Unless you are blessed with a major seven-figure net worth that you can immediately allocate to your prepping, you need to make choices about what prepping activities you can do and can not do.
Indeed, even if you do have millions of dollars free to invest in prepping, you still have time and resource constraints. You can’t just snap your fingers and have an instant, fully equipped, fully self-contained retreat appear in a flash of smoke. The question for all of us is which things do we do first, and what do we leave until later?
It can seem that the costs and complexities of prepping are overwhelming, with the result that some people throw their hands up in despair, and do nothing at all. That’s not a good thing!
So, assuming you have finite and limited resources, what should you do first? What can you leave until later, and what can you overlook entirely?
There are ways to evaluate such things and to semi-scientifically set priorities.
Two Factor Formula
Traditional risk analysis involves considering two things. You assess the severity of the event you are considering, and the likelihood of it occurring. Maybe rate each on a scale of 0 – 10. Then multiply the two together, to give you an answer anywhere from 0 to 100. This is the importance/priority you should give to the event.
This formula is helpful – it gives higher priority to major events than minor events, and higher priority to events that are likely to occur than events which are unlikely to ever come to pass.
Adding a Third Factor
But it is clear the two factor formula was designed by abstract theorists, because it misses out on one very obvious consideration, something we always have to think about in the real world – how affordable is the solution to the problem? A problem that scores high on the two factor scale might have a totally unaffordable solution, whereas a lower scoring problem might be something we could prepare for with almost no out-of-pocket expense whatsoever.
Maybe we need to add a third factor – affordability, where 0 means totally unaffordable and 10 means costs nothing to implement.
So we now have a three factor score ranging from 0 to 1000.
Is that all we need to consider, or are there are other issues as well as severity of the problem, likelihood of it occurring, and the cost of preparing a solution for the problem?
Adding More Factors
With a bit of thought, you can almost certainly think of other factors. For example, you might have a high scoring problem that has an affordable solution that goes to the top of your to do list, but there’s only one thing wrong with that calculation – the solution, while affordable, is impossible for some other reason. Perhaps government regulation, or perhaps lifestyle constraints, or inability to get your spouse/partner to agree with you, or whatever.
So there’s a factor – the feasibility of the solution. Add a score, from 0 meaning totally impossible through to 10 meaning can be done pretty much immediately with no hassle or problems. Multiply that to your other three factors, and now you have a four factor score ranging from 0 to 10,000.
Another factor could be something like ‘additional benefits from adopting this thing’. Maybe you do something which solves one problem but also goes part or all of the way to solving a second problem. For example, perhaps you are solving a problem ‘risk of forest fire destroying my retreat’ and part of your solution is to put a metal roof on your retreat. Perhaps the metal roof can then link into another problem/solution ‘Shortage of water’ – the roof can be used to collect rainwater much more efficiently than shakes or a composite roof.
If you hare using this as a factor, don’t use a range from 0 to 10. If you used 0 for no additional benefits, that would zero out the entire project’s value, and that’s clearly not right. Maybe you should instead use a range from a neutral 1 (for ‘no additional benefits’) up to a 2 or 3 for additional benefits, or maybe you simply add the score of each project that the solution can assist together to get a total that way.
Another factor is the ease and speed of implementing the solution. Maybe an issue requires nothing more than five minutes browsing on Amazon and then ordering something from them and having it delivered. Or maybe an issue would consume every spare minute of your time for the next three months. Score high for an easy project that takes little of your time, and lower for a difficult project.
How to Set Values for Each Factor
For each factor you are rating, the more desirable or better the factor, the larger the value you should assign to it.
There are two things to consider when assigning values.
The first is to be very careful about assigning a zero value to anything. Think of the zero as a veto. Any time you use a zero, you have made your entire calculation reduce down to zero. It doesn’t matter if every other factor is scoring max, a single zero will drop the total calculation all the way down to zero.
So unless you want to totally kill a project, you should normally consider 1 as least desirable (and 10 as most desirable).
The other thing to consider is the relative importance of different factors. Maybe one factor is much less important than another factor. If that is so, we recommend that after you’ve assigned it a value from 0 or 1, and up to 10, you then divide that value by two or three or whatever number you wish to reflect that it is a less important factor than the other factors you are also including in your calculation.
