We Prepare for Survival But Is It The Main Thing?

Avatar Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
We Prepare for Survival But Is It The Main Thing?

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In the past, I have written about the never ending list of things to do, the frantic pace of organizing preps, and the never ending quest to learn just one more sustainable skill.  Couple all of that with the burden of truth and knowledge that keeps you awake at night, and you have a recipe for frustration, exhaustion, and burn out.

There goes those words again.  Prepper burn out.

The truth is we all have a need for quiet, reflective, time whether we know it or not.  It is during that reflective time that we can think, really think, and focus on what is really important.  Is learning ten different ways to start a fire so important when all you really need is three?  And who do you believe?  Is there any one expert?  Or is everyone a beginner of sorts?

We Prepare For Survival But Is It The Main Thing? - Backdoor Survival

We prepare for survival but is it main thing?  In this article I present the latest think piece from contributing author Richard Broome.  Sit back with a cup of coffee and read about “the main thing”.  This is important.

The Main Thing

The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.Stephen Covey

It is a rainy day this early Sunday morning in Montana. The sun is slowly rising over the Bridger Mountains. I enjoy sitting quietly in the peaceful, dark pre-dawn of Montana, watching the sun come up over those magnificent mountains. In my home office where I do my writing, I look at them all day.

I can see fresh snow on them this morning. However, I don’t think the snow will reach us in the valley. No. I think just cold rain. This is a good day for a fire and another cup of coffee.

But today is not so peaceful. I am overcome with a sense of apprehension.

“Is the world literally getting ready to explode all around me? 

This morning I turned on one of the Sunday news programs and listened to the discussion on how ISIS is claiming they now have sufficient money to buy a nuclear weapon. Both the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of the FBI have recently discussed the possibility of ISIS already operating within the borders of this country. This is chilling. There is no doubt in my mind that if ISIS ever gets control of a nuclear weapon they would use it. On us.

During this past year dedicated visitors to Backdoor Survival will know my previous “think pieces” have addressed several ideas: the coming cyber war that I see building day-by-day, the need I see to build a culture of preparedness in our country with the same societal intensity as we now do to foster our heath and fitness, the widening gap that I think exists between the increasing multi-level complexity and dangers of the global threat against all of us, that is in juxtaposition with our lesser level of national preparedness, and so on.

Sitting here and reflecting on world events this rainy Montana morning, I have come to the very unsettling conclusion that nothing is getting any better, but rather, steadily becoming much worse. I feel like I am watching two trains about to collide head on.

One train seems to be accelerating and going faster and faster. The engineer has his head out the side yelling for more steam. The other train’s engineer also has his head out the side and is looking at the danger ahead. He seems to be rubbing his chin and thinking, ”It is really another train? Maybe it will slow down? I think I had a clear track signal a few miles back?”

All while the trains keep on coming at each other, faster and faster.

Do you really have confidence that our national leadership is seeing the train wreck coming and will act before it happens? Or, do you feel as I do that the overriding philosophy seems to be: “Move cautiously. Let’s study the problem. Certainly someone else will see this and solve it. Why stick my neck out? To me this attitude is what drives the decision process for far too many right now.

You want a glimpse of this kind of mindset and leadership? Read my first novel, Leaving The Trees. Read the first part of the book and the scenes in Washington, DC. It is very accurate. Believe me. I have been in the room at very high levels and watched these kinds of deliberations. When writing this part of the novel I was trying to convey to readers that things could all come unraveled from the selfish decisions of a powerful few.

But, this is not the main thing. I believe, in a time of increasing threat and looming crisis to this country, that there is also another and even more compelling and critically important factor to consider, which could make all the difference.


And will you, as an individual, come to the internal conviction that for you, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”

To the point, are you able to answer the fundamental questions we must all honestly ask ourselves, “Am I prepared?” but more important, “How well am I prepared?”

Because I do believe most of you sense the train wreck is coming too, but it is a nagging, silent worry as you cope with all of the other demands in your life. You are probably like the frog in the pot of boiling water. The temperature seems to be rising. You can feel it. But certainly, “Someone will do something before you become boiled?”

I am not so sure. Personally, I think you need to hop out of the pot right now. When you do, get refocused on the main thing, which is the survival of you and your loved ones.

I want you to know that I have, like many of you, dealt with a high-pressure job and multiple, pressing demands on me. I have had to cope with the very same lifestyle many of you have now. This late in the day, unexpected client meetings that kept me at work later than I had planned, a killer commute home that night in terrible traffic with a sudden, unexpected text message to do child pick ups to support my spouse (who had her own unexpected work demands to meet), the last minute pizza deliveries for a quick dinner (which was typically eaten standing up while orchestrating homework and baths), and so on.

How do we do it? Somehow. But…we all know it takes an enormous amount of energy and commitment. It also gets us distracted from many things we should spend more time on.

So as you all go about your very crowded, very busy lives, you must also still find a way to take a deep breath and try to get focused on the big picture. It is so clear in everything we read and listen to. The world we live in is facing significant threats. You simply must get yourself out of the pot of boiling water, because I do not think others will do it for you.

