“History, Nature, and Building Your Toolbox”

The year is 1928. The economy in the U.S. is booming. "The Jazz Age" is in full swing. Generally speaking, life is good in the United States and, for the most part, across the globe. There is no sign of economic crisis. No indications of stagnant development in the technology, medical, or financial space. "The war to end all wars" ended exactly a decade ago. There is no sign of massive global conflict. War is certainly not a prospect of the American’s future.

Had you stopped "John" or "Jane" on the streets of New York in 1928, and asked either of them to forecast the next several years of their life, chances are their response would be high hopes. They'd speak of success with a positive outlook on life. Chances are... their response would not have been: "Well, in 3 years, I'll probably be standing in a breadline, unemployed, absolutely broke, and exploiting every opportunity possible to merely eat."

They, like most people from that era of U.S. culture who were living that super-sick 1920's life, were blindsided by the events of the following year. "The Great Crash" would bring financial ruin, poverty, starvation, many other terrible events that would become more prevalent than stories of success.

You and I have the opportunity to truly grasp the magnitude of just how oblivious “John” and “Jane” were to the world around them as we gaze into history on a global scale and, in hindsight, observe what they couldn't at the time.

Because halfway across the world, while they were in the U.S. celebrating and singing about their happy life during your inquiry, the German Federal Election had come to a close. The Social Democratic Party of Germany was the largest party in the Reichstag, communism was peeking into German politics and "Adolf and Crew"™ (the most unpopular death metal band of the 20th century) were making moves that changed the lives of John and Jane's kids, who'd later run off to Europe and pay the ultimate sacrifice for humanity so you wouldn't have to be reading this newsletter in German. History. Heavy and revealing stuff.

Make no mistake about what happened in 1928. John and Jane (and much of the free world) were eaten alive like the billions of people before them who were wiped out by wars, genocide, famine, disease, or a more recent example: a tough Monday in an office in San Bernardino where Syed Farook and his zealot wife Tashfeen Malik worked. The point is, whether it's nature running its course, history being history and popping in to say "Hey, remember that time when humans did this... I’m back", or a couple of religious wackos at the office having an extra teaspoon of radicalized in their morning coffee, it seems like people are always surprised by these events. Blindsided again by the unplanned and unexpected. "How did this happen? How was this possible? How did this happen to me?"

And that's just it. Why are we surprised (and who is more surprised than the “victim” – I would argue that nobody is, but I digress)? I think the answer to that question is quite simple. It's the limitations of evolution as human beings. As capable as we think we are, and when life is peachy, and things are going well for us, we cannot see or predict the future. Combine that with our nature to not worry about that which we cannot see, and you observe the majority of us go into a form of autopilot mode. We coast, and become complacent. Naturally, this begs more questions: What do we do then? How do we prepare for the unknown, for our survival even? How do we break ourselves away from the group of autopilot drones, coasting through life? And a famous, thought-provoking question: “If a tree falls to the ground in the forest, does it make a sound?” The answer is yes, it does and the next time you set up a campsite in the forest, you’d be wise to do a quick scan of the area to look for widow-makers, so you don’t get woken up by one as you sleep!

Just because something is not happening to you, does not mean it isn’t happening to somebody else, or that it won’t ever happen. 

Developing a tactical mindset is to proactively address the events of your future, which we can't see. But we can plan for it. The caveat, however, is that regardless of what we're planning for (our own future, somebody else's, the entire human race in general, the economy, global shifts in power - you name it) none of us have evolved into all-knowing beings. Yes, we can only plan. Yes, the only tool evolution has afforded our brains is the ability to survive by reading and interpreting information in real time – and, ultimately, make use of the information or dismiss it as unimportant. Basically, we can only make plans based on processed events of the past, or scenarios we believe could be in our immediate/possible future.

Occasionally, the "plan” is complicated more when external forces outside of our control turn our plans into nothing more than an initial starting point. Something didn't work out exactly as you thought it would. Plans can change. Sometimes not by choice. Tough. You're also not a time traveler so you must accept change and adapt to it.

Some people are gifted at planning. They’re able to plan for multiple scenarios, offshoots of those scenarios, different outcomes - the could be's, what if's and maybe's. On top of this, and arguably the most important, they are good at handling and taking control of situations in real time - the adaptation skills are strong. These people are rare, but they're capable of this because they manage their stress levels with poise, while simultaneously adapting to a dynamically changing (and possibly hostile and dangerous) environment. They’ve got mental and physical resources in queue to help them succeed – and, most likely, some formal training or experience to aid them with the mental and physical stress being imposed on them.

Even so, such a highly trained individual can only observe information in their immediate vicinity to make informed decisions about what course of action should be taken to ensure survival of themselves or others. All of us have that limitation because we're human. That's just the card we've been dealt. People are just better or worse at adapting and overcoming. If your plan is disrupted, or you’ve made absolutely none at all, and your survival is left at the mercy of your raw ability to rough-sketch some new blueprints and get to work at making them a success, you've got to have the right tools. Tools, of course, can be mental or physical.

