Tag Archives: skills

Three Critical Post-Apocalyptic Skills You May Not Have

In some circles, attention is focused on a few skills (shooting, primarily, but emergency/trauma medicine also) which are indeed crucial – at times – but are also among the sexier of the skills which might come in handy in some sort of crisis. In fact, if you have some of the below skills, you might not have to use the ones named above.

Side note – I have used “post-apocalyptic” in the title because it will attract attention. These things also come in handy in today’s world.


If you ever leave the pavement – and sometimes even if you don’t – you’re going to leave tracks that can be followed. Being followed might be a problem. You might also need to follow tracks for a variety of reasons – finding a lost family member, for example, or tracking a wounded animal. I have only the most rudimentary of tracking skills. I can tell a deer print from a human, most of the time.

While tracking skills can certainly be developed, the tracking abilities of some people, in my opinion, border on the supernatural. A friend of mine is a member of BORSTAR (Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue) agent, and we recently discussed tracking. I learned a lot, but he’s had years of practice, and there’s really no substitute for that.

In addition to the ability to follow someone, an astonishing amount of intelligence can be gathered from prints – not only basic things like the number of people in a group, but how tired they are, how much weight they’re carrying, if they’re a pregnant woman, etc. If you have the chance to learn about tracking, I would not pass it up.

“That one’s a Sagittarius.”


Sanitary Food Preparation

Puking post-partaking in poorly prepared pho is pathetic.

I know because I’ve done it.

But a bad case of salmonella when you don’t have access to medical care? Potentially fatal. And everyone who’s played Oregon Trail knows how deadly dysentery is.

I first learned about sanitary procedures for food preparation and medical care from my mother, an ER nurse and gourmet chef, and later learned more from the military. If you didn’t have these advantages, don’t fret. Learning how to prepare food and water is fairly straightforward. The CDC has information on this exact topic.

Situational Awareness

When I was getting ready to deploy with 5th Marines, I was told how critical it was that I do a “5 and 25” whenever our vehicles stopped. Unfortunately, no one ever told me what a “5 and 25” actually was. I eventually Googled it and found that I was supposed to look for danger within 5 meters of the vehicle immediately, and within 25 meters if we stopped for a longer period of time. This was my first exposure to situational awareness in terms of armed combat.

Although scanning for IEDs isn’t the same exact thing as scanning for speed traps, situational awareness is something that can be applied across a variety of tasks. It is not as simple as constantly scanning for threats, but more of a nuanced and intuitive, and sometimes passive, observation of one’s surrounding area and in part looking for things that don’t belong.

It can also be important to know the placement of objects when stationary – for example the layout of a room and the location of the exits before it is plunged into darkness. But it’s equally important when moving, such as knowing the location of vehicles around your own as you travel down the highway, which gives you the ability to make an emergency lane change with the least possible delay when necessary.

Sometimes, simply being aware of a threat and letting he/she/it know that you are aware of his/her/its presence is enough to avoid trouble.
This snake was aware of my presence.

As your speed increases, your ability to be aware of your surroundings generally decreases. If you are running across rocky ground while tracking criminal elements, you may need to focus on where to place your feet so as to avoid falls or injury. You may also need to focus on checking the bushes and trees ahead for signs of an ambush – but you may not be able to do both of these things at once while running.

Knowledge and experience both play a role when it comes to situational awareness, as does mindset. From an academic standpoint, Gavin de Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear” is an excellent primer. But experience must be gained in the real world.


Focusing On Your Weak Points

It’s easy to fall into a rut in any sort of activity – a comfortable place where you only practice the things you’re good at, and therefore think you’re good at the activity as a whole. This could apply to shooting, driving, flying, running, waterskiing, etc. As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss.

I was shooting with Mike Pannone a week or so back and shot a new drill he is working on which forces the shooter to do things he or she normally wouldn’t do (for practice purposes) at various yard lines and within certain time limitations – I will let him come forth with the details, but the way he has structured it made a lot of sense to me. It pushes the shooter out of his comfort zone.

