Prepping: The Fundamentals of Preparedness Made Easy!

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Prepping has been in my mind as far back as I can remember. When I was a young child, my mother told me that my grandfather was a violent and abusive alcoholic who would go ballistic at the drop of a hat. Now, I don’t recall seeing that in him, but he also underwent shock treatments in the 1960s, so maybe they worked.

Mom told me that her father would yell and go nuts while driving when she was a child. As a result, she thought her mother might jump out of the car at any moment. She said that she always had her coloring book and doll in her arms whenever they drove anywhere, in case her mother decided to dive out of the car. My mother was prepared to follow her and was always ready to jump out if the chance arose. She finished her statement with something like, “You always have to be ready.”

At the time, I recall thinking how crazy that sounded, and yet, how it also made sense and felt comforting to consider. I don’t know if that was my watershed moment, but I remember her telling me to “always be ready” really registered with me, a guy whose life was wiring him that way. What I didn’t know was what it meant to ‘be ready’ and what I was supposed to be ready for.

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What Is Prepping?

It’s essential that, when we talk prepping, you and I are on the same page regarding the basics. We have to speak the same language beyond prepper acronyms. So, before we go any further, I want to ensure we have a commonality of terminology, particularly on the definition of preparedness.

Department of Homeland Security Definition

The challenge with defining preparedness is that there is no standard definition. For example, the Department of Homeland Security, which you think would have nailed it, defines preparedness as “a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action in an effort to ensure effective coordination during incident response.”

Besides being a long-winded definition, what are they getting at there? What are they really telling us? If we boil it down to its essence, DHS is telling us that its goal is to ensure effective coordination during incident response…Hmmmmm… okay…?

Yes, they are bringing in assets and resources, but I don’t see anything in there that indicates saving lives or reducing people’s struggle. Maybe that’s the implied end goal, and as Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters illustrate, it’s not showing up in their definition.

I am totally on board with the “continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective actions” part, but they kind of lose me at the end because they don’t have a well-defined purpose and end goal. Why do all that planning, organizing, and ‘effective coordinating’ without stating something other than an administrative goal?

New York State Department of Health Definition

The New York State Department of Health defines preparedness as “the steps you take to ensure you are safe before, during, and after an emergency or a natural disaster.” That’s cool because you are preparing for an emergency or a natural disaster, but real preparedness isn’t just being ready for something negative to happen. You are preparing for opportunities, too, so you are at your best to capitalize on that opportunity when it occurs.

Maybe you are saving money and stockpiling three months’ worth of food in anticipation of starting a business or pursuing a new certification to open up better opportunities at your place of employment. Neither is an emergency or a natural disaster, but both should be prepared for if you have set those as goals.

Preparedness also involves looking for opportunities to improve your situation or improve your life by minimizing the negative. Again, this type of preparedness doesn’t include catastrophic events, just ways to improve your situation—modifying your home so that you can age in safety and comfort or perhaps creating a plan for getting out of debt.

Merriam-Webster Definition

Finally, the usually reliable Merriam-Webster dictionary defines preparedness as “the quality or state of being prepared.” Besides a definition written by Captain Obvious, that may be the best ‘I didn’t study for the test’ answer ever.

We still need a standard definition of preparedness. So, here is my definition: Preparedness is all the efforts taken to ensure survival, minimize unwanted struggle, and live your best possible life.

Goals of Preparedness: Survival

Now that we have our definition of preparedness, let’s focus on the three goals of preparedness: survival, minimize unwanted struggle, and to live your best life possible.

Survival is the first goal because, without survival, there is nothing left. If you don’t survive, you’re not around to prepare or do anything else, such as live your best life.

Massive Trauma

There are two basic aspects to survival: avoiding massive trauma and maintaining homeostasis. Massive trauma instantaneously ends our survival and includes events that are so powerful there is no future concern for the person whose life felt the impact of the massive trauma—because they are dead. We need to avoid that to get to the next aspect of survival, homeostasis.


If you’re not instantly dead from massive trauma, your next survival hurdle will be maintaining homeostasis. This is where our biological systems maintain a reasonably constant state while interacting with (and adjusting to) external conditions or changes that originate inside the body. In other words, our bodies are constantly working to maintain an equilibrium.

