Like many, I used to spend much of my life planning and preparing…for something. I was going to write a book, take up hiking, start an exercise routine, and create a business. However, every day I would get home and veg on the couch to the latest video game or science fiction novel. My rationalization was that I worked hard, so now I should relax. Multiply my excuses by the billions who say the same and most of the greatest books in the world probably remain unwritten. And for every business that succeeds, there are likely 10 more shuttered in the brains of men voluntarily chained to their desks