COO with the company before I resigned out of frustration. The company folded about a year later for the very reasons I warned them about in my resignation letter. They failed to act on even a single point a raised. Why? They got caught up in a “new” way to manage…untested, unproven, and entirely not applicable.

The point of this example was not to gloat about my being right and the company going out of business. The point is about organization, vision, and most importantly…leadership. Without the right organization any entity is doomed to failure. And, any entity without good leadership is assured of it.

In the structure firefighting world organizational structures vary slightly from department to department. But the one thing they have in common is a clear organizational chart. Everyone knows who their boss is and who they supervise. A clear organizational structure can be seen in the military world as well.

When I started firefighting life was clear – you showed up for your shift, you were given orders, and you carried out orders. Failure to do any of the above and the best you could hope for was getting a royal chewing out. The downside was being shown the door if the infraction was severe enough. Obviously there were clear boundaries, and that actually allowed the department to operate effectively and efficiently. However, it also killed initiative and innovation. But, there was a new wind blowing.

New Way to Lead Organizations –

This “new wind” started showing up in mid-1990’s with the folks getting hired possessing more education, and those individuals thought more highly of themselves, and offered their input on everything…even when not asked for it. About that same time the fire department merged with EMS (emergency medical services). The new people wanted more say-so in what they were told to do. It was a major cultural transition challenge to say the least.

Then came another life-changing shift…in 1998 I began taking a lot of wildland fire training that was developed by the federal government. That exposed me to a new style of operations and leadership. Basically, operational responsibility was more centered on a person’s knowledge, skills, and ability vs. position title. The leadership model was also more open with far more communication up and down the chain of command. It was refreshing, albeit a bit daunting to absorb after so many years of a very rigid chain of command in the fire department and my military time.

About 2007 I had the opportunity to take upper-level leadership training with some Special Forces folks. It was an eye opener to say the least. They presented a true “team concept” with very little rigidity in the command structure when it came to operations. The group of people responsible for the mission worked together, without barriers, to formulate the plan. It was common that subject matter experts (SMEs) were used in a specific area where their expertise was most appropriate, regardless of rank. However, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a leader.

The role of the leader in this new environment was vastly different than my previous training and experience. In this new model the leader was responsible for delivering the mission parameters and making higher level decisions in the field. Other than that, the team worked together to create and execute the plan. At first I was fairly resistant to this new model. However, that soon changed once I began to see the true value in this new “team concept.”

After a couple of days I could clearly see it was obvious that this new model provided many advantages to mission success, especially at the smaller group level. As I absorbed the material I realized the success was based on two basic principles; 1) everyone in the group had “buy-in” to the plan because everyone had “input” into the plan, 2) dependence on expertise of the individual group members to resolve issues. However, I also soon realized the glue that held it all together was trust…which began with and emanated from the leader. Group/team members had to trust each other’s knowledge, skills, and abilities. But, they had to trust their leader implicitly.

Those principles of group/team dynamics is no different than what we find ourselves in here in the prepper world…especially when it comes to leadership. Without a good leader, any group/team is almost assured of failure.

So what is the key to being a good leader?

Being a Good Leader & Leader’s Intent –

There are many attributes that make up a good leader, but that subject isn’t the purpose of this article. You can read about that in my last article. < Click here to read the last article > what I want to share with you is how a good leader handles planning with his team. There are two principles of success for a good leader when it comes to planning; 1) ability to communicate clearly within the group, 2) the ability of the group to envision the “leader’s intent.”

“Leaders intent” is an in-depth subject in its own right. Many articles and research papers have been written about it and many courses for corporate and military leaders exist to train in it. It is not my intention to pontificate in great scholarly detail, it would bore you to death. However, it is absolutely necessary to understand the basic concept of leader’s intent in order to successfully plan in an effective group/team setting. It is even more critical in the execution of a mission in the prepper world.

It is pretty widely accepted across the scholarly spectrum that leader’s intent consists of –

  1. Task:  What it is to be accomplished.
  2. Purpose:  Why it is to be done.
  3. End State:  What it should look like when done.

