Begin (Again)

The Top 5 reasons I hear for not taking the first steps toward a more prepared lifestyle:

1. Looks complicated and involved. Too much to learn and do (I find it adventurous and empowering).

2. I’m not organized. Nor handy. Nor outdoorsy (I’m only one of the three).

3. Seems fringe — usually followed by “Not you. You’re not weird” (Thanks, I think?).

4. I don’t have room for a year’s supply of freeze-dried food (me neither).

5. My partner/children/roommate will never go along (OK, I’ve got this one).

Then, while putting together an evacuation bag and post-earthquake plan for my 85-year-old mother (a blog post of its own. Stay tuned!), she worryingly added #6:

6. You can’t possibly prepare for everything.

True. That is a worry, isn’t it?

Indeed, if one thinks even a little deeply about it:

To prepare is to voluntarily acknowledge the existence of chaos.

Why do that?

It’s not like we don’t already know that earthquakes and wild fires are a fact of life here in California. Why actively engage with this reality day to day?

At the risk of being too spiritual for some: because I believe we’re meant to.

There’s a reason why nearly every human culture, religion and civilization has an origin story in which order is carved from chaos.

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Saint George and The Dragon by Bernat Martorell. Taming the chaos of the primeval wilderness (outside “the order” represented by the city walls in the background).

For me, purpose, meaning and growth actually require engagement with encroaching chaos (when is it not encroaching?). Be it on the micro level of one’s room, one’s job, or emergency preparedness.

Regarding cleaning one’s room, yes, I’ve watched Jordan Peterson videos — primarily his lectures on The Psychological Significance Of The Bible Stories which I found profound and illuminating.

If you don’t have 30 hours to spare for the bible series, check out this 10-minute clip that’s primarily about Noah and the Flood. More broadly, it makes the case for how preparation —  at whatever scale you can manage it — is a mitigator of chaos at least and, at best, an anvil against which to forge a better self.

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“Noah’s Ark” by Franzosischer Meister. Noah warns of impending disaster, but faces amused skepticism. Undeterred, he rallies his family to continue building, while behind him storm clouds gather.

Even if you don’t subscribe to my spiritual perspective, the fact remains that preparedness as a lifestyle generally reduces negative variables and increases options.

As I’ve noted before, it’s empowering, mind expanding, and physically challenging. It incorporates elements of adventure, curiosity, mindfulness and spontaneity; health, diet, fitness and travel; civic engagement, financial planning and personal security; and relationships and family.

As importantly, at at time when the world feels so divided, readiness celebrates and encourages the power of community as a hub of shared wisdom, compassion and resources.

And, to my mother’s point, though no one can be disaster proof, one can strive to be disaster resistant.

So whether you’re a regular reader or new to the blog, let’s take this opportunity to begin. In my case, begin again as we have just moved from Los Feliz to Sunset Square and our new house doesn’t suit most of my old preps!

In Los Feliz we had a cozy bungalow with heaps of clever storage. In Sunset Square we have far more bright and airy living space but far less storage.

And since not every emergency will require or allow for evacuation, bespoke local knowledge and planning around where you live is crucial.

There are many future blog posts to be devoted to specific elements of planning and preparedness around the home, but in the spirit of a simple first step, I’m starting by creating a Risk/Resource map of my new neighborhood.

It’s easy: type your home address into Google and take a moment to note obvious highlighted risks (gas stations, for example) and resources (hospitals, supermarkets, schools). Schools, you’ll be pleased to learn, are among the safer buildings in Los Angeles as well as a natural community hub for triage, information and support).

Here’s our new map. Not bad! A school, fire station and grocery store all within a half mile! And a hospital just off the map four miles to the east. I’d love to tell you that was by design, but honestly it just worked out that way.

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Augment your map further by getting out on foot and annotating elements not visible online. These could include neighbors with special skills (we discovered a nurse in our old neighborhood) or less obvious resources like a community garden.

The key is to start creating community and community resources around your home.

