Tipping Our Hat to the Next Generation of Preppers

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Over the course of the last few months, I have given a lot of thought to the role of our more seasoned citizens as harbingers of the prepper movement.  Since I am very much a baby boomer, I throw myself into that lot.  As far as I am concerned, boomers are smart, funny, active, resourceful, and, for the most part, experts in perseverance.

Many of us are also MSH people, a term coined by my pal George Ure back in the early seventies. What does MSH mean?  Make “stuff” happen!

As easy as it is to praise my own generation, I find it trendy to disparage the younger generation, commonly referred to as Millennials.  Why is that?  I know some pretty awesome young adults that are as responsible and as caring about the world as I am.  They prep as well; perhaps not to the extent we do, but as much as they can given their budgets and the time to learn old-time pioneer-style skills.

Tipping Our Hat to the Next Generation of Preppers | Backdoor Survival


More over, they care about the planet, our country, and global politics.  It scares them as much as it scares us.

It is almost spooky to learn that my colleague Richard Broome has had recent thoughts along those very same line.  A couple of weeks ago, he shared his latest think piece with me and I do have to say, he is correct in his description of “quiet leadership at work”.

Quiet Leadership At Work

Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

– Inaugural Address by President John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961


Except for my brief comments about the ISIS attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015 I have been out of communication with the readers of Backdoor Survival since late last summer. But with Paris, no matter how busy I felt I was, I simply had to weigh in with my personal thoughts. I felt it was my responsibility. The events in Paris were so horrific to me and so clearly signaled a prognostication of what was to come, that I felt compelled to speak out. The night of that event I wrote the following for Backdoor Survival.

“The events in Paris Friday evening were a dark day in “The City of Light.” Terrorism became more real yesterday. In time, we will all look back at what we will ultimately realize was an epic event that should have sent us all a clear message. “I am coming to get you. This isn’t going away. It is coming to America too.” We have a rising tide of global jihadist aggression underway and I think most people are missing the religious fervor behind this movement and the terrorists’ willingness to do anything it takes to win.

Here is where strong leadership in this country is really going to matter. In a time of coming elections, we need leaders who do a better job of telling all Americans what we really stand for, the values and meaning of America, the special sauce that makes up our country, and the need for our national commitment to defeat ISIS.

Can we turn this around? Yes. We can.

We must. 

Richard Earl Broome
Bozeman, Montana”


We have had, since that day, even more horror, San Bernardino in December and then Brussels in March. All very frightening and sobering and yet…I am afraid even much more and much worse will come (if you can even conceive of that possibility).

As many of you already know, I teach at a university. When I teach, my students always receive my full attention, so my article writing is put to the side during most of the year. But now, with the semester almost over, I find I have a weekend, well temporarily anyway, where I am not looking at a stack of papers to grade. As I write this article on this really nice spring Sunday afternoon in Montana, I know my student’s are busy writing their final papers and projects for me.

Their final class assignments will all arrive in the next few days and be placed into my hands with a frantic, nervous rush. Thus…even more stacks of papers are being created and looming out there for me to grade to finish the spring semester at Montana State University. But… this is what is expected of me and I do joyfully embrace my responsibilities to teach this millennial generation. (Even if I have to grade all day long on nice sunny spring days in Montana for the next two weekends.)

Like many of you, I was raised in a home where hard work was deemed a virtue and indulging yourself by feeling a little lazy and just pleasantly doing nothing much, even on slow Sunday afternoon, always resulted in my mother or father finding something constructive for me to do. Even at my advanced age, I now find I just can’t seem to get past that feeling from my youth, the guilt I am not doing something worthwhile even when I am finished with my daily tasks. So now I do a bit of writing when the decks clear some. (Actually, just between us, I probably should be helping get the lawn ready for summer this afternoon. Hmmm, guilt rearing its head again. No. I really do want to write this think piece today.)

One of the courses I am teaching at Montana State University is in the Honors College. It has the title “Critical Perspective on Leadership in the 21st Century.” We cover many serious issues ranging from the impact on leadership in the age of the Internet, blogs and a non-stop 24X7 news cycle (I was able to have both the governor of Montana and his opponent for the fall election come and speak to the class), to the approaching takeover by the millennial generation. It is a seminar course that covers the many, many leadership challenges that face all of us.

