Everyone started somewhere. No matter how seasoned an expert appears to be, or how masterful a practitioner of any skill, they were once a beginner, a novice, a greenhorn. Prepping is no different.
But to many would-be preppers, prepping can seem unapproachable. Maybe because it is perceived as a highly complex composite skill or seen as a lifestyle choice and thusly a lifestyle change. Whatever the reason, there is a significant population of people out there who want to start prepping, but don’t.
Maybe they never start because of some flawed lost-time fallacy; they should have started years ago, but didn’t, and now they’ll never “catch up” so they never begin.
Or they may simply lack the confidence in themselves to believe they are capable of mastering new skills and solving problems, thus becoming master over their environment. Some will certainly just be confused as to where they should start, and succumb to analysis paralysis.
And there will be a few timid souls who are just afraid of how afraid they have become, of what dangers and bad times they feel in their bones are lurking just over the horizon.
So they smother that feeling with a barrage of lies and rationalizations to avoid confronting reality. And just like the “check engine” light in their vehicle, they cover it up or pull the fuse. Light’s off, no problem. Right? Right…
Reasons to the timid or procrastinator are just trussed up excuses. If any one of these sounds even a little like you, or you have just started dipping your foot into the idea of prepping, this article is for you.
We aren’t going to get into hard or soft skills at all. Instead, we are going to address taking that first step and deciding to start prepping, then losing the fear that is keeping you from acting on that decision.
First Things First
I am not here to play famous internet psychologist. I don’t even play a psychologist. I don’t particularly care either why you are afraid, or procrastinating. That isn’t from some position of elitist arrogance, either.
The good news is it does not matter why you keep putting off prepping. I’ll admit here in front of everybody, there are a whole lot of things I’m afraid of, even in the realm of personal security and preparedness that I am afraid of. Yes, right to this very day.
I also procrastinate mightily from time to time. I put things off, slack off, or keep till tomorrow things I should by rights be doing today. I know that sounds tough to believe. A quick search of this and other websites will produce a ton of subject matter content from your dear author here.
This is not a race to the bottom or humbler-than-thou exercise. The point is I am a human, just like you, and probably share more than few of your flaws. So don’t worry, this isn’t a preach session.
Instead, treat this article like the Sign or the Key. Most of us who get “stuck” on doing something we know we should are internally waiting for something. For the fearful or procrastinator, we are waiting for a sign, this article is your sign. For the analytics who are always doing “research” in order to “avoid mistakes” and are looking for their Rosetta Stone, the key, the one piece of data that will codify all their wanderings and readings, this article is your key.
Before you go any further, start rounding that bend mentally into a new path forward. You have come this far. Now you must go on. Let’s dig in.
Overcoming Lack of Confidence
A lack of confidence stemming from a feeling of inadequacy, low self-esteem, or feeling like you’ll never “catch up” to friends, acquaintances and experts is understandable and normal.
No one likes what they’re bad at, and if you don’t know the first thing about basic survival skills to say nothing of hardcore self-reliance, you can feel as vulnerable and awkward as a newborn fawn; waiting to get picked off.
Don’t give into that feeling, because it is a liar. No matter who you are, are guarantee you are good at something, and in fact better at it than literally anyone you know in real life.
How’d you get there? I mean really think back to when you first picked up the tools of your trade, or cracked the book that was the first bytes of data in your field of expertise.
Back then, it wasn’t a big, scary thing: you just did it. Maybe it was curiosity that propelled you. Maybe it was fun and exciting and you enjoyed your study, waking up one day far after to find yourself “good to go”.
You might even have been driven by a desire to prove someone wrong or show them you were good enough. All are fine reasons, and those same reasons can serve you well when it comes to prepping.
But just like you eat an elephant one bite at a time or truly see the forest tree by tree, you have to start somewhere. Lucky for you there are mountains of literature and rivers of ink spilled already on Prepping 101 and Survival skills. A quick search here will give you a more or less step-by-step program on where to begin.
No matter what that looks like for you, just remember that the you of today could not survive what the you of tomorrow could so long as you practice and learn diligently. With even 6 months of regular practice and learning, you’ll be a burgeoning prepper.
In a year’s time, you can be pretty daggone competent in many fundamentals. Keep in mind you don’t have to be a true expert or master in anything to be highly capable. Being “pretty decent” will put you light years ahead of 80% of the people in your life. Remember that.
