Beyond Collapse

Surviving and Rebuilding Civilization from Scratch

Mini-SHTF, and How To Survive Them

For a moment, let us forget the massive civilization-ending events. Let us set aside the things which threaten humanity itself. For a moment, while we’re all busy prepping, let’s take a moment to consider SHTF events that occur on a more personal basis. I’ll give you a little personal example, as it may help out…

Feces, Meet Air-Handler:

Recently, on a Friday, we got word from the boss that all telecommuting is to be suspended, and that we all need to arrive on site each working day. Puzzled, angry, and not a little fearful, our merry tribe of worker bees speculated aloud on what was going down, and why.

Monday answered all questions. We all arrived, and it became apparent that the reason we all had to be on site was so that we would have our company-issued gear with us, when meant they could more easily retrieve these items as they downsized (that is, lay off permanently) a number of us.

This included me.

Here’s what normally happens to those without a prepping mindset (I can speak from past experience)… First there are the emotions – fear, shock, anger, betrayal. They quickly cloud your mind as you fight to utter coherent sentences and struggle to keep up with the conversation. The next urge is to frantically scan your mind (to the exclusion of anything else) as to your present financial situation – how much is in the bank? Which bills are due? When will unemployment kick in and how much will that be? How am I going to make the rent/mortgage next month – OMG will I be homeless!? While all this is swimming in your head, you don’t hear (much less comprehend) what the suited drones are telling you, so you quickly grasp for whatever you can, including some really dumb options – like signing anything they shove in front of you.

The good news is, after a split-second flash of emotion, none of this happened to me.

What Prepping Can Do For You:

Fortunately, I’ve done a bit of prepping, including all the social interaction bits, which I cover a lot of in the book. I am happy to report that the results are, to date, far different from how I experienced layoffs in the past:

* I kept personal and professional relationships alive, even with folks whose ideology and outlook differ from mine radically. I mentioned my situation on a couple of social websites, then by email and phone when I got home. By the next afternoon, I had trusted agents and employers calling me up with potential job offers. I had two interviews scheduled by the end of the day. Mind you, this is an environment where jobs are scarce at best. I barely had time to polish the resume before I had recruiters and employers coming out of the woodwork asking for a copy of it. Score one for being an outgoing person, no?

* Due to a habit of setting money aside, I can cover the gap between the unemployment checks and the bills for quite a few months. I cannot begin to tell you how much of a difference that makes in how you feel during the initial news of being downsized: I did a quick mental scan of my expenses, knew almost immediately how much I had (and had coming in), and was able to clear my mind to think of next steps. This extra thinking time also allowed me to insure that my former employer didn’t try to screw me over on the way out (yes, they tried). While others were frantically wondering where they would get income, I was looking at all the paperwork and going over it, line by line (and crossing out a few lines – they resisted at first, but when I told them that I would be stopping by my lawyer’s office on the way home, they quickly became quite amenable).

* Thanks to a pantry full of food, I can go a month or two without seeing the inside of a grocery store, and that’s not even touching the long-term food preps. With the price of food these days, that’s a pretty huge load off my mind (and wallet!)

* Because I chose vehicles that have a good balance between cargo capacity, performance, and fuel efficiency, I can drive some pretty solid distances for interviews, yet still remain within my new (smaller) budget.

* Due to (again, as per the book) mentally training myself to ignore emotions (for now) and instead seek solutions in the face of adversity? I was able to think with a clear mind – even though it isn’t easy to mentally shove back the surge of anger, betrayal, and worse, I was still able to manage it very well. This also allowed me to think ahead as to what steps I needed to take next, and to discuss them with the missus. I was able to calm down my wife over the phone before I left the office for the last time, formulate a plan as to what needed done immediately (versus the medium term and long-term things I can tackle later), then put it into action. By the time I left town on the drive home, I was calm, thinking with a careful and considering mind. I even saw a rainbow among the mountain passes on the way home, and enjoyed the view.

Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, because I strive to improve myself spiritually? I was able to get home, hug my wife, answer all of her questions calmly and clearly, and together take stock of our new situation. We both dropped to our knees, thanking God for what we have been given so far, and for what we see. We asked for forbearance, charity, a discerning mind, to dismiss any thoughts of revenge or anger, and to show us which way He wants us to go. Not my will, but His.

Now this may sound silly to the atheists and agnostics among us. Well, think what you will, but the feeling of peace, clarity, and calmness I experienced afterwards? It made an already calm outlook optimistic and hopeful. We were cracking jokes and cheering each other up within minutes, and began working together to discuss options (…options? Things like possible relocation and to where, trimming the family budget to maximize the money situation, then to go watch the sun set quietly.) Let me put it this way – I was able to sleep in a little the next morning, wake up optimistic, and have that optimism proven throughout the day. You can call me whatever silly names you like for being a devout Christian, but as for me? I make it a habit to not argue with success.

How To Avoid Disaster On The Micro Scales:

Now job loss (or any similar-sized life event) is pretty stressful.