Which leads to the next point.
The Result is Not As Accurate as it Seems
So maybe you end up with a calculation of 4 x 5 x (2/3) x 7 = 93.33 for one possible project, and a calculation of 7 x 7 x (4/3) x 2 = 130.67 for another project.
So obviously, the second project is scoring massively higher than the first project and should be the one you do first, right?
Well, it is true that 130.67 is almost 50% higher than 93.33, but let’s also keep in mind that probably all the values in both calculations are approximate guesses – they are plus or minus at least one or two in rating scores. Even if only +/- 1, that means that the first project could score as high as 5 x 6 x 3/3 x 8 = 240 and the second project could score as low as 6 x 6 x 3/3 x 1 = 36.
Wow, so the first project is probably about a 93.33 score, but could be as high as 240, and the second project is probably about a 130.67 score, but could be as low as 36.
In other words, the two projects are pretty similar in rating. You would want to see a much bigger gap between them than merely a 50% differential in order for a significant different in priorities to be assigned.
Oh – one more thing. The 93.33 score? Just because this is how your calculator shows it, don’t be obsessive about showing all the decimal places. We already know it could score as high as 240, and it could also score as low as 24, so it is perfectly fine to round the 93.33 to the nearest five units, and perhaps call it 95. And the same for the 130.67 of course, which might be anywhere between 36 and 320 – call that an even 130.
Considering Other Issues Too
So – don’t get too hung up on the exact numbers you are generating from your multi-factor calculations. You need to also apply some subjective and ‘qualitative’ tools to your analysis as well as the quantitative calculations you’ve been doing, plus a healthy measure of common sense when looking at the answers you get.
Some of these other issues are philosophical – which things ‘feel’ best and most closely seem to fit with your view of the problems you wish to prepare for and how you are creating solutions?
There’s also the value in a balanced cohesive approach to problem solving. There’s no point in getting a brilliant totally bulletproof (and maybe quite literally so!) solution to one element of risk if that still leaves another element of the similar risk totally unaddressed.
For example, if there are (say) three different things that need to be done to make you able to live without external help for three weeks (perhaps food, water and energy) which is better – to have a complete three-week solution for one of these three factors, to have a half solution good for a week or two for the second factor, but nothing at all yet done for the third factor? Or to have each of the three factors partially addressed so that you currently are good for a week or so on all three counts, and are continuing to step-wise improve your prepping in all three areas more or less simultaneously?
We’d probably say the second approach was the better approach. Remember – a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and so perhaps you are best to start off with a complete but not very strong chain, then upgrade to a complete stronger chain, and then stronger again and so on, rather than to make an impregnable chain, one link at a time, but which is of no use at all until it is completed.
This brings us to a point which is so important that we list it by itself :
The Excellent is the Enemy of the Good
This is a concept you need to take to heart and keep close to you in everything you do. We’ll explain this concept with an analogy. One time I was managing a promotional activity that would be greatly boosted by having a sales brochure. Think of it as something like perhaps selling new cars in the days before the internet and tablets made brochures more or less obsolete – sure, you can do it without a brochure, but with a brochure is better.
Well, I decided that I’d create such an amazingly wonderful brochure that it would be ten times better than any of the competitors’ brochures out there. This would be such an incredible brochure that it would just about sell the product, as soon as a prospect saw the brochure. It would have twice as many pages. Twice as many color pictures, Twice as many helpful tables and feature lists. It would be updated twice as often. And so on and so on – everything would be better than other brochures out there.
So I worked and worked and worked at preparing this amazing brochure. In the middle of the process, the product changed, and I thought to myself ‘good job I hadn’t sent the brochure to be printed, this way I’ve saved the cost of a wasted brochure printing run’.
The new product changes made me make some changes to the brochure. And then a competitor came out with some interesting new features and selling strategies, so I redesigned the brochure to reflect that. My company opened another office, so we redid the brochure to reflect our two sales and service locations – that was a great new feature to promote.
We hired a professional brochure designer to bless our project, and she made changes, and we hired a professional copywriter to write some of the advertising copy, and that required some layout changes – more space for some things, and less for others.