Breaking Analysis Paralysis
Analysis paralysis is not a New Age corporate drone-speak concept. It has been around forever. It occurs when someone is confronted with too much data to sort and collate when they need to make a decision.
It can also apply to a person who is so obsessed with gathering knowledge and information that they never execute; they plan, plan, plan, and ultimately do nothing but that. Strategizing is fine, but we must do.
No matter what kind of analysis paralysis you suffer from, it probably comes from just another type of fear, the fear of making a mistake. Perhaps, like most people, you don’t want to fail and look like a fool.
Maybe it is really important that you feel like an expert, like you have all the info you need to make informed decisions before you execute. Either way, it’s understandable, but both are counterproductive.
There is no faster way to learn than by doing, so once you have enough info to know what your objective is, what you definitely should not do, and the biggest pitfalls to avoid, go get to it! The truth is this: mastery and ultimate success will only and I mean only come after many varied and demoralizing failures.
So don’t worry about it and get to it; the faster we grind through those failures the faster we attain competency and mastery. Don’t sweat it. Let any whinging, cackling monkeys in your life point and laugh.
Expect good natured ribbing from your true companions and close friends. If you cannot laugh at them and they at you are pretty bad off. Start worrying when they treat you like a Faberge egg, and while you are at it audit your attitude.
Theory is nothing without experience. The best plan in the world will crumble as dust without execution. Don’t let yourself off the hook. A decent plan executed decisively and rapidly is always better than master plan executed eventually.
Learn to rapidly recycle your planning and execution phases so you can overcome any momentary failures, obstacles and setbacks. Time is fear’s favorite food, and the longer you sit around pondering, the bigger and stronger fear gets until it has you talking yourself out of the reason you started prepping in the first place.
Getting Your Head out of the Sand
Do you ever feel helpless? Does the notion of trying to survive a life-threatening emergency sound insurmountable, impossible? Have you only ever relied on someone else to save the day, for the cavalry to come riding in when you are in trouble?
Perhaps you plain think you can count on the odds being ever in your favor, that it won’t happen to you, that you’ll get clear and get away. Maybe you don’t really believe it, or maybe you truly do. Either way, and I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you are dead wrong, and if you roll snake-eyes in the great game of life, you might wind up dead before you time.
Fear that strangles and threatens to crush you heart is hard to cope with, especially if you have learned to be dependent on society’s nicer perks, namely emergency services and modern technology. When help, sanctuary and saviors are only a click or call away, you can be forgiven for outsourcing your personal safety under the aegis of modern civilization.
Gut check time: it’s a glass shield. Easily broken, and when it breaks the shock of it will lacerate your mind, heart and body. If you do not take the time to wean yourself from the glass shield you will be so hopelessly dependent on it that you will capsize when deprived of it. The cure, such as it is, is to start taking ownership of every facet of your life. I mean all of it.
I can safely bet you are more or less responsible as an individual. You pay your bills, keep a job, see to your family needs, walk the dog, take out the trash, go to the dentist and maintain your car.
Why do you have to deal with all this shit and not someone else? That ever cross your mind? No? Then ask yourself when and how you got sold on the cockamamie notion that you are, somehow, NOT responsible for every aspect of your and your family’s safety?
Sobering question, yes? It should be. Like I said, chances are your current attitude is forgivable. There are powerful cultural and governmental forces hard at work that deliberately want you to be dependent as possible on the big Government Teat, at all levels.
A weak, vulnerable dependent person makes a better slave, and produces more income for the state forces that have a vested interest in keeping you so.
Societal elements that have embraced genocidal and morally bankrupt ideologies devoid of even one redeeming characteristic want you to run and tell whenever you get hurt by someone or something.
A person who can think and react to a problem without their involvement is dangerous, because dependency is the only thing that holds people in their sway.
You ever met someone who is, ah, serious, about preparedness, about doing it all themselves, about being ready for any eventuality? They seem a little zealous, perhaps. They come on strong, maybe even a little weird about it.
Mark my words: they have seen or been through something that shattered the comforting, calming illusion of dependency forever. Now they spread the gospel of self-sufficiency and personal agency far and wide.
That is because they know something you don’t: they know that when the chips are down, no one is coming. No one. You are completely on your own.
You are your own first responder. That revelation is destructive, one way or the other: you will either crumble and run, screaming, back into the narcotic embrace of denial, or you will shatter the blinding screens of dependency and shuck off the skin of the old you, and boldly walk toward a new you, one who will be free from such concerns because you will take responsibility for your safety.