However, I find that to be far too much content when conveying leader’s intent. I believe is should simply be defined as, “What success looks like when we are done…and why.”

My definition looks more like the last item on the list. But, I have been in far too many briefings where the “task” over shadows everything else. And, when that over-briefing rears its ugly head, then the group bogs down in tactics and loses track of the big picture.

I have given hundreds, probably thousands of briefings in my career and I think I have learned what works and what doesn’t work. I base my judgements on the success or failure of the mission itself. I found that the more I got into the details in the planning phase as the leader the higher the likelihood of failure. When I was clear on what I wanted success to look like, touched on strategy, and then stayed out of the tactics, the probability of success increased significantly.

Now, in my defense, it is not that I suck at tactics in the field, quite the contrary (IMHO). It’s when I moved into upper management and leadership positions that I had a hard time letting go of operations. The key to letting go was knowing my subordinates knowledge, skills, and ability…and letting them do their jobs. All they needed from me was a clear statement of my intent, an overview of strategy, and then turn them loose. However, I always made it clear what success would look like when we were done.

Going through this transition of “old school” leadership and planning to the more “team-oriented” model I also realized the while leader’s intent applied at every level of operational leadership. However, it applied even more so at an organization’s higher leadership levels. What I mean by that is fairly straight forward…with the increase of knowledge, skills, and abilities of personnel, there was less direct hands-on leadership required.

It is not that much different in a family setting. A parent has to give a lot of direction to a 5-year old, including what clothes to wear. To a 17-year old a parent might only have to deliver the “intent” of being home by 10pm…“or else.”

My version of “what does success look like when we’re done” doesn’t exclude “purpose.” I just find it secondary to the end-state vision. But, purpose is also critical to the team’s planning to ensure “buy in.” If your team doesn’t understand what the purpose of what they are doing, then don’t count on much team enthusiasm.

Examples of Leaders Intent –

Going back to the family analogy you say to your teenage daughter, “Be home by 10pm Kim.” That gives her your intent as the parent (i.e. leader). Your daughter Kim now clearly understands what you expect (i.e. what success looks like). But now the follow-up with the purpose, “I want you to be safe.” Now your daughter understands that you care about her safety, you love her, and want to ensure her safety. This is best accomplished by her being home by 10pm. If she trusts you, and you her, there should be little, if any, conflict over the successful outcome.

OK, maybe with one exception…she is 17 years old…teenagers know everything! But, you get my point about intent and purpose.

Maybe a more realistic example would be this…you are standing in front of a pile of sand, there are 100 sand bags and 6 shovels up against the tree, it is raining, and you have 15 people standing around. You are the leader and it goes like this:

“Thank you guys for coming out, I really appreciate it. We have to fill these 100 sandbags and get them in place by noon. If we can do that we can keep the church building from flooding.”

Did the statement clearly answer the following?

  • What is to be accomplished?
  • Why it is to be done?
  • What does success look like?

If it was easy to answer those question, then the leader delivered “leader’s intent” successfully. Which then makes it easier to accomplish the task

In my role on Incident Management Teams over the years I have been responsible for saving homes from burning down in the path of large wildfires. I have been very fortunate and I haven’t lost a single house that I have been responsible for. Let’s use that as a study in proper leader’s intent.

  1. If my responsibility is to prevent houses from burning down, and;
  2. I am about to provide direction to the firefighting resources assigned to me…

…would this be appropriate leader’s intent to a group of fire engines, “Go to Happy Hills subdivision and don’t let any houses burn down.”

What would be in the firefighters’ minds? Yup, probably…I better do everything I can to not let a house burn down or my butt is in big trouble!

Do you agree with that?

What would be better wording to deliver my leader’s intent? Maybe something like this…

“At the end of the day I want you guys to be safe and I need you to do everything reasonable to save as many homes from burning down as possible.”

At this point do you think the firefighters have a slightly clearer picture of what their responsibility is? How about how they interpret my vision of safety? Is the vision of their task clear enough for all of the firefighters? How about their engine captains?