If you want to dig deeper, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services features a California MyHazards tool in which you input your California address and it reveals larger potential hazards such as tsunami risk areas, flood plains and liquefaction and/or earthquake fault zones.

There’s also the NextDoor App, which, if you can get past the tendency of some comment threads to go off the rails, remains a potential resource for localized emergency information. Contributing to reuniting owners and pets is also a plus. There is also FEMA’s earthquake website and earthquakecountry.org/ as well as the ShakeAlertLA app which is worth checking out.

Finally, we need to start training our minds — the ultimate survival tool. There is a deep well of academic study and published literature on the impact of stress on the brain. It’s a master class unto itself.

If you want to read a fascinating, profoundly human and useful overview from someone who knows from whence she speaks, check out Amanda Ripley’s The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — And Why.

If you prefer smaller bites, another great resource is Graywolf Survival’s Develop A Survival Attitude. His blog is an ongoing source of deep information and inspiration.

See, we’ve begun!

Glad to be walking the preparedness path with you all. More soon!

P.S.: Consider following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, as I’m aiming to experiment with micro-blogging some #ReadyIsSexy posts and would love your feedback!

Let’s Get Small!

I did it. I got small.

Not hobbit small.

HobbitSmall

Not even #VanLife small.

Nor Sailing La Vagabonde small:

But small enough that, as 2018 dawns, all of the essential Los Angeles possessions I share with my wife Rachel now fit in a cozy 1920s bungalow we are renting in Los Feliz. Each item thoughtfully handpicked for its joy or utility.

All the administrative and financial elements of our lives have also been streamlined (and rendered paperless) for ease of management and maximum flexibility — cataloged on two identical Aegis Secure Keys in case SHTF (Shit Hits The Fan).

Our remaining furniture we shipped to New Zealand to fill the property we bought with proceeds from selling “Club O,” the Hollywood home we’ve occupied since I returned from “The Lord Of The Rings” in 2004. There and Back Again indeed:

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But this is more than a Marie Kondo moment (though I’m a big fan).

Nor is it about plotting a cynical prepper escape from the US, Peter Thiel style.

The motivation for getting small is to enable an exciting new chapter in which we intend to have two homes (no mortgages) in two places we love: Los Angeles and the Wairarapa region of New Zealand.

Even without the Club O sale, getting small has meaningfully reduced our financial footprint so that we have new resources to save or apply elsewhere.

As importantly, it has allowed us to substantially reduce the amount of distraction, accumulation and related maintenance in our lives.

This five-minute Graham Hill TED Talk on the tyranny of stuff is a good primer.

Energetically and spiritually, the benefit of getting small has been the opportunity to better align daily life with my core values. By getting rid of my car (Rachel still has one) and moving within three miles of work, my commuting is a non-event.

And, much as we loved our Club O lifestyle, having a bigger house — at least in our case — tended to discourage adventures and breaking routine.

As importantly, there is now heaps more time for fitness, friends, meditation, preparedness projects, travel, blogging, and discovering/celebrating the creative artists who are my passion and livelihood.

It’s empowering to have your habitual behavior reflect your actual priorities. We are what we do, after all, not what we think or say.

And you don’t have to sell your house or upend your life to feel this empowerment. There are so many things, big and small, one can do to get started that yield immediate benefits and satisfaction.

To that end, as we’re now in a new home, in a new year, I plan to create shorter, targeted posts on how I am specifically manifesting simplification and readiness in my life. One post per topic. Some posts I’m planning:

What’s In My Wallet And Why

Designing And Stress Testing Disaster Plans

Creating And Maintaining A Prepper Pantry

Building A Bag For Evacuations/Emergencies

Mapping Neighborhood Risks/Resources And Creating A Village

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this:

In boxing one often hears: “A good big man always beats a good little man.”

That may be true in boxing, but I don’t think it’s true in life.

Seth Godin, author of eighteen international bestsellers that have changed the way people think about marketing and work, presciently wrote in 2005:

“Big computers are silly. They use lots of power and are not nearly as efficient as properly networked Dell boxes.”