The choice is yours.
Doing It, Living It
I’m not just going to let you out of here with a minor rebuke and some fodder for navel-gazing introspection. No sir, that is not why you come to this site. You need a map for getting to where you want to go and getting there from the very beginning or close to it in your case.
I mentioned above that there are tons of articles on this site and others that will fill your head and notebook full of all the information, lists, plans and procedures you could possible ever need to blueprint your version of prepping nirvana. I don’t want you go open them, not yet. I have other plans that I know will work for you.
I want you to DO with what you have right now. The exercise in doing is the Way. Whatever skill or experience you are deficient in, remedy that right away.
If you have never been for a hike with a pack, grab your backpack or whatever piece of luggage you have and go hit the trail, or even just a long walk around town with it on your back. At the end, or whenever you tap out from sore feet, shoulders and plenty of blisters you will have learned much.
You’ll have learned if you pack and its straps are adequate for carry, or if they shift, slide, break or cut into you painfully. Might this have been exacerbated by how you packed your bag? You will have learned plenty about your own personal conditioning or lack thereof.
What is really hurting you, and what do you need to improve? You will have seen a new area or three around your home. How different does it look on foot versus from a car? Did you notice anything that could become important if you need to evac by car or by foot?
Do the same thing with skills you read about in print or online. Learned how to start a fire, did you? Cool, let’s go start one now. Go gather suitable fuel, prepare your tinder and kindling and light up with whatever tool you have.
Use a lighter, no problem, if that is all you have. You can be a traditionalist next time out. Observe the growing flames. Pay attention to how the fire burns and reacts over time, how fast the fuel is used. Pay attention. Connect to your work. Learn.
Buying good tools is important, because they make light work of hard work, last longer and save both energy and money over the long haul. That being said don’t let reviews and opinions get in the way of your own empirical testing.
If you have a folding saw or shovel, and you like it, but you see it dinged in a list or someone’s gear review as a not-as-good-as option, it is easy to feel discouraged by that creeping feeling of inadequacy. The urge to replace it to appeal to an expert is strong. But do you know your tool is inadequate?
A tool is adequate if it is up to the task. Have you used your tools? How much? Did you use it hard, or just play around with it? If you have beat the brakes off a supposed B-List tool with no failures and adequate performance on your part, don’t let me or anyone else tell you it is somehow faulty.
Trends and reputation matter, because they are shorthand for a quick assessment to good-better-best, but certainty in your tools is what is most important.
If it turns out your tool is not up to snuff, assess where it failed. Is it a glaring design flaw, material failure or something else? That’s a clue. What other designs from other companies share that same flaw? Now you are building a discerning eye toward what works and why, an important foundational element of expertise.
Long term skills are similarly practiced. What we call “survival skills” today are actually just life skills from several decades ago before we came to be inducted to the Cult of Ease.
Learn how to grow herbs, fruits and veggies. Just start! Buy a pack of seeds, a small bag of soil and go. Sure, you are going to have a few failed crops and wasted time, water and money if what you are after is the tomatoes or herbs or whatever themselves, but that is not what we are after; we are after the skill of actually growing them. Don’t forget, you are learning.
Okay, I hear you, “But Charles!” you whine. “You said yourself that this stuff’ doesn’t happen in a vacuum!’ I live in an apartment in the middle of a big city and can’t just flop down a garden in the middle of my backyard. I don’t have a yard at all!”
If you spent as much time working your other skills as you do master crafting your excuses you’d be a regular Daniel Boone. Do you have a window you can get a little sunlight through?
If not, do you have room to set up grow lamps or a compact hydroponics station? Then do that! Where there is a will there is a way. If those skills are not high on your needs and wants list, then forget them.
Whatever it is you think you need to do, you are right. So just do it!
Your Personal Blueprint for Preparedness Growth
You have cast off the rusty embrace of indecision and inaction, and have started Doing. Well done! Now is the time to start your prepper log. Part journal, part checklist, and part blueprint this tome will become the guiding lighthouse for your efforts. Any major issues, obstacles or questions that you run into on your forays go into the log, as well as the successes.
Overtime, you can refer back to your records when confronted with new information, and compare it to what you did. Best practices are easily adopted when you already have fundamental competency developed through experience.