With all of that said, developing a plan for everything is itself a daunting, stressful, and nearly impossible task. Making plans can be tiring if you don't do it right or overdo it, and immediately tiring and stressful if you simply don't know what to do. Maybe that's why most people's critical analysis of what's threatening their existence doesn't extend beyond their Wi-Fi being slow and unusable, their order at Starbucks being wrong, or them being pressed for time as they are trying to make their flight, only to find their stress levels increased to existential crisis mode as they are reminded that the TSA is doing a fantastic job at being the TSA. Sure, it is daunting. But the most basic of tasks, such as not feeling rushed at the airport, is to get there early. It takes very little effort, but I always see this as I’m moving through airports: people stressing over their flight and the TSA. Get to the airport earlier. Why are you depending on other people’s efficiency or ability to help you succeed? Why do you only have minutes to board your flight? Why are you frustrated and thinking everybody else is the cause of your unfortunate situation? I don’t understand these people, and never will. The idea of looking outward instead of inward to solve your problems. I don't get it. In my mind, these people are absolutely getting smoked by such a basic task - but we digress.

Here's a hard "pill of possibility" for most people to swallow: your neighbor - yes, the one who just moved in next door. Well he might just commit a crime against you over some bread if he's starving. Don't believe it? It happened in 1929 and during the depression! And it has happened many times before then and since. And it is happening right now in an oil rich country called Venezuela. We only bring this up to illustrate the importance of planning. Maybe he wouldn't do that if he had a small supply of food to last him through a disaster?

Bottom line: People don't plan to fail. People fail to plan. When you fail to plan, you're immediately placed behind the power curve on the “likelihood to survive catastrophic or life-threatening events” scale. Nature is unforgiving and aren't all of us just a big group of animals when tough, life-altering decisions need to be made?

In the scenario with your neighbor (who just stole all of your food) - he's clearly terrible at planning BUT wasn't his action only driven by an intense will to live? I would say yes and, although he might be cut from a more brutal cloth than you, sounds like his will to live might just be a little more intense than yours. I mean, I don't know. I don't know your neighbor in this scenario but the fact is that he's eating your food because in lawless lands, this type of behavior is the norm for people.

We cannot have the "ostrich mentality". We must be realistic about everything we do. "It won't happen to me" "That could never happen to us" "The military is untouchable" "The economy is too strong" or "Yeah, just rack the shotgun! That burglar will run when he hears it!" If you've ever heard these words, or said them yourself, just consider reality: the exact opposite is true. It has happened to somebody. Powerful armies have been obliterated in less than a day. Booming economies have gone belly up. And that burglar now knows what you have, where you are, and your intentions – so you better hope he isn’t feeling brave, or starving to death, because I’d bet money that he came prepared for his little home invasion operation.

We cannot be passive or narrow-minded about the world around us. We must make plans, and stick to them.

So, back to the beginning, why do we have these tendencies to be oblivious and complacent, to coast? Complacency. Your routine becomes your method of survival - that's the psychological aspect of it. So, when our routine is the inability to plan for anything outside of what's immediately in front of us, combined with some toxic subconscious belief that you or the things around you are somehow everlasting because life is good right now ("Things are going great, so why would that change?", our routine is then complacency, and complacency can be detrimental. Basically, you've become a John or Jane circa 1928, desperately and recklessly trying to survive the aftermath of some event. And let's be clear: if you are that person stressing out while being touched inappropriately by the TSA, because it's one more delay, you are probably going to get checked when something serious or dangerous is placed before you. If you cannot handle making it to the airport on time, or even something basic like keeping a little bit of extra food or water filtration/purification items in store, with some medical supplies, how do you expect to handle your community being reduced to a wolf pack, eating each other left and right? All you have to do is care a little bit more about your future, and make contingencies for it.

You see, it really doesn't matter what narrow-minded belief about invincibility one comes up with in their head. The fact of the matter is that everything around us (your cool toys, your bank accounts, your institutions – and especially you) is brittle and will fragment with the proper amount of force. Prepare for something/somebody trying to break you! Take measures to prepare. Make plans. A little bit goes a long way.

Ask yourself what you are not paying attention to in your life that is critical to your survival. What is going to better your chances of success? What is going to help you win when the challenger appears at your door? Give it careful thought and begin adding tools to your box of skills. Because right now, could you not safely assume that somebody, somewhere, is making moves that will impact your life or the lives of your children? We would say, "Yes, that is entirely possible. Don't believe it? Pick up a history book!"

History is littered with stories of failed global superpowers, civil unrest, tyrannical governments, corrupt governments - you name it, it's there, and it’s quite common.

No, we cannot see the future. But looking at the past can give us insight into what the future holds because it seems that although humans have evolved quite a bit, human behavior has not changed much. Really interesting. We still go to war over national, global, personal, and/or economic interests. We still like to believe in things simply because we want to believe in something. We still like to run in tribes, in packs, with those who share those beliefs, while fighting opposing beliefs because we feel opposing beliefs threaten our survival. It's how we are and it's how we've always been.

We’re simple creatures, really. We possess a profoundly passionate desire to survive. The only distinction between you, John, Jane, or your neighbor is the amount of tools the four of you have added to your mental and physical tool kits, and how proficient you are when using them.

 

- AVR Defense, signing off

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