I won’t lie to you – my top priority is to resume making money doing what I love as soon as possible, and I’m working hard to that end. My wife still cried. When things reached a quiet point, I found a quiet place and let fly with my own emotions. There are still lingering uncertainties, though as each day passes some of these uncertainties have become potentials and opportunities. I spend each day working connections both professional and personal. I tear into job sites, so that I have gained a very good picture of what’s out there both locally and regionally. All that said, here’s how I was able to do it without massive stress, anger, or thoughts of planting bombs in any offices. Note that this can apply to any SHTF situation that doesn’t affect the world at large:

* Save up! I cannot stress enough how important it is to build up a nest egg against emergencies like this. Even if it isn’t in precious metals, having money in the bank will take a huge load off of your mind when that layoff announcement comes. It also comes in handy for other similar emergencies – car crashes, sudden medical emergencies, the odd tornado that deposits a stranger’s car into your garage by way of your roof… ¬†As long as the outside world considers the money to have value, that extra bit of dough can help remove all worries, or at least blunt the impact that your new calamity will have.

* Train your mind to seek solutions, not blame or revenge. For most folks, it is impossibly hard to set aside emotions in the face of bad news. However, this must be done – you cannot give in to anger, fear, or worse, as it paralyzes you, making the situation worse. You can always curse or cry later – but right now, you have to act decisively, and to work towards solutions. Keep your eyes on the prize, and be prepared to update that plan as events change. If you are able to take in a situation, you can formulate a plan of action.

* Identify now what you really need, versus what you can jettison. In my wee example, I work in an industry where I had access to folks’ bank records, so they are justifiably paranoid about what you can do after being told you no longer work for them. When I was escorted to my desk to pick up a few things (they’ll ship the rest), I was able to identify what things I needed, and was able to leave the rest behind without a thought. On a more important scale, it applies to knowing what needs focus (food, water, shelter/warmth, tools) versus what isn’t needed (a large TV subscription package, snacks/sodas, etc). Those of you out there with massive smartphone contracts can throttle back to a cheap prepaid cellphone. A family of four who has six cars can probably be rid of a couple of them. If you have a hobby that costs you money but does not directly contribute to your continued survival, ditch it. While most of this is common sense, too many people get rather defensive about it, and justify the most outlandish things which contribute nothing towards continued survival.

* It never hurts to plan ahead. Think through various scenarios, even if they are painful (job loss, death of a spouse/child/etc, auto accident, whatever), and form tentative plans as to what you can do about them. More often than not, if you mentally prepare yourself, you will be the most likely to remain a calm rock of support in a family or group that may be losing their heads.

* Drill this into your head: You can live with less. Orient your life towards that end. Do you really need a massive cable/sat TV package, or a bleeding-edge smartphone and tablet on an expensive data plan? Is there some logical reason for driving some shiny new car on a pricey lease? Do you really need to live in a house that swallows 1/3 or more of your current income? Hawaii or Europe …really? How often do you use that boat or RV camper, anyway – is it enough to justify the expenses that it incurs? I’m not saying to cast aside some once-in-a-lifetime thing you’ve been dreaming of (and building up to) for years – but if you’re buying caviar with a beans-and-rice income, maybe you should sit down and re-think your priorities.

* Constantly build on and improve your personal relationships. True story: When I got downsized in 2005, my ex-wife’s first reaction was to pack up her things and say that “this isn’t working”, and filed for divorce. I’ll leave out my emotions on the matter, but I mentioned it to point out that unless you have a strong relationship, and know your spouse and family members well? A bad situation may end up amplified into a worse one. Knowing your personal relations also helps you to know how to help them through the given crisis, since you will know how they will react, what they will need both physically and emotionally, and it helps you to prepare them in advance if possible.

* Constantly build on and improve your relationships with neighbors and co-workers. Having a large number of friends at work (even if they leave for some other job) better helps you to find work if you lose your job. Keeping in touch (even infrequently) on a professional networking site (e.g. linkedin.com) helps you keep in touch. Being on excellent terms with your neighbors, not just superficially, can help you (and you can help them) when tragedy strikes in your neighborhood. For small SHTF events, everyone can get together and help the stricken neighbor. For the ultimate SHTF events, you can band together and survive. I daresay that helping neighbors through the smaller/personal stuff will increase the chances that you all can band together and help each other through the bigger/global stuff.

* Pray. If you’re atheist/agnostic, then meditate or something. The point is, get in touch with who you are, and do so on an ongoing basis. As much as some folks tend to sneer at religion, it serves excellent purposes in the secular realm: it helps foster community, helps to prepare oneself to withstand adversity, and in general is a great way to stop and calm yourself. Take full advantage of that. On a spiritual level, it does some rather amazing things. If you know, then no explanation is needed; if you do not know, no explanation will suffice.

* As long as help is still around, take advantage of it. Don’t rely on it solely (or even plan for it to be there), but consider this: In my little situation, my former employer paid into unemployment insurance all this time, so I intend to take full advantage of it. Just note that if there is help, there may be strings attached – no matter who or what the source may be. Know what those strings are, and evaluate them carefully before accepting any of it.

* Orient yourself to optimism, with a dose of realism. Pessimists need not apply. Unless you can look forward to the future and honestly asses the facts at hand, you won’t be able to keep your head.

In conclusion:

Overall, prepping for small SHTF events isn’t much different than prepping for the Big One. Take your time and plan carefully in advance. Be prepared to adapt to new developments. Love your neighbor, your co-worker, and your family member. Orient your priorities towards continued survival.

If you can do all of this, life suddenly isn’t as nasty and surprising as it seems when things go rotten.

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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 Before Collapse, Generic Musings, Short-Term

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