Take the time to expound on your thoughts. Aside from being an excellent tool for retaining information and learning, it will prove to be an invaluable and entertaining record of your activity and actions, even a significant portion of your life. This can make it your own “Guide to Prepping” for your family, friends or future generations.
Take the time to make some entries about the future: set benchmarks, goals and direction for your efforts. No matter how hard you work, if you don’t have goals, you are just spinning your wheels.
Our goals should be aligned with what you are preparing for, and prioritized according to the likeliest threats. The skills you practice should ascend from most efficient-lowest effort to more intricate and specialized but time-consuming and difficult.
Making fire with a bow drill constructed from found materials is a great skill to have, but you should hold off on that until you can build a good personal, cook and campfire using decent fuel and a lighter or flint and steel.
If self-defense is a serious concern (and it should be- your fellow man is the most dangerous creature on Earth) your time learning will be split between empty-hand and weapons-based defense.
Prioritize skills with high-payoff, low-investment ranged weapons like firearms and pepper spray before you delve into knife skills, for instance. Hand-to-hand skill building time is best invested on standup striking, close-in attack defense and escaping holds versus intricate martial arts techniques. At least at first…
Proficiency is not just doing the same simple fundamentals over and over. You need to push your own boundaries and test yourself. When a technique or drill becomes too easy, or you feel like you have a skillset more or less mastered for all practical purposes don’t use all your training time running what you already know into the ground; expand your horizons!
There is so much to learn and no one human has time to learn absolutely everything. You should always take time to maintain and hone skills you have spent so much time earning, but like the old saying about riding a bike, it will take a seriously long hiatus for most skills to completely decay once you have ingrained those neural pathways adequately.
Motivation vs. Discipline
A commonly lofted idea for sticking to any new resolution is that of motivation. People talk about it all the time: keep your motivation in front of you, get motivated, stay motivated, motivate others! It makes some sense, the idea being that the right reasons for doing anything, kept fresh and close to mind, will keep you plugging away when times get tough.
It sounds good on papers, but I have always taken issue with the concept of motivation. Number one being, motivation is fragile. Motivation is governed and influenced by emotion, and emotions are not always conducive to getting positive outcomes.
Stop me if you have heard this line before from one of your family members, teammates or coworkers: “I’m not feeling motivated…” right before the flood of whining and excuses burst forth.
There it is, the feelings kicking in. Motivation is fine until it isn’t, and wounds, weariness, boredom and fatigue all begin to take their toll. Next time you are out on the raggedy edge, take stock.
Is your motivation anywhere close at hand? Can you truly recall it, and let that warm and fuzzy determined feeling perk you up and get you cranking again? Maybe you can, but if you are like most people, probably not. Chances are you will start to rationalize and then you are fighting a losing battle on getting things done.
It isn’t your fault, not really. You have been sold a bad bill of goods by some crunchy-granola everyone-gets-a-trophy types. What is needed to persevere, even thrive in the face of exhaustion, laziness, boredom, pain and distraction is not motivation, but discipline.
It is iron discipline, not fickle motivation that will see you through these rough patches. It does not matter if your couch is calling your name when it is really time to get out and train or if you are sagging with pain and fatigue when you need to be making miles on the path. Discipline is inherently a product of reason, not emotion, and reason is what separates the faculties of man from beast.
Animals are swayed by motivation. Animals will retreat from pain or fear and into a warm, soft burrow trapping it. That’s what happens when you give in to mere motivation. Animals can also be lured into a trap by the seeming promise of something good, like a piece of cheese or peanut butter, right before the bar guillotines its neck.
Another bad outcome brought to you by flimsy motivations. In a different scary situation, a human, so disciplined, has the wherewithal to discard both motivators in quest of a better outcome.
The bottom line is this: if you need motivation to get things done you rely on something outside your control to get you moving, one way or the other. But if you have discipline you decided when and where to move, everything else be damned. Strung out, hung over and ate up, you can still decide to act appropriately. Only discipline can do that for you.
Discipline is the key to consistent, steady improvement. Do not ever let yourself and your results be held captive by something as base as motivation.
The bottom line is that fear is a liar. No matter what form it takes, it will cloud your reason and rob you of your ability to think and act clearly for your own best interest.
Don’t let fear of failure, fear of making a mistake or fear that you cannot possibly save your own life stop you from doing what you know you must do to ensure the safety of you and yours. Give fear a one-way ticket out of town and start prepping today!
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.