This spring semester I made the following a writing assignment for these honors students. I wanted them to demonstrate to me some critical thinking skills, in short, not to just memorize and simply repeat back to me what others think about leadership, but express some original thoughts of their own.

I asked them to answer this question.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.” — Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher, 6th Century BC.

This 8000-thousand-year old quote is one of the more famous ones found in the writings of Lao-Tzu, a Chinese philosopher and the founder of Taoism. 

1) What do you think he meant by this quote? What style of leadership do you think he was suggesting? Support your argument.

2) Given the multilevel complexities of our current global society, such as religious wars, asymmetric threats to the citizens of all nations, economic uncertainties and the wide spread use of social media with near instant global communications:

a) Is this style of leadership still possible, or even rational to use? If you could, what would you tell Lao-Tzu about the demands on global leaders today and the leadership style they must use in 2016? 

b) Or…is the leadership style Lao-Tzu suggests still the most effective?

The papers about this question were simply extraordinary. Wow! What thoughtful papers.

My students wrote very contemplative essays that reflected deep thinking. Interestingly, while I expected to read a general opinion that “quiet leadership” (such as Lao-Tzu suggested) could no longer really work well; many students embraced it as the better way to lead people. The students convinced me they were already, informally trying to deal with what they see in the world today.

And…they made an interesting argument.

I have no idea what the demographics are of the readers of Backdoor Survival, but I suspect they could involve some gray hair, facial wrinkles and a little less skill with computers and the Internet than we would all like to admit. (Just saying and me too.)

The emerging millennial generation is much different. Here is an example. I will text on my cellphone perhaps once or twice a day. Generally, my messages are like, “Do I need to pick up something on the way home, milk?” My students laughed when I told them this. They text forty to fifty times a day and share opinions, views, discuss global events and come together more than you would think to face the new realities of the world. I have discovered there is a silent discussion going on and quiet leadership at work by the millennial generation, trying to direct and shape the issues and events they see.

My students revealed that the very power and impact of the Internet, blogs and 24X7 news cycles has resulted in a conversation, that most of older generations do not realize is going on. Opinions are being shaped and desired changes being discussed on-line. You and I see the loud, glaring cacophony we have to endure each day from the public news media. What the students see is a quiet, reasoned discussion occurring in the background.

Which brings me to the prepper movement. The verse from John 9:25 comes to mind, and to paraphrase, “I was blind, but now I can see.” With all of the discordant sounds, the tragic events and the general fury we find all around us these days, I’ve found hope from working with the millennial generation. I think we will be in good hands in the future, if we can work with them effectively.

I have published on Backdoor Survival several think pieces about how we need to do more to create a national, public conversation and to build more of a culture of preparedness movement. I now wonder if my strategy is wrong. What we may need to do is to better understand this emerging generation of leaders and how they communicate and effect change. Then, work to get them more involved with us. They are in the same leaky boat we are. Moreover, year-by-year they will be slowly rising up to take over more and more positions of responsibility in our society.

How do we go about connecting millennials with older preppers? It would seem to me a serious, important goal for us, which frankly, I am just beginning to think about. Many of us have children and grandchildren who are millennials. Don’t we want them all prepared? Yes I think we do and, if they are willing, eventually to accept “the torch” as we pass it to them.

What do the other readers of Backdoor Survival think?

By  Richard Earl Broome; April 17, 2016.  Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.


Richard Earl Broome is a contributing author and friend to Backdoor Survival. He has lived an extraordinary life rising from an Army private to an Army colonel who served on the White House staff for two Presidents of the United States as a member of their National Security Council staff.

He is considered a national expert on the subjects of preparedness, disaster recovery and survival. He is a frequent contributor of articles about the many threats facing our society, appearing frequently on shows to discuss issues such as pandemics, ISIS, and the cyber threat and how we need to meet the new threat realities facing all of us.

Now living in a small community in Montana, he is a member of the editorial board of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and also a member of the adjunct faculty at Montana State University where he teaches courses about leadership and strategy. For more about Richard, visit my About Richard page.

Also, note that his two books, Leaving The Trees and Good Crazy (Leaving The Trees Journey) (Volume 2), can be found on Amazon.  His next novel, Due Reckoning, will be out in the fall of 2016.

The Final Word

How do we go about connecting millennials with older preppers?  Indeed, that is the question.  We can do so within our family units but sometimes that will backfire.  Since the beginning of time, children have run in the opposite direction as their parents.  Just because.