So here is what goes on in my mind –

  1. Their Captains are in charge of each of the fire engines, they have already proven to be competent or they wouldn’t hold that position. Therefore, I trust those leaders to do their job.
  2. I value their safety over the value of saving houses.
  3. When I said “…do everything reasonable…” gave them the authorization to do what he needed to as long as it was within industry norms (i.e. reasonable).

So here is what should be going on in their minds –

  1. They have a specific responsibility, keep houses from burning down.
  2. They have authorization to do so within reason.
  3. They also know not to take unnecessary risks because people are valued more than the homes.

That is in a perfect world. And we all know that we seldom work in a perfect world. However, there are options for dealing with that. It is called “Q&A”…for both sides’ benefit. Both the firefighters and I have the ability, and responsibility, to ask questions to ensure that the assignment is clear and understood.

After stating my leader’s intent I can ask a simple question such as, “Do you have any questions, thoughts, concerns, issues, or suggestions about the assignment I have given you?”

Or, a firefighter can ask, “Can you define reasonable a little better for me?”

By the time we are done with the complete back-and-forth exchange they know what is expected, what the authorization parameters are, and that I will support them in their decisions if they stays within those parameters.

That paints a pretty good picture of success if you ask me. So what are the two key elements in this successful delivery of leader’s intent?

For me I would say; 1) good communications, 2) trust.

So far we now understand that leader’s intent is a leader conveying to their subordinates what he wants done. He also does it with a clearly defined picture of what success looks like. Because the leader trusts his subordinates, those folks can now plan their individual actions to accomplish the picture of success.

Why vs. What = Motivation –

There is one more integral part to completing the delivery of leader’s intent, “why” it needs to be successful. Without the “why” the subordinates are only being told what to do, not why it is so important. So you could say, the motivation is lacking. Anyone who has suffered in an organization where motivation is absent can attest to the likelihood of success in some new project.

But, motivation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Motivation will only exist where values are shared.

Trust –

Without trust, motivation is usually very superficial and mostly ineffective. Conversely when there is significant or complete trust between leadership and subordinates, motivation is a given.

Tying “trust” back to leader’s intent is rather simple, but absolutely imperative. For a leader to develop and deliver an appropriate and clear leader’s intent statement, he must know and trust his subordinates. He must be realistic and trust them that they can carry out what he is asking them to do. From the subordinate’s perspective, they must trust their leader that what he is asking them to do is realistic. Yes, it may contain risk, but risk is something that can be mitigated.

Hands-Off Leadership (No Micro-Managing!) –

Once the leader’s intent has been delivered, understood, and agreed upon, it is best for the leader to back away from the team. Let the team develop the plan of action. He must trust their knowledge skills and abilities to do the planning to make it all happen.


Remember the SMART system for setting objectives? The same outline can be used with leader’s intent. After all, isn’t leader simply a top-level objective? < Click here to read more about SMART >

Leader’s intent follows suit, it must be; specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and time-sensitive. Using that format let’s look at a bad example of leader’s intent –

“Go plant a garden so we can eat.”

Now let’s analyze why it is bad. Is it –?

  1. Specific?
  2. Measurable?
  3. Action oriented?
  4. Realistic?
  5. Time-sensitive?

Let’s try again this time using another example of leader’s intent but reformulated to meet the SMART criteria.

“We don’t have enough food for a full year. We need to grow 50% of the food we eat. We need to be eating 1/4 our food out of a garden within the next three months, 50% within 6 months. If we can do that we will not starve.”

Now let’s analyze it. Is it –?

  1. Specific?
  2. Measurable?
  3. Action oriented?
  4. Realistic?
  5. Time-sensitive?

Can you clearly notice the difference between the two leader’s intent statements?

Summary –

Wow, when talking about leader’s intent I could go on forever…but you are probably already bored. Another word or two won’t hurt you…so read on!

You are already a good prepper or you wouldn’t be visiting this website. You already understand the need for leadership during emergencies, disasters, or grid-down events or you wouldn’t be reading this article. What I am asking of you now…prepare to be a leader…a good leader.