That’s straight up, pre Cloud wisdom.

How does this apply to #ReadyIsSexy, you ask?

Not to get too philosophical, but readiness is about more than provisions, gear, skills and planning —  though these make up a crucial baseline.

The fifth dimension is: community

That’s why the most important decision Rachel and I made was about where to move in Los Angeles. Our priority was proximity to a community of friends and an engaged neighborhood.

Thus our new neighbor in Los Feliz is my producing partner Jane Fleming. She is literally next door — indeed, she spotted the bungalow we now rent, and knew it would a match, before it ever hit Zillow. Now that’s leveraging one’s network.

Apart from the fact that we immensely enjoy each other’s company, the collective resources and networks of our adjoining homes are exponentially greater than the sum of their parts.

In New Zealand, my Kiwi in-laws live full-time in our home there — along with a newly planted orchard and a small herd of cattle.

New hashtag: #CompoundLiving

More soon.

Until then, go small or go home!

 

Save Yourself, Save The World

How many airline safety videos have you watched — or ignored in favor of your Instagram?

Regardless, you could probably recite one from memory.

Naturally, this Air New Zealand epic is a personal fave:

The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made #AirNZSafetyVideo

Note particularly: “Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”

SRT

Reflexively, that seems selfish. Caring for yourself before vulnerable loved ones?

Yet, logically we know: If you can’t breath on an oxygen-deprived airliner at 36,000 feet, accompanying children will have two problems instead of one.

Unless of course the kids don’t need help with their masks — because they already know what to do. From you.

This doesn’t require being Captain Fantastic (great movie). I’m certainly not!

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC | Official HD Featurette

It just means: if we want to save our families, our communities — even the nation or the world — we have to be able to save ourselves first. Then share.

This requires knowledge, planning, gear, skills, and practice. But you’d be surprised how little it takes to be more prepared than the average bear. In the posts and weeks ahead, I will be sharing specifically how I prepare, in all facets of my life, with links to related resources where helpful, hoping it inspires you to find your own ways.

Now I have some hardcore prepper friends who would say: Mark, you’re misleading folks. It’s great you have 50 gallons of clean water and three weeks of long-term stored food, but what if you can’t get home? Or the crisis lasts longer? Or there’s an evacuation? And what about the fact that you haven’t bought your Glock 19, so someone comes to your house with their gun and takes all your stuff? What then?

These are valid points. But, as Voltaire said: the enemy of good is better.

There are no guarantees. I live in a big city. Depending on the nature of the calamity, this will either make my survival efforts easier or harder.

Some feel the best way to save yourself is to relocate to where critical resources are less scarce:

How To Save The World By Saving Yourself

But, no matter where or how you live, you can still reduce the number of variables working against you and increase the number of tools and skills at your disposal. This is never a bad thing.

No one is disaster proof. But one can strive to be disaster resistant.

Yes, disaster readiness is serious business. When something goes wrong, and it definitely will, the preparations you’ve made and skills you’ve acquired — and the second nature with which you can put your plans and tools into action on behalf of yourself and others — could make a critical difference.

But one thing I’ve discovered firsthand: it’s easier to learn and retain readiness habits when it makes you feel good.

This is one of the reasons why high-end professional closet organizers are doing particularly well right now. In times of uncertainty or disappointment, the desire to feel mastery over some element of your environment is attractive: The Psychology of an Organized Closet

So let’s start with two simple things you can do right now — things I do in my own life — to be better prepared. They are simple. They make sense. They reduce variables. They will make you feel good for the right reasons.

WATER:

You can go weeks without food, but you can only last days without water — depending on heat and your level of activity.

In my last post, What’s In The Bag (And Why?), I shared how I plan for water on the move.

At home, you should store one gallon of water per person/per day. For as many weeks as space allows. In my case, as there are two people in my house, I never have less than 42 gallons at any given time (14 gallons/week x 3 weeks = 42 gallons). I usually keep 50 gallons because, well, I’m an over-achiever.