This story is stretching out and stretching out, isn’t it. As did the brochure project. It took almost five years for that brochure to first appear on a brochure rack, and while it was a great brochure, just as I’d hoped; the ugly fact was that for five long years, we’d had no brochure at all.
A better strategy would have been to urgently quickly come up with a ‘me too’ type brochure, so that at least we had something. Then, and based on our real world experience of what was working and not working in the brochure, to come out with a second version. And then a third, and so on.
If we’d have done that, we’d have been at a much better point than we were at when we first released our super-brochure, and probably our ‘normal’ brochure’s evolution over those five years would have moved it beyond where the first untested super-brochure was.
So – the excellent (brochure) was the enemy of the good (brochure). Our company was harmed for five years while we obsessed over this brochure project.
Another shorter example, perhaps. Microsoft recently launched Windows 8. Windows 1.0 came out in November 1985. Imaging if Microsoft hadn’t released Windows 1, or 2, or 3, or any of the preceding versions of Windows, while it kept on improving and improving the product prior to suddenly then releasing it as Windows 8. That would clearly have been a massive mistake, wouldn’t it.
Or, at a simpler level, when any software company releases its software, it subsequently comes out with new versions and bug fixes and so on. The graphics drivers for my computer’s graphics card are now at version 307, for example. Imagine if nVidia waited until it had an almost perfect version of its graphics drivers before releasing its card? Heck, the card would still be unreleased, because I’ll wager within a month or two, there’ll be a new version 308 driver out there.
You get the point, I hope. The excellent is the enemy of the good.
It is easy to see how this could translate to a prepping situation, isn’t it. You decide, for example, that you want state of the art ultra-high efficiency photo-voltaic panels. They cost much more, you have to save up for longer to buy them, and a new generation of PV panels comes out, and so on, and for all the time you’re saving up for the super panels, you have no panels at all and no solar power generation capabilities. Surely it would be better to buy a regular set of PV panels, and then to upgrade or add to them in the future, so as to get your retreat or primary residence outfitted with some solar power as soon as possible. If you subsequent upgrade the panels, the first panels aren’t wasted. They can be supplemental panels, or if there’s no room left to mount them, they can be spares.
Or maybe you decide you will build a retreat for 20 people, with three-foot thick exterior walls. But while you are saving up the money to get this construction started, you have no retreat at all. Perhaps it would be better to build a retreat for five people and with normal exterior walls, then after you’ve got that up, start adding more modules to the property, and start reinforcing the exterior walls. Which would you prefer if you needed to bug out today – a completed retreat, albeit too small and vulnerable to cannon fire; or plans for a spacious impregnable retreat for which the first foundation had yet to be laid?
This leads us to a very important related concept.
The Tortoise and the Hare
You know the story of the tortoise and the hare, of course, and you also know which one of them crossed the finishing line first.
With prepping, don’t be dismayed at the enormity of the task you are setting yourself.
Instead, start prepping right now, and slowly but steadily build up your preparations. Maybe the very first thing you do is get a large container to store some water. That’s something you could probably do today – indeed, here’s a challenge : Click this link to Amazon and buy a water storage container right now. 🙂
Maybe the second thing is the next time you go to Costco or Wal-Mart, buy a few extra cans of food and start building up a store of extra food. And so on. Little by little, but always steadily building up your reserves and your resources.
Even small modest investments in your prepping will massively transform your ability to comfortably survive a Level 1 event. It is true that creating a level of resilience to withstand a Level 2 event will be more challenging, and a Level 3 event more challenging again, but don’t submit to the challenge, but confront and surmount it.
In particular this is one of the benefits of joining a community of like-minded folks (whether it be the Code Green community or anything/anyone else) – you can pool your resources and create something that is more individually affordable and simultaneously something which is more viable as a group for surviving a Level 2/3 event.
Progress is a Series of Small Steps in the Right Direction
What we are saying is that while your prepping journey may be long and may be arduous, it is feasible and possible (and necessary). Like any journey, you simply put one foot in front of the other, and then repeat, while ensuring you are proceeding in the right direction.
Use the resources on this and other sites to ensure you are proceeding in the right direction, and move forwards as best you can.