If our body is low on blood, it speeds up our heart to ensure oxygen gets to the brain. When we get too hot, we sweat. When we get too cold, we shiver. If we don’t drink enough, our throat gets dry. When we don’t eat, we get hungry. The fact is, our bodies are constantly adjusting to keep everything in balance, to keep us functioning as optimally as possible.

Unfortunately, the human body cannot always compensate for the problems it experiences. If bleeding isn’t stopped, for example, a person can suffer brain damage and death. Likewise, exposure to extremely cold weather eventually leads to hypothermia, which leads to difficulty functioning, which leads to—yep, you guessed it—death.

Sweating can only go so far in keeping a person cool, and without intervention, overheating can lead to permanent injury or even death. The same goes for the lack of water and food. Go long enough without either, and our bodies will no longer be able to compensate and adjust.

Survival is a Two-Step Process

Therefore, survival is a two-step process: Avoid massive trauma and maintain homeostasis. Once survival is taken care of, the next goal of prepping is to minimize the unwanted struggle in our lives.

Goals of Preparedness: Wanted vs. Unwanted Struggle

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

We’ve already covered that the First Noble Truth of Buddhism teaches that “life is suffering.” And as we know, suffering and unwanted struggle happen when we are forced to endure something.

I don’t want to be forced to endure something. I don’t want to be forced to do anything, for that matter, and I definitely don’t want to be forced to endure unwanted struggle. Like you, I want to choose to endure something.

Choose Your Struggle

If struggle is involved, I want to choose how and why I do it. Whereas unwanted struggle is something you are forced to endure, wanted struggle is something you choose to endure. And yes, wanted struggle can include suffering, in which case you are “forcing yourself” to endure the struggle.

Unwanted struggle includes and is not limited to health problems, financial difficulties, disasters, personal loss, relationship issues, heartache, addiction, and anything that prevents you from surviving, struggling less, and living your best life possible.

Wanted struggle can include working through college, being a single mother with two jobs, a mechanic father turning wrenches in the driveway, eating healthy, exercising, training with your prepper gear, etc.

Wanted struggle is intentional, and we hope to improve our lives by engaging in wanted struggle. We want to grow and be rewarded for our effort. In my case, I’m a hermit, and coming out of my cave can be a struggle. However, I need to come out of my cave to live a more fulfilling life. And, when I force myself to get out and do things, I usually have a great time and am happy I did.

Struggle is Not Easy

Knowing this is usually the end result, however, still doesn’t make it any easier the next time I have to force myself to go out—it remains a wanted struggle.

Working on my own preparedness can also be a wanted struggle. I want to do it, and I struggle to get it done. Once it’s done, though, I’m happy and more confident because I am better prepared. When we accomplish our goals by way of wanted struggle, we are rewarded by a dopamine release of success.

Struggle Can Provide Growth

While typically unwelcome, we can also experience growth from unwanted struggle. This includes things like health issues, the loss of your home, financial difficulties, family problems, a car wreck, violent crime, and so on.

While we are intentional about wanted struggle, unwanted struggle is a struggle that we prefer to avoid; that’s why we prepare—to minimize and eliminate it.

Goals of Preparedness: To Live Our Best Possible Life

When we are successful in achieving the first two goals of preparedness—survival and minimizing unwanted struggle—we will likely find ourselves in a better position to lead longer, happier, and more fulfilling lives.

This is where we find the opportunity to climb the pyramid of life to experience love and belonging, and eventually, if we position and prepare ourselves properly, it leads to living our best possible lives.

Mind4Survival Factors of Success

Factors of Success: Mindset

We achieve our prepping goals by maximizing our factors of success. Notice, I didn’t say chances of success; while chance, luck, and fate should have no bearing on our preparedness, they might have an impact on our success. Stay with me here.

There are three factors of success: mindset, ability, and luck. This is where we pit our controllable factors of success, mindset, and ability against the uncontrollable factor of luck. Luck, both good and bad, is uncontrollable and, as such, should never be counted on as part of your prepping.

The way we minimize the negative effects of luck while maximizing the positive is by maximizing the first two factors of success, mindset, and ability. In effect, by maximizing mindset and ability, you are eliminating any concern or need for luck. Therefore, when we prepare to overcome adversity, we are preparing by doing our best to make the most out of our mindset and ability.

Definition of Mindset

I define mindset as our mental readiness and awareness, which shapes how we make sense of and interpret ourselves, the world around us, and our situation within that world. Are we upbeat, happy, and perceive the world through rose-colored glasses, or do we view things from a veil of despair?