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One of the things I talked about was my experience in the military with readiness. Clearly, one of our most central concerns was the readiness of our military units to achieve their assigned mission. Both individually as a soldier and working together with others as a military unit, we always had to be certain we were prepared to do our assigned military task. We examined our readiness posture on a monthly basis from the individual to the largest military organizations.

We had a set of metrics for this that measured many factors to establish what we called a readiness assessment. “Did we have all the people we needed? Did they have working equipment with all the essential supplies on hand? Were they properly trained to do their specific jobs within several possible threat scenarios?” 

We would use this analysis to develop a readiness indicator for every unit within a military command. From this kind of honest self-examination we were able to diagnose our actual readiness posture and then work on any shortcomings we detected.

Similarly, as a prepper, you cannot know where you are going unless you know where you are. There are core survival principles for food supply, water supply, shelter, health, safety and individual preparedness, which many have written books and articles about. However, are we able to agree upon some metrics and standards for preparedness like the military does for readiness? I think this would be very important now as we strive to keep the main thing, the main thing.

I mean more than just checklists, but rather how to rate your preparedness on some scale like: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert or any other scale that works. How would we describe each of these levels?

There is more than a little complexity to this kind of an idea. You have to think about this within the context of where you live.

I live in Montana. We have our advantages such as lots of firewood, fresh water, fish, and game. We also have our disadvantages, very tough winters. If you live in Florida, you have a different set of factors to contend with. One solution will not fit all, but there should be a core set of standards that would allow us to self-assess and also do what our military does so well, continually identify and shore up weaknesses.

Beginner. Intermediate. Advanced. Expert. Or…something similar?

I would be interested in what others on Backdoor Survival think about this. It is important to offer our advice to each other about preparedness.

Isn’t that one of the main things too?

Richard Earl Broome –  All Rights Reserved – May 24, 2015


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 faculty at Montana State University where he teaches leadership. 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, Final Reckoning Day, will be out in the fall of 2015.

The Final Word

Something sorely lacking is a methodology whereby we can assess our preparedness efforts against a set of core standards.  Do you know of any such standards that can be applied universally to civilians not under the direction and rule of the military, government, or big business?

As citizens who embrace self-sufficiency, perhaps the best standard is the standard we set ourselves, based upon our unique needs and skill sets.  Like Richard, I am interested in your thoughts.  Think of it this way.  If  friends, relatives or co-workers came up to you and said they wanted to begin to prepare, what would you tell them.  What “gold standard” would make them preppers?

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you enjoyed this article, consider voting for Backdoor Survival daily at Top Prepper Websites!  In addition, SUBSCRIBE to email updates  and receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

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 It seems fitting that today I feature core basics of preparedness, including time-tested personal favorites for water, light, fire, shelter, and defense.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter:  The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2oz.  making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.

Sabre Family Home and Property Protection Pepper Spray:  Not everyone is comfortable with a firearm plus, getting started with guns and ammo is an expensive proposition. That, plus the training required means that you should have some other means of self-defense to get you by while you are learning about firearms. But even a hand held pepper spray such as the Sabre Compact Pepper Spray will keep you protected.

Swedish Firesteel: I have used a number of different fire making tools in all price ranges.  For me, the Swedish Firesteel is the easiest to use.  Using this basic pocket fire-starter, you can get a nice fire going under almost any conditions.  

4 Inch Premium Glow Sticks – Assorted: These 4” glow sticks are fantastic!  Each stick glows for 8-12 hours, and comes with a pre-attached hook and lanyard.  They are well priced and hold up well when packed around in a pocket or handbag.  For more information about glow sticks and chemical lighting, read 10 Reasons to Add Glow Sticks to Your Survival Kit.

Cyalume Snaplight :  These quality light sticks are mad in the United States.  They come in various sizes lasting up to 12 hours.  These are extremely bright and are the brand I store with my preps.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets: You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you. Be sure to test one out in advance so that you have the confidence to trust the blanket in an emergency. You will be amazed at how small and portable these are; a packet will easily fit in a back pocket.

Emergency Shelter Tent: The Emergency Tent is a lightweight and compact emergency shelter. It is wind and waterproof and easy to set up and is roomy enough for two people.

The Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine Handbook: Keep your loved ones healthy in every disaster, from wildfires to a complete societal collapse: There is no question in my mind, this is the book you should have as a reference to handling medical and health emergencies in a survival situation.


Help support Backdoor Survival. Purchases earn a small commission and for that I thank you!


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10 Responses to “We Prepare for Survival But Is It The Main Thing?”

  1. Thanks for your kind comment. I would also very strongly endorse Gaye’s site as a singularly excellent source of information and advice. It is all here. You just must know how to best apply it to your own situation.

