If you can cultivate the attitude of not being afraid to try/fail, you'll be miles ahead no matter what crisis strikes.
By Jason Allen
Published November 17, 2010
"Those inclined to worry, have the greatest selection in History" - Mark Twain
We live in uncertain times. The looming sovereign debt crisis (mainly in the UK and the US). The prospect of more common, more severe weather incidents due to climate change. The looming threat of energy scarcity due to a contraction in oil supplies, and an antiquated, poorly maintained energy grid.
In short, Mark Twain hadn't seen anything yet.
John Michael Greer, in a much older post, wrote about the difficulty of planning the road ahead, in the face of such uncertainty.
He addressed the futility of the Transition Town movement, because it was preparing for such a specific outcome, when there was no likelihood, much less guarantee that the problem they were envisioning a solution for would ever come to pass - at least in the way they imagined it.
Originally, this post was going to be about what jobs/skill sets will be needed in a post-"choose your long emergency" society. Upon further reflection, though, the answer is: Nobody knows.
Nobody knows what might happen should gasoline suddenly spike to $4.00 a litre. And it may not be supply contractions due to peak oil that cause it. It might be a coup in Saudi Arabia, it might be another deep water oil spill that triggers a global halt to offshore drilling. It might be any number of things that could trigger a sudden spike at the pumps, or a sudden shortage of electricity, or food, or heating oil, or...or...or...
The one question I see posted again and again in the peak oil/climate change blogosphere (most of whose writers have now embraced sovereign debt default as some kind of unholy trifecta) is: What do I do? How do I prepare?
By this, people usually mean, "What should I buy?" i.e., should I stockpile ammo and canned goods, or buy a generator, or even a wood stove?
The answers are all fairly universal. Forget about stockpiling. Get out of debt. Learn to grow your own veggies. Have alternate ways of heating your very well insulated home. Learn a skill that will be desirable/useful to your neighbors, or people who may have more cash than you.
All of these ideas, though, are predicated on someone having some sort of vision as to what the future looks like - some kind of accurate prediction. "Prediction is hard," Yogi Berra once said. "Especially about the future."
So are all of those bad steps to take? No and yes.
No, because anything you do to prepare for an uncertain future is bound to give you a sense of security, and comfort that you are doing everything you can. But yes, they may be bad if you think that they are guaranteed to 'save' you, from whatever you feel you need saving from.
We have a good idea of what needs to be done to strengthen our community, reduce our reliance upon fossil fuels, increase our food security, and reduce our individual debt loads and carbon footprints.
The problem is, will it help if the problem is not a gasoline shortage, but an ice storm? Or if the problem is not a bizarre weather incident, but a sudden spike in interest rates caused by a hair trigger printing press?
The bad news is, nobody knows. The good news is, it probably can't hurt.
So what is the one thing you can do to help yourself, your family, and your community to be 'resilient?' Cultivate a 'do it yourself/let's just give it a go' mentality.
If you're a mid-level marketing manager with a major firm, and that's all you're good at, I'd start learning a few more practical skills, ASAP. Not just because those skills will be useful, but learning how to learn those skills will be crucial.
The process of learning new skills teaches you not only the skills themselves, but how to learn - how to experiment, how to 'give it a go.'
If you can cultivate the attitude of not being afraid to try/fail, and a baker's dozen useful skills with your hands along the way, you'll be miles ahead of the person next to you on the GO train who has spent the past three years following up to the minute news on Hollywood break-ups and hook-ups.
Most importantly, you need to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty. You need to be okay with not knowing what's coming next, but be able to trust that your knowledge, skills and instincts will get you through whatever life throws at you, and safely out the other side.
The best, indeed the only, way to do that is to set about learning new skills now. Anything that interests you, from knitting and textile work to how to keep slugs from devouring your tomatoes. The skills you learn are not as important as the hard work you do learning how to learn.
But with great knowledge comes great responsibility, to paraphrase my favorite comic book uncle, and when your Brangelina-obsessed neighbours knock on your door in the middle of whatever situation has had the power out for four days, invite them in. Make them a snack, and help them to make the adjustments that the online community helped you make when you started journeying down the road.
The Ant and the Grasshopper is not only a cautionary tale - it's also a really crappy way to treat the neighbors you may so desperately need one day.
this article was first published on Jason's personal website.
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