On the other hand, rather than preach the prepping gospel, we can present them with problems and ask for a solution.  Be open minded and remember that millennials have not been spoiled (yet) by the inevitable failures that happen in life.  They are fresh and they see things in new ways.  They do care and they do want to make a difference.  Their solutions to our prepping dilemmas may surprise you I their awesomeness.

In closing, I just want to say this.  Regardless of your age and season of life, let us tip our hats to the next generation.  They need our support and not our disdain. They are the leaders of the tomorrow we are working so hard to preserve.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Tipping Our Hat to the Next Generation of Preppers — 13 Comments

  1. I take my 16 year old grandson food shopping to take advantage of sales and I need the extra hands or cart pushed. He helps me mark expiration dates on cans and packages and then we take everything and put it in our extra storage area and rotate anything that needs to be checked . He currently understands that we need to have preparations for power outages, tornados, blizzards, ice storms and so on. He has been introduced to camping and would like to go on more outings and learn to do more outdoor education. Recently he told his mother she needed to stock more food and paper supplies at their house in the event something happened that closed stores temporarily. She said there was not enough room to buy too much ahead. He told her if she did not figure this out he was moving in with us if things turned bad. He also told her that if we ever had to combine households she would have to bring something to the table to assure there would be enough to get by. I had to laugh, my daughter said she would have a guaranteed spot in our home if something happens because she is our daughter and he told her she had to earn her keep like he was doing by helping our household stocking items, helping Grandpa with repairs/learning how to use tools and attending Preparedness shows. My Grandson has been slowly coming on board with Preparedness over his lifetime due to weather events but also due to the fact he is growing up and is wanting to be educated. I will not turn away my daughter but I see that my Grandson has been paying attention when we talk about preparedness. Our next venture, with his mother’s permission, will be to introduce him to guns and gun safety. I also told him I was signing him up this summer for the Red Cross First AID training and CPR. He said fine but he not going to be kissing the CPR dummy, he will learn the hands only method. Without pushing him too hard, he is starting to get it and we find he listens to the news a lot more.

  2. My compliments on this edition. You often have very well written “think about it” pieces and that is what keeps me coming back for more. Thank you for your time and effort.
    We have recently retired to a more “prepper friendly” situation and hope to improve our situation with 7 acres and a pond. Our 2 oldest children,in their 30s, are like minded, so no arguments there. This piece has me brainstorming on what else I can do to connect with younger people and influence them. Thanks again.

  3. Thank you for the compliment Deb. I always hope to stimulate thinking about the things we ought to see coming and pay attention to them now, not after the SHTF and we wished we had. As we continue to age, more and more we will need the millennial generation prepared too and our partners. This starts with engaging our younger family members. I also think one source of access to younger people is your church and open discussions about prepping.

  4. I find it funny when I come across pieces like this. Not in a bad way, just honest amusement.

    The question is posed, “how do we connect with the younger generation?” You do so by doing what you are doing. You’ve already done so.

    When we wish to learn something we ask Google, or DuckDuckGo if we’re feeling stalked. The bots that crawl the internet 24/7 report back on the most likely sites to have the info we’re seeking. We check those sites out. Most people of my generation who visit and read will never leave a comment because we don’t want a record of our visit, or we are in a hurry, or we’re just feeling antisocial, or whatever. But although we might be silent we are here. We do read what you write. We’re listening, we’re learning, we’re talking to each other and saying “hey, have you read this? Have you seen this?” You just don’t see it because we Skype it, we IM it, we tweet and tumblr and facebook it. The links are truncated in tinyurl to make them fit 140 characters or just look less ugly.

    We make gifs and comics and memes to laugh at things but also remind ourselves, oh yeah, that exists and is a problem, what the hell do we do about it? There’s not a board alive that doesn’t have a dedicated news section or unofficial news thread pop up about critical issues. GOG, a company all about selling games, with a board all about how to make those games run on today’s computers, still gets threads in the General Discussion on what is happening in the Ukraine, how does it affect Poland, what is happening in Venezuela, can anyone get ahold of Paulo because holy frick he lives down there and hasn’t logged in in a week, etc, etc. A deviantArtist slowed and then stopped his Nuzlocke. Why? Because he turned 18 and he’s Israeli. It’s hard to post a pokemon run when you’re in the army. Why does that matter? Because it reminded everyone who followed the run that conscription is a thing that can and does happen.