Mindset also influences how people think and act in response to a situation, and for those who want to prepare, sets us on our path to becoming better prepared.

Starting on the preparedness path can be, like me, in your fundamental wiring, or it can originate from a personal epiphany or “a-ha!” moment later in life. It’s our a-ha moment when we realize and accept that we may not be as prepared as we wish we were.

And, it’s our mindset that determines our acceptance and response to our epiphany moment.


While discussing mindset, it’s important that I begin breaking down a significant piece of my Mind4Survival philosophy by breaking the ice on the reality of perception. With that, it’s a good time to mention what I refer to as perceived preparedness.

Perceived Preparedness

Perceived preparedness, because it’s a perception, which is also known as a belief or opinion, is a person’s feeling about how prepared they are. And while feelings can be based on fact, they are not reliant upon them. This leads many people, even crazy preppers, to believe they are prepared when they are, unfortunately, woefully unprepared.

In the end, it’s crucial to remember that our perception, individually and in groups, does not always equal reality. Our perception is skewed by our biases, our culture, and our upbringing. Everything that goes in factors into who we are—our personality, the fabric in the fiber of our being—and has the potential to skew our perception of reality. Our perception has the ability to make us believe we are always right, others are always wrong, and that our emergency preparedness is 100% ready to go when none of those are reality.

Think about it this way: if you and I were standing out in the field, looking at the trees surrounding the field, you and I would not see the same thing because I have color vision problems. In fact, with everyone having different angles of view, strengths of vision, fields of vision, lazy eyes, stigmatisms, color vision, etc., the odds are, like fingerprints, none of us see the world exactly the same. Therefore, if we were all standing in a field looking at trees together, none of us would see the trees the same.

Perception is Unique

The fact is, pretty much everybody walking around the world today has a different perception of reality. Everybody sees the world differently—literally. We all, due to the individuality of human nature, see the world and the reality within it differently than one another, even if that difference is only the thinnest, one degree of difference of shade and separation.

On top of physically seeing reality differently from one person to another, everyone heaps on all the other stuff—biases, culture, background, and so on—which isolates our individual perceptions even further. What that does is make all of our views of reality flawed because we are not seeing the true reality. We’re looking through a filter of bias and seeing our own individual versions, our perspectives of reality.

The “A-ha” Moment

Our mindset determines what we do in response to our a-ha moment. Do we take our newfound realization seriously? Do we say, “Hey, I believe that I can be better prepared, so let me see what I can do to improve my readiness?”

Sometimes our epiphany results in people feeling safer, more confident, more self-reliant, and better prepared to take care of themselves and their loved ones. Most likely, you’re here because you want the confidence that being better prepared brings. (If that’s you, awesome! Congratulations on your newfound mindset and working towards  freedom from anxiety, worry, and fear.)

Other times, however, the a-ha moment causes people to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and totally unprepared to take care of themselves and their loved ones when it matters most. (And if that’s you, that’s fine, too, because that’s totally normal. A lot of people worry after they have their a-ha preparedness moment. I know I did).

You are Already Better Prepared!

Mind4Survival Book Link

If your “I’ve got to get prepared” moment has you feeling a bit stressed out, try not to worry. After all, as a result of you reading this book, which is wanted struggle, you are already leveling up and becoming better prepared—CONGRATS!

Mindset is controllable—meaning we have the ability to improve our mindset should we decide to do so. We have a choice to either be complacent and accept unwanted struggle as it happens or to be proactive in addressing unwanted struggle by asking ourselves the hard questions that truly matter to our preparedness.

The questions that our mindset allows us to ask are:

  • Are you willing to look and think outside of your comfort zone in an effort to become better prepared?
  • In so doing, are you willing to consider that you may not be as capable as you believe you are and, therefore, not as prepared as you believe?
  • Are you also willing to consider that you may only be partially right on topics that you’re certain about and have room for 100% improvement on others?

If you are willing to be personally honest and look at yourself critically, you will be in a much better position to avoid the pitfalls such as overconfidence and bias that can lead to a catastrophe during times of struggle. As Horace, the Roman poet said: “Rule your mind, or it will rule you.”

Factors of Success: Ability

The second factor of success is ability, and I define ability as having the knowledge, skill, and resources to do something.