Now I am fortunate to have a garage, so storing ten 5-gallon Arrowhead bottles is not a challenge. But even having three days of stored water (for a family of four that’s only 12 gallons) at home makes you better prepared than many. Through filtration and purification, you can stretch your supply. More here: Emergency Water Storage

WHAT HAS IT GOT IN ITS POCKETSES:

I get teased a bit for schlepping my backpack nearly everywhere I go. Sometimes, particularly in certain work situations, it’s just not appropriate. But there are three things I never go without: a whistle, a good strong flashlight, and an emergency $50 bill.

In Los Angeles, where earthquakes are among the likeliest form of disaster threat, getting trapped in or under a building is a real risk. If that happens, you’re not going to want to shout yourself hoarse, nor will you want to use your precious mobile phone battery for light when you can use it to text for help.

My Fenix E05 85 Lumen LED KeyChain Black Flashlight is the size of a ChapStick, tough and bright. The Acme Authentic British Police Whistle by Metropolitan is loud and shrill, and honestly I just like how it looks. It also fits better in my trouser pocket than a standard coach’s whistle.

THE EMERGENCY $50:

Cash is king in a disaster. Your Apple Pay will not pay. I carry cash generally as a rule, but alongside smaller bills mostly reserved for car parkers or tipping my favorite barista, I carry an additional $50. One time it helped me get a tire patched at a cash-only mechanic well off the beaten path.

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There is so much more where this came from! In the months ahead, we will continue to learn how to secure our own oxygen masks. In doing so, not only may we become one less person who needs saving, we could also have the opportunity to help others save themselves. Now that’s an encouraging thought!

 

My MacGyver Moment

My MacGyver moment, when it came, was not diffusing a bomb with a paper clip.

It was buying an old school Rand McNally street map at Book Soup.

Now I’m not John Goodman in “10 Cloverfield Lane” with a survival bunker under my yard, nor am I likely to be featured on “Doomsday Preppers.” But for years I have been a student of self sufficiency and emergency preparedness.

I experiment with gear, study and develop readiness skills, and try out different approaches to organizing my life — home, work, and travel — to be, if not disaster proof, at least disaster resistant.

The result is two parts Samwise Gamgee, one part Marie Kondo, if the bartender was Tim Ferriss.

I come by my passion for remaking my environment honestly. My mother, Maxine Ordesky, is a founding member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. At 82, she’s still a sought after space planner. My brother, Joel Ordesky, is an Eagle Scout and management consultant.

Back to Book Soup.

As part of my readiness jam, I periodically assemble customized “get home” bags for my friends. Filled with favorite tools and supplies meant to help sustain someone away from home for 2-3 days without much help in the event of an emergency.

My brilliant business partner, Jane Fleming, turned 50 this month. Which is why I was at Book Soup: buying a Rand McNally map of Los Angeles for the get home bag I was making her.

The nice cashier with the nose ring, and the book club junkie behind me in line, marveled that paper maps still existed (they’re not easy to find), and what on earth could I possibly want with one in the era of Google maps.

I momentarily felt very AARP (I’m a proud member).

The paper map is so that Jane can navigate home when mobile, GPS and Wifi fail, and if fires or infrastructure collapse make familiar routes impassable.

A paper map also indicates areas of risk and resources. Universities, for example, can be hazards during a fire or earthquake due to toxic materials in research labs or chemical engineering departments.

Conscious of oversharing, I braced for Book Soup eye rolls. Not a one. In fact, Nose Ring Cashier and Book Club Junkie looked at me like I was MacGyver.

In that moment, I realized that Ready Is Sexy (see what I did there?). Because it’s empowering, fun, mind expanding, and physically challenging. It incorporates elements of curiosity, mindfulness and spontaneity; health, diet, fitness and travel; civic engagement, financial planning and personal security; and relationships and family.

As importantly, at at time when the world feels so divided, readiness — at least the way I practice it — celebrates and encourages the power of community as a hub of shared wisdom, compassion and resources.

So I’m going to practice what I preach, and hopefully start building a community here on this blog. Welcome! It’s going to be fun.