    I came across this today and hope we can all start a conversation soon about how to measure and improve our individual preparedness before time runs out,


  2. Yes, this was another great article!

    Not trying to be a “brown-noser”, but if a newbie asked me where to start with prepping, I would refer the person to Backyard Survival. You have a wealth of information available to people, and there are so many other resources that people can also get to from your site. Thanks for all your good work!

  3. Wonderdul article as always! The train analogy is EXACTLY what I just couldn’t put into words myself. For a while I was feeling pretty good about my preps. I had lots of “stuff”, especially food. I thought it would would be plenty. Then, I read an article about actually MAKING MEALS with your preps. Boy was I shocked when I actually started trying to piece together breakfasts, lunches and dinners (and snacks) for my family of 5. Long story short, it took a lot of work but I feel very confident in this area now. Time to work on adding a hand pump to our well next 🙂

  4. Survival is kind of a prerequisite to everything else, so it’s a good baseline. But to avoid burn out I always recommend that once you reach a plateau you’re comfortable with, take a breather and enjoy life, even if it’s just some quiet time with loved ones. Turning off the news during these breathers is critical, because there will _always_ be a looming disaster or crisis…the old media saw, “If it bleeds, it leads” is still true and the 24 hour news cycle has amped them up.
    Now that I’ve reached a years worth of supplies for my family I can take stock and listen to the dire warnings without panic. I calmly analyze the threat du jour and think what we would need to deal with that in our area. Then I can see if I need to shore up my preps to help with that type of disaster.
    Sure, I could be better prepared if I was homesteading somewhere, but I’m willing to put up with some risk for a little R&R here and there. It all comes down to balancing your life on multiple fronts: work, family, future, etc.
    Just my 2 cents worth.

  5. You have done it again. I am a big fan of Richard’s books and his ‘think pieces.’ I frequently have that feeling of watching the trains about to collide. I have even lost some sleep over it at times. I have finally shed off the naiveté that anybody will ‘do anything about this.’ Even though I have suspected that our leaders have had that ‘I’m not sticking my neck out to do the right thing’ attitude; it still sent a chill down my spine to see you confirm it. It is imperative to ‘keep the main thing[survival] the main thing’ but as you pointed out, that requires us to take a break from our lives to find our focus. As I read that, I recalled the time I read Fahrenheit 451. Even though it was published over 60 years ago, it is profoundly chilling how accurately it portrays people so submersed in technological pseudo-reality. Your suggested scale of readiness is intriguing. I am surely not the only one who wonders ‘how ready am I really?’ or ‘how much more do I need to do?’ I personally don’t have the background of knowledge to assess myself, and I would welcome a measuring device that I could use to determine my ‘readiness posture and then work on any shortcomings … detected.’ This scale would have to be a collaboration of ‘experts’ across many fields. Maybe it could be set up similar to the EF scale that is used to classify tornados or the Richter scale for earthquakes. For instance, RP1 could indicate that you are prepared to a Readiness Posture of 1; meaning you could handle a 3 day situation (loss of utilities, flood, blizzard, minor illness/injury etc). The scale would naturally progress RP2 would be similar parameters for a 2 week situation. RP3 for a month, etc. within each RP level there would be specific criteria for each different area: water, food, shelter, sanitation, health, transportation, communication, defense, financial etc. I am having a flood of ideas for the structure of this but I lack the actual knowledge for the substance. When I read your stuff it sure gets into my head Richard! Gay I am very sorry if I have used up too much room for my post. I couldn’t help myself.
    ps. Richard, my offer still stands to proofread Final Reckoning Day 

    • Learner,

      Thank you for your very kind comments. My only desire is to encourage the prepper community to start having the kind of conversations they should be having. What ideas can we share? What can we learn from one another?

      My central idea is that if our military units, who have very diverse missions to accomplish that require a variety of people, skillsets, equipment and supplies to do their jobs (think of what an Air Force fighter squadron needs versus a Marine rifle company), how do they measure their readiness? They do it with a common set of principles and standards about readiness, yet with variations to fit their particular organization and combat mission. I think prepping can be looked at the same way.

      So, in that light…no matter where you live or what your will be challenges to survive, I think we can find the some common ground. But…we need to talk about it and then share our ideas to find a common view.

      By the way, I find your analysis of this idea in your post just spot on. Well done.


      Richard Earl Broome

      P.S. Regards editing my next novel, the first time I was on the White House staff my boss was Colin Powell who at that time was the National Security Advisor to President Reagan. One of Colin’s favorite expressions was: “Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.” 😉

  6. If ONLY I could do the same…they are so wonderful to have….had one at a forest site, and one in the backyard of an old family home. It was a beautiful thing and even at the age of 10 or so…I really thought it great! I live in an apartment in a rural town…am now 71 and the family well belongs to someone else now. And it’s also 4 hours from me….you are in a good situation and I am really happy for you and yours.

  7. We are putting in an extra well. One that doesn’t freeze or require electricity. Powered by muscle. This not only eliminates all this filtering stuff but gives us a valuable commodity. Won’t have to build an outhouse either, just carry water in to flush.

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