    We’re talking, talking, talking all the time. To people all over the world. We’re reading comics and laughing because otherwise we’d cry and at least if they are funny we can share them as humor and higher ups overlook the fact that they’re News with a capital N. Read SMBC. More than half of it is about the news or hard hitting current events. Savage Chickens? Yeah, it’s doodles of chickens drawn on postit notes… discussing modern work conditions for a good quarter of it. Pretty much every Polandball ever is politics and history, same with Scandinavia and the World. Even 4chan, the cesspool of the internet where all that’s good in the world has died, even there there is /news/ and /pol/. Heck, /b/ tosses stuff up once in a while in-between all the porn and general idiocy of itself.

    Then there’s the games. Have you looked, really looked at the games lately? I used to play Runescape back in the day. Standard run around hit enemies with a sword or blast them with a fireball kind of game, right? Except I made my gold selling cakes. It’s standard in games for food to heal you. Sure. And if there’s food we might as well let a player make it than just buy it from a vendor. So there’s an entire cooking line of crafts in Runescape teaching kids that it takes flour, eggs, and milk to make a cake. You get a bucket and milk a cow, you harvest wheat and grind it in to flour, you track down the chicken coop and collect eggs, you do all this and then get a cake tin and find a place to cook it in. Then you hope your cooking skill is high enough you don’t burn it. Metallurgy gets taught in these, of course it takes coal and iron to make steel, of course it takes tin and copper to make bronze, I just made 20 bronze pickaxes of course I know that.

    Runescape came out in 2001. Minecraft came out in 2009. It didn’t have a tutorial, it didn’t have an instruction manual, it just generated the user into a world with nothing on them. The goal? Survive. Survive every night. Build a shelter, make torches, make an axe, make a pickaxe, make food, make weapons, make a boat, make a fishing pole, make, make, make. Don’t Starve came out in 2013. Again, survive, make, don’t die. Forage. Try not to die. Dwarf Fortress, renowned for being one of the hardest games in existence… take seven dwarves, go to the middle of nowhere, try not to die. Make soap, make thread, make clothes, mend broken bones, make glass, make pottery, butcher animals to make food, forage for wild fruits, be attacked every winter and more. Make, make, make.

    Politically? Paper’s Please came out in 2013. One of the darkest games to ever be written. Or try Crusader Kings II for the most accurate history generator out there. Avernum a series that spanned 15 years to create. What was the plot for Avernum? All the political dissidents get thrown into a cave system and were supposed to die. They didn’t. There’s more, so many more. Age of Empires, the Civ series, Simcity, all the 4X games about building empires, what do they all teach? Politics. Producing enough food to feed your people, having enough industry to make enough to trade, making allies, going to war, trying to recover from war. Lose your empire? Try again. And again. And again. Try again until you understand that your people starve if you trade away all your food. Until you work out which has higher priority, soldiers or workers. Bakers or steelmakers. Try again until you have a firm grasp of understanding how those priorities change. We’re simulating histories on the microcosm.

    Ever played Skyrim? Forged your own sword, sharpened it, really looked at the sawmills and the farms, gathered wild plants to make into potions to cure yourself? Yeah, we hide a lot of stuff in games. Did you ever notice that harvestable plants in most games grow in the proper biomes? That there’s almost always a written summary of them when you look at the more indepth info? Did you notice that games that use plants for making potions often take the time to pair plants that have historically been used for medicinal purposes with things that are relevant? Because trust me, kids who play these wonder about that. They pick up books in used bookstores and libraries and look it up. Games plant the seed of the idea that hey there might be another way to help yourself.

    X-COM is about killing aliens. X-COM says, those who shoot out in the open, die. Those who don’t have good teamwork within a squad, die. Even a clear shot can miss. X-COM says, sometimes your best isn’t good enough.

    There’s not a zombie game out there that doesn’t teach rationing your supplies.

    Our video games are thought exercises, they’re teachers, they show even when they can’t tell. They’re a media of learning that nobody pays attention to because you should “stop wasting your time playing video games.”