I have noticed over the years that when there is a vacuum of leadership nature takes over, someone will become the leader. What worries me is who will step up. A couple of years ago I did some serious research on post-disaster personalities. As a result I wrote a 4-part series of personalities that will attempt to be leaders. As you might guess, there will be some very sketchy folks who will attempt to become leaders…or dictators…or wolves. Don’t let that happen!! (click here to read that series of articles)

You have the ability to become a great leader. You have already taken steps to do so. You have it inside of you the ability to be the leader people need. You already have vision! You know what is coming, you are preparing for it. That makes you a step or two ahead of 99% of the population wherever you might live.

To be that leader you must take vision and turn it into a mission statement…leader’s intent. Make it easy for others to see what you see…success. Give them a reason to move forward, to be successful, and to work together.

Let your folks know:

  1. Task:  What it is to be accomplished.
  2. Purpose:  Why it is to be done.
  3. End State:  What it should look like when done.

I have every confidence in you.


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Initiative ’17 – Part #3: Prepared to Lead

note: This article was originally published in May 2017, then lost in the site crash. I thought it appropriate and timely to reconstruct it for re-publication now. I took the liberty of some limited editing to improve grammar, readability, spelling, and content.

This is the third article in this series, you might want to go read Part #1 & Part #2 before proceeding.

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, Part #3.

As I was saying…I was reviewing in my mind the two articles in this series that I had written so far and it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was essentially 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 I will follow Him!” Really? 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 (operations) to someone else…who would that leader be? Would you be prepared to be that leader?

I remember a pretty good leader, a man of God, led by God…and he still used a lot of folks around him to help. We know him as Moses.

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 at any level regardless of your situation.

What makes me qualified to do that? Well, my professional background of well over 30 years providing emergency services and leadership 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…my own personal delusion of grandeur.

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 lead the effort..

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 act 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 personally seen in my military and firefighting careers:

  • 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”, “politician”, or a “good talker”.
  • 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 in good leaders:

  • Someone who listens to his people and takes their advice.
  • A person who trusts his subordinates and empowers them to make decisions and then act.
  • 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 what they are talking about…”been there, done that” experience.

What does your list 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. Why? Because you are taking the time to learn, to become informed, engaged, you care.

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/is 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 sincerity. 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.


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

note: This article was originally published in May 2017, then lost in the site crash. I thought it appropriate and timely to reconstruct it for re-publication now. I took the liberty of some limited editing to improve grammar, readability, spelling, and content.

This is the second article in a series called Initiative ’17, Part #1 appeared yesterday (click here to read it). 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 we have properly prepared our minds we can survive just about 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 whole series. But, I believe there are some 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…his lack of competent decision making is well known. 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 at times can truly work against us being successful. 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, let’s 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 as a simple action is appropriate because it is simply an acquisition process. And the process does combine the acquisition of both knowledge and skills. Turn it around…without a valid and reliable process you can follow, how can you obtain quality knowledge and skills? By 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 and/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 of it good, some of it bad…but you can learn.

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 my version…

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 Judeo-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 “good” point and get side tracked, let’s move on and 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, answer the question…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 one 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 quality level of the training you are planning on taking? Yeah, better ask yourself that question. There are a lot of so-called expert preppers out there. I’ve read many of their articles, taken some of their training. 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 response 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 would 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 (as much as 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 give you information on or train you in. 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 Judeo-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 actual 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 wife and 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 get really 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!


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

note: This article was originally published in May 2017, then lost in the site crash. I thought it appropriate and timely to reconstruct it for re-publication now. I took the liberty of some limited editing to improve grammar, readability, spelling, and content.

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.


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 your life 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 in-fact are talking about regarding complacency and tunnel vision.

Complacency –

There are multiple definitions of complacency, none of which are particularly complete/appropriate for this application. For this conversation let’s go with, complacency is the “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. Yes, I know…not a very charitable outlook…I am trying to change that. 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 to a degree. 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 who they depend on to know what is happening. However, those that should be working diligently finding flaws in the leader’s plan and thinking or solutions, 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 knowledge. That knowledge comes from the environment around you…and your awareness of it.

 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-down, 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/vacuum.  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 to fill that void, 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 or at least started.

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 other than what you are intensely focused on. That lack of knowledge from either 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 events/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.

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

Can you?


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