Skills You Never Knew You Had--Eliminate the Starting Point, by Natural State

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As a newbie prepper I have gone through the emotional progression of realizing my lack of preparedness.  It started with the feeling that something bad was going to happen now!  This quickly subsided, followed by the overwhelming feeling that I must act now.   This impulse quickly digressed to the obvious and most important step in my preparedness action plan, honest self-evaluation.  With the growing database of information on preparedness, I felt overwhelmed with my apparent lack of knowledge when it came to surviving.  I had less than a week’s worth of food in my home, no guns, and a vehicle that ran on prayers.  I could not believe I was so unprepared and had so few skills (or so I thought.)  Being a somewhat of a pessimist, I had to change my way of thinking, if I was going to implement a successful preparedness plan.  Being confident in the skills you have, and being confident in your ability to gain skills and knowledge is paramount in proper homesteading/preparedness. 

Growing up in rural Arkansas I had what I consider a farm-boy education.  I was also fortunate enough to have a few lakes and rivers within 20 miles of my home.  Like many young men that grow up outside of the city, I gained the confidence to shoot shotguns, hunting rifles, pistols, and could fish with the best of them.  I also learned basic animal tracking skills, how to recognize deer trails, squirrel nests, when the fish were more likely to bite, and various other commonplace occurrences that are found in North American outdoors.  My parents were middle-class, 50hr/wk, hard-working folks.  To earn extra income they would buy houses in need of full renovations, move our family into them, and make them new while adding a few more dollars to their checking account upon the sale.  They were house “flippers” before it became a television show.  I was entering Jr. High school when this “flipping” lifestyle began (mid-1990s), and was entrenched in the world of carpentry and home renovation.  My father was not the patient type, yet insisted on teaching me every skill necessary to improve our current dwelling.  I learned to tile floors, replace countertops, build cabinets, frame small structures, and use all the basic tools for the jobs in the process.  From a hammer to a table saw to a sewer snake, I had to learn.  This lifestyle continued until I left for college in 2003.  Throughout college I regained my love for the outdoors with camping and weeklong backpacking trips on the Buffalo River Trail.  I learned to pack light, clean my drinking water, cook food on a campfire, and how to entertain myself and friends miles from televisions, or radios.  I never put much thought into what those times were doing for me.  I simply viewed it as a great time camping with friends. 
I left institutional education to work for a company that provided cold food storage and transportation for the frozen food industry.  I was a shop foreman with 4 mechanics and metal fabricator working with me.  For the next three years I learned to completely rebuild diesel motors, gained a complete understanding of the principles of refrigeration, and all skills necessary to repair it (soldering, torch basics.)  We repaired semi-trailers with minor structural damage as well.  I learned to use air sheers, riveters, various welders, as well as working with a broad range of materials.  The culmination of all of these skills broadened my understanding of the requirements to do many repairs and fabrications as well (time involved, tools, manpower, supplies.)  I got married during my time working at the shop, and I made the decision to go back to school in order to pursue a new career.

I began school full time and worked at a pharmacy full time as well.  I was instantly certified in CPR, formally trained in the understanding of drugs, their uses, and dangers.  I worked hand in hand with healthcare professionals, gaining the knowledge of drug therapy, and disease management.  This was extremely beneficial, due to my lack of understanding I was forced to look up and learn numerous biological principles as well as conversion math for liquids powders, creams as so on.  The pharmacy job slowly progressed into a full time position in corporate headquarters for the large retail company.  This has provided the opportunity for me to work hand in hand with data security technicians.  This has further broadened my basic knowledge of computers function and security as well as communication skills and team management. 

At present I look to attack this task of preparedness.  In order to be successful you must have the right mindset.  Check!  You must evaluate your current physical inventory. Check! And you must evaluate your skills that pertain to survival.  Sometimes this task alone is the toughest to wade through.  You can buy items on a list, you can count your beans, but it takes mental fortitude to tell yourself you can do something and go the next step to admit you could use some practice and learn to be better at a few things.  The time to decide if you have a particular skill and learn it is now, not during TEOTWAWKI.  Below I will provide an example of the process to evaluate your hard skills and create a list to work on your weak ones, as to not be overwhelmed by not knowing where to start or “learning it all.”  With the information provided in earlier text I will reference the hard skills that I am confident I can use, and those that require a re-visit in the near future.  I prepared a simple chart that ranks my proficiency of each skill.  This simple rating system could apply to many aspects of preparing, but for now I use it to keep my skills sharp.  It is ranked as follows;
 1=no knowledge of skill
 2=have seen skill used in person, but never attempted skill firsthand
3=attempted skill first hand at least once
 4= familiar with skill and use it once a year
 5=use skill monthly/proficient
This list is not in order of necessity.  All items on the list are necessity when surviving TEOTWAWKI.  The rank will help you determine your skill needs.  The key to building your skills is not to make one more important than the other, but to maintain proficiency in, or firsthand knowledge of all.  This list is not meant to be definitive.  It is a personal evaluation of what you believe will benefit you in your particular situation.  You can sort it however you like (alphabetically or by importance.)  The list below is a snippet of pages of skills I have, plan to perfect, or acquire as I move through this life.




Loading, handling, cleaning personal weapons


Hunting Local Game/Fishing


Preparing game for immediate cooking


Preparing game for long term storage


Sourcing water locally


Growing seasonal garden spring/summer/fall


Preparing your garden harvest for long term storage


Starting a fire with few or no tools


Constructing emergency shelter




Make Lye Soap


Changing flat tire


Another important aspect is evaluating the skills of your immediate household.  For me it’s my wife and children.  My wife is a great homesteader in the kitchen.  She cans fresh veggies, meats, etc.  My youngest child has an eye for garden pests and animal health.  There are many skills that your family can help supplement.  Do not assume you need to max out 5’s in all of your categories.  Take into account your collective abilities and do not let this list become a negative reminder of what you are not doing.  Maintaining that positive mindset is the key to getting better.  And we all want to get better!  Similar to practicing your emergency exit plan, incorporate your family when you choose to practice your skills.  This will ease your mind as well as theirs and help you keep focused on the important prep work. 

The list could go on as long as you wish, and is meant to do so.  I, like many preppers, am becoming more aware of the benefits of organization in all aspects of my life.  The list you create will only preserve your current intentions of becoming self-sufficient, and allow you to see the progress you are making.  This in turn should help negate some of those feelings of not knowing what steps to take first, as well as giving you direction.  The difference between those that do and those that want to do is simply that.  Doing! As I stated early in my post, it can be overwhelming for most people to know where to begin.  By using a ranking system for your skills and keeping a solid inventory of them, it will build your confidence to move forward and take those necessary steps to survive!   I update my list a few times a year as I see fit.  I talk with my wife and children about skills that they would like to acquire or have been practicing.  Please do not forget that just because you are not an expert does not mean that someone else isn’t.  Seek professionals with the skill sets you wish acquire and learn what they have to offer.  Even a simple conversation could teach a trick or two about starting a fire with no matches, or keeping the slide on your weapon better lubricated while exposed to dirt and moisture.  Remember, if you knew it all you wouldn’t be reading this.  Happy prepping.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Rawles published on August 3, 2012 1:07 AM.

Letter Re: Some Notable Power Grid Articles was the previous entry in this blog.

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