One underlying fact of life on this planet is that in any war, conflict, natural disaster, or other less than happy circumstances, you will have to deal with other human beings – perhaps lots of them.
People are everywhere.
And we’re responsible for nearly every bad thing that happens that results from it.
Humans are notoriously unreliable and unpredictable on an individual basis.
On a larger scale, human behavior is more predictable – but that doesn’t much help us in a crisis. We have to deal with individuals.
How can you tell who is reliable? Moral? Loyal? Who is smart, and who is an idiot? Who has skills? Who will fall apart? Who is the leader?
Who is the follower? Who is my scarecrow, and who is my cowardly lion? By the way, you may or may not want a tin man.
With no heart, he might be a tremendous asset to your team. Or the guy who coldly slits your throat in the middle of the night.
So How Do You Size People Up?
First of all, let’s talk about sizing them up before the shit hits the fan. You want to get a good read on someone while things are still relatively ordinary, before the stress hits.
However, getting a good read in ordinary times can be difficult. Humans react differently under stress.
The big, muscular, arrogant, tattooed guy with the black belt in Jujitsu may swagger from Starbucks to Starbucks in this modern, 21st Century life, only to collapse with fear when his actual life is on the line.
Do you want to align yourself with this guy only to find out later he’s useless in a real emergency?
So what are some characteristics we’d consider favorable?
How about physically fit, intelligent, knowledgeable, moral, or mentally disciplined?
You notice tattooed is not on the list? Neither is gun-owner. Neither is a powerlifter. Having full sleeves, a 9mm Glock, and being able to “clean and jerk” 300 lbs does not make one an asset in an emergency.
Let’s examine what does.
By this, I mean one whose physical condition is an asset, not a liability. This analysis does not mean one has to be a super tough-guy – though that is fine.
It doesn’t mean one has to be able to run a marathon, either. However, one who can lift moderate weights, walk long distances, and generally has the stamina to keep it up over time is an asset.
A muscle-bound gorilla is of little utility, as is a snowflake who can’t go thirty minutes without a drink of water.
Stamina is more important than strength or speed.
Have you noticed intelligence and knowledge are two separate categories?
Intelligence reflects a good sense of situational awareness. It’s the ability to understand one’s present circumstances completely.
This awareness is not as straightforward or “common” as it sounds. And it really can’t be taught. Intelligence is also the ability to identify problems and formulate solutions quickly.
One can always use a problem solver on the team – however, many people only fill half the equation. They can readily understand how screwed they are, but have no vision to solve the problem.
These people can immediately recognize when they’re lost—but have no idea what to do about it.
This is a tricky one. What I mean is someone with skills or specialized knowledge, ideally acquired by experience rather than a library card.
Those skills could include:
- Martial arts
- Camping/outdoor skills
- Military training
- Survival skills
- Electrical work
Now just because a man has some of these skills, it does not mean they are reliable assets to your team.
Ideally, you find someone who pairs knowledge with intelligence. To be honest, I’d rather take an intelligent person with no skills over someone with a ton of knowledge and not a lick of common sense or situational awareness.
If you find yourself with one of these types, they can still be an asset, as long as you factor in their reduced intelligence into their responsibilities. One must consider carefully how these folks are to be employed.
There is an old saying that goes, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Don’t place these folks in a position to be a danger to you or your family.
When I say a moral human, it’s relatively simple: someone who places others ahead of him or herself.
Now I’m not saying she must sacrifice her life in the service of others to be moral. But – on the other hand, military personnel, firefighters, and police officers risk their lives in the service of others.
A person who does not believe the Earth revolves around them is a definite asset in a crisis.
However, morality is not always on display and can be very hard to read. But whatever someones moral compass is in ordinary times, I assure you, stressful situations will compound it.
You may think you know someone, but believe me – you can’t tell for sure until their family is in harm’s way.
Then the real person comes out – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
Mentally Disciplined and Resilient
Mental discipline makes all the difference in a crisis. It’s the glue that binds the rest together.
Mentally disciplined men and women do not succumb to raw emotions, such as fear, panic, or anger. They stay calm in a crisis. They use their knowledge and intelligence to analyze a problem and formulate a solution. Mental discipline can only come from within, and there’s no way to force it onto anyone.
While I say it is the glue that binds the others together – it is also the one that overcomes the lack of another.
So what does all this mean? If someone meets all the above requirements, you may have a tremendous asset. However, how do you know if he – or she – has these qualities?
Knowledge and skills can be evident. You can generally, through conversation, learn what a person knows.
Of course, one has to apply a bullshit factor to any boast or brag. It’s hard to know if someone has a skill or specialized knowledge, it helps to be familiar with those things yourself.
I can generally tell in the first five minutes if someone knows anything about guns, survival gear, home security, or self-defense.
I know those things fairly well, and if someone’s looking to blow some smoke by me, I can tell by their choice of words.
Of course, for me to evaluate them, I have to have some specialized knowledge as well. Knowing yourself, your assets, liabilities, and gaps in knowledge are all critical to assessing others – more on this in a minute.
When evaluating someone, you need to look at how they live their life. Is drinking or drugs a problem?
Does he or she have family problems, a temper, perhaps? Do you know of any infidelities?
Let’s be honest; if a man cheats on the one he’s sworn not to cheat on, how reliable is he to you and your family later when he’s under real pressure? His word means nothing, and he’s morally weak.
It’s easy to dismiss this as just a sexual thing. If this guy cheats on his wife, does mean he’s weak in other areas?
It could be even worse.
It does mean he or she is susceptible to corruption in one form or another. And usually, if one type of dishonesty can win someone over – another can as well.
How does he or she manage their money? Is he or she in debt up to their eyeballs? Does he live beyond his means? Does she pretend to be someone she’s not by driving the expensive car or living in the house that’s way out of her league?
Overconsumption and spending beyond one’s means is another symptom of a weak personality. It’s an attempt to compensate for something missing in their character.
Be wary of this type of person.
Keep in mind; this person is not even under “real” stress, not post-apocalyptic stress by any stretch of the imagination.
Finally, when sizing someone up, I leave you with something you may never have considered. You need to size up yourself first.
Who Are You? Sizing Yourself Up
What do YOU bring to the table? How prepared are you? What type of person are you going to be? Are you a leader or a follower? Are you looking for a leader to follow or people who will support you?
Oddly enough, I think most people who spend time preparing for that post-disaster world somehow place themselves in the role of leader. And they evaluate others on their ability to follow or support them. (After all, don’t we all secretly want to be the leader of a post-apocalyptic, biker gang? Maybe. Maybe not.)
Realistically, one needs to know oneself before ever evaluating another. Are you the leader? Are you looking for someone to follow you? Is that person perhaps a better choice as a leader that yourself?
If you are wise, you may want to follow someone more reliable, more knowledgeable, and more disciplined than yourself.
On the other hand, if you can’t see yourself as the follower, do you want that strong leader in your group? He or she may become a rival.
I think many people feel that in that environment, in an ever-present danger to friends and family, that the situation is simply too critical to leave to others.
We feel the need to lead because we need to protect our family, and we’re not going to leave those tough decisions to others.
Ironically, the wise thing may be to do just that. You may or may not be the right person to lead, and when sizing someone up, you need to do so with open eyes and an open mind.
If you take that tact, you may find the leader that gives your family and friends the absolute best chance for survival.
Only a fool would overlook that.
It may be hard to swallow, but ask yourself, what is the real goal here?
“Just In Case” Jack
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