    Then there’s the music. Do you know how it feels to know, really know, that your entire life you have had no voice? That your parents had it so much better than you ever will. That you might hope to make the same money your grandparents made while paying cost of living 5, 10, 20 times more? My class was called the Class of Apathy. It’s not that we didn’t want to change things, it’s that it had been drummed into our heads that we could not. The rules and regulations and testings changing on a daily basis. Sit down, shut up, obey the teachers, don’t ask questions, don’t voice a different opinion. So what’s our voice sound like? Blow – Theory of a Deadman; The Vengeful One – Disturbed (watch the video); Edge of a Revolution – Nickelback; Cut the Cord – Shinedown; Untraveled Road – Thousand Foot Krutch; Hail to the King – Avenged Sevenfold; Riot – Three Days Grace; Wrong Side of Heaven – FFDP (watch the video). It sounds like that.

    TL;DR – keep doing what you’re doing. We’re already here. We’re just quiet about it.

    • Wow!!!!! What a great response! I am so glad you explained what really goes on in the video games that my generation considers mind-numbing time-wasters. If even a fraction of millenials are as lucid as you are, then there’s hope for the world. Thank you for showing us that your generation has much more going for them than we have ever imagined possible.

  5. Couldn’t have said it better myself. My father-USNA grad, engineer, board member type guy-had his world turned upside down dealing with my kids. He was grousing one night at dinner about a poll he read (in the Wall Street Journal) that said something like 75-80% of Millenials don’t watch the news. My oldest laughed. Of course we don’t, he said. There isn’t any actual news on it. And they launched into a discussion that lasted 3 hours and challenged every assumption about the world and the upcoming generation he had. My oldest knew about Crimea before my dad did-from his online friend who lives there. Ukraine? Same thing, only they don’t talk much anymore, hard to get online. My 11 year old daughter schooled him on the modern Kremlin, Cold War survivor that he is (her Finnish online friend lives 60 miles from the boarder). Richard Broome and GardenNut are right. It’s a new, evolving world of thoughtful, intelligent people who grew up knowing people crash airplanes into tall buildings and do things like shoot people in schools, theaters, work places, concerts, airports. Zombies may not be real, but the threat they represent is not. So, these kids are talking about it in new ways outside the 24 hour news cycle. How do you deal with a world steeped in poverty, disease, 7 billion people, and only one precious planet? They want to figure it out in ways that actually work without hurting the planet, that aren’t necessarily top down, one size fits all, easy two sentence answers. When people complain about computer games, I reply that my oldest credits Victoria Two for not missing a single question in AP US History, and is repeating that in AP European History. Physics, chemistry, math, politics, economics, sociology, government, it’s all there; they’re playing cooperatively across national and international borders, trying, failing, trying again. My middle son, who has Aspergers Syndrome, loves to point out, like Mr. Broome did, that “the way we’ve always done it” can clearly no longer be the sacred cow it’s been. Because here we are.

  6. Not only is this a thought-provoking article, but the comments afterward are the most mind-blowing I’ve ever seen in Backdoor Survival. There may not be enough superlatives to describe its effect on me!

  7. Well….Thanks everyone. Just trying to use Gaye’s forum to get us all thinking more deeply about all of these things. Looks like I touched on an important topic we needed to raise. Where do we go from here?

  8. Gaye, namaste.

    When you wrote this (excellent, thought-provoking) article, something very interesting happened. Without even knowing it, you practiced exactly what Lao-Tzu in his Tao Te Ching suggested. You just gave us all a real-life example of how you can lead according to Lao Tzu.

    Why? Because I am a millenial. I’ve never ever been to your site before or even know who are beyond what I just read above and on your about page.

    You ‘did nothing’, yet here I am, connecting to you via a common, universal thread that inextricably connects us all. I didn’t need you to make an effort to ‘reach out to me’, or ‘join together to discuss common problems’ or anything else that belongs in the world of corporatopia.

    You did what was in your heart and somehow, by some unknown yet ubiqitous force, here I am, feeling compelled to let you know we’re here.

    In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu also wrote: “nature does not do, yet nothing is left undone.”

    My interpretation of this quote, and my response to your question, is that you don’t need to worry about ‘how’, because what the world needs is already happening.

    Thank you for doing what you do. That is all you need to do.

  9. Wow! What a thought provoking article and comments. I haven’t had much time lately to read your blog but I always try to look back at what I missed and “catch up”. So glad I did.

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