Knowledge and skill are the internal components of ability, and it’s your combination of these that determines how well you can do something. While knowledge and skill are internal components, they rely on resources which are the external components we use to succeed in the goals of prepping. They include the:

  • Books we use to expand our mindset
  • Air we breathe, which keeps our brains alive
  • Tools, materials, and finances we use to keep a roof over our heads
  • Water to keep our bodies hydrated
  • Food required for sustenance

Fortunately, as with mindset, we can control our ability. Yes, we may have limitations, but over time, we can improve and hone our abilities through increased knowledge and skill. In other words, we can all improve our capability to survive, suffer less, and live more confident, worry-free lives.

Factors of Success: Luck

Finally, we have the third factor of success: luck. The Roman statesman Cicero is credited with the quote, “Fortune is blind.” In other words, luck is uncertain; there is no rhyme or reason to it.

There are no guarantees when it comes to luck. With luck, we have only uncontrollable, random chance. In fact, even if we cross our fingers, the only sure thing when it comes to luck is that, unlike mindset and ability, it is totally uncontrollable. Since luck is one hundred percent uncontrollable, it is an unreliable factor of success.

Now I personally love good luck—who doesn’t? When it helps, luck is awesome. When it causes problems, especially when it turns a situation from bad to worse, luck totally sucks. Therefore, because luck is unpredictable and uncontrollable, we must not depend upon it as a factor of success, especially when it comes to preparedness.

In order to be as effective as possible in achieving our prepping goals, we must work to maximize the factors of preparedness that we can control and, as a result, improve upon. Because no matter how much you increase your ability and how much you improve your mindset, you always need to be ready to trump luck.

The Success Formula

The opportunity to be successful at anything is based on capability and luck.  When it comes to successful preparedness, the ability to survive, minimize unwanted struggle and live our best possible lives relies on our capability (mindset + ability) combined with any good or bad luck that heads our way.  Therefore, success can be calculated as:

What the success formula shows is that by improving what we can control—namely, our mindset and ability—we are better positioned to overcome bad luck when it shows up. Likewise, by improving our mindset and ability, we are also able to capitalize on our good luck when it shows up as well. As I discussed earlier, mindset and ability are internal factors we can control, while luck is purely external and out of our control.

Prepping Focuses on the Good!

Remember, prepping is just not focused on the bad. It is focused on maximizing the good in our lives as well. Ultimately, it’s our ability to make the most out of either bad or good luck, and that lies within our capability.

Prepping Creates Opportunity

Some will argue that we create our own luck through prepping. I will counter that by saying that we don’t create luck; we create increased opportunity for mindset and ability to capitalize on the very nuanced, and sometimes unconsciously recognized, opportunities that present themselves.

For example, someone who, without appearing to think, reacts nearly instantaneously to avoid a threat like an oncoming bus or automobile and the person dives out of the way. Some might say that person is lucky, while others conclude their mindset and ability helped them sidestep a moment of bad luck. Remember, our perceptions prevent us from seeing the true reality.

The Foundation of Preparedness

Preparedness establishes the foundation for us to capitalize on opportunities. So, if preparedness sets the stage for helping us to lead better lives, what constitutes preparedness? What makes up its true foundation?

The foundation of preparedness is made up of our capability, which is based on the controllable factors of the success formula: mindset and ability. We also control how solid our foundation of preparedness is.

The more work (wanted struggle) we put in to enhance our mindset and ability, the greater, the more solid, the better established our foundation of prepping that we build for ourselves will be. And, it’s building a solid prepping foundation that helps us to become more capable of mitigating and recovering from any harm that may threaten us.

Taking positive actions and performing wanted struggles such as learning, training, researching, practicing, and working to ensure we maximize our mindset and ability ensure that we will become better prepared. Doing what you’re doing right now—listening to this podcast on prepping basics—is ensuring that you will be better prepared.

emergency food kits MRE

The Fundamentals of Preparedness

While prepping basics include the things many people like to focus on, such as emergency food kits, food storage space, everyday carry gear, and other emergency supplies, that isn’t the big picture. No matter what, it’s the fundamentals of preparedness that matters. The fundamentals always apply, and now that you understand my fundamentals, you’re better prepared.

What you are better prepared to do, is meet the fundamentals of preparedness, which is what this book is based on (M4S):

Stay safe,
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Prepping: The Fundamentals of Preparedness Made Easy!

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