This made me think about how earlier this year, I decided to focus on one area I thought I had ignored for too long – bullseye shooting – and spent quite a lot of time improving my skills in this area. In fact, “fixing my failings” is something I’ve tried to do for a very long time. Not only have I chosen to try to build skills across various disciplines – mastering none but become decent at many – I try to focus on improving whatever subsets of skills in which I find myself to be weak.

I'm still working on my "human torpedo" abilities.

When I first started driving, I thought I was Petter Solberg. Heck, a movie producer paid me to drive him around in a Bentley. Did it go to my head? Kinda. However, after spinning out various V8 and turbo V6 cars on paved roads which had small amounts of dirt strewn across the surface, I knew I needed to improve not only my ability to control a vehicle in these circumstances, but learn to recognize the signs the car was giving me in the fractions of a second before the car swapped ends.

Long hours spent practicing car control on desolate roads – as well as professional instruction at schools like Bondurant – have paid off, such as when I had a blowout in my Mini at 110mph, when I’ve had the opportunity to do fun things like push a Z06 Corvette to its absolute limits in Italy, or every time I drive my 450hp, 2800lb classic Mustang, which I built with my dad from the bottom up, in the rain. Even so, I still know that I’m not perfect – the first time I tried to spin the Z06 around a cone with the stability control/traction control off, I just managed to make a lot of smoke and spin the car around in no particular pattern.

One of the next “weak areas” I’ve identified as far as driving goes is fine-tuning braking before a corner to manage weight transfer (as appropriate for the corner). I’ve plenty of room for improvement as a driver, but this is what I’m focusing on next.

Failure has never looked so impressive.

Flying is something else I spend a good bit of time doing. I learned to fly on floats in Alaska, and flying on floats is quite different than flying on wheels. One thing that’s notably different is dealing with a crosswind – when you’re on the water, as long as you’re not forced to land in one particular direction for some other reason, you can just line up into the wind (looking for the crests of the waves to tell you this) and land.

On wheels, you’re probably going to land on a runway, and while many airports have multiple runways for you to choose from, others only give you one. Depending on how strong the wind is, you might not be able to effectively control the aircraft and land – but at points below that limit, it’s possible to use various techniques to land safely. Dealing with crosswinds was something that I didn’t pick up overnight and still haven’t fully mastered – but when the winds pick up around here, rather than saying “nah, it’s too windy to fly,” I say “Hey, this looks like a good time to practice landing in a crosswind.”  Similar to driving a car at its limits, learning to feel what the airplane is communicating to the pilot is vital to, well, not dying in a fiery crash.

My next hurdle, flying-skill-wise, is getting better at short field landings, especially when dealing with updrafts and downdrafts due to terrain. I know I can make great short field landings, because I’ve done them – but I can’t do it as consistently as I’d like.

Landing (or taking off, in this case) in a crosswind is like drifting in midair. Fun.

The reason why I bring in driving and flying is simple – while this is a firearm-focused blog, I want my readers to identify whatever skills might be critical to their daily lives – whether they have to do with shooting or not. If you’re a police officer and you’re a good shooter, but your “subduing a resisting suspect” skills are lacking, polish them up before some bath salt-enraged dude takes you down and eats your face. If you’re a Border Patrol agent working alone in the desert and you can’t read sign to save your life, focus on that.

I can’t tell you what you’re not good at, but chances are that you know better than anyone. Take some time to identify and work on these issues. Even if you’re really good at something, chances are that you’ve got a few weak points.

After much concentration, study, and practice, I have truly mastered the art of eating real gelato (while wearing sunglasses indoors).


Performance Under Stress

In this video, I relate some of the lessons I’ve learned about performance under stress, and how to improve my chances of survival in a dangerous situation. In order to provide a background for the opinions I have formed, I describe a few of the stressful situations I have encountered. I do not include them in order to boast or brag – they are the cornerstones of my experience regarding performance under stress. As you will see, I have learned as much – or more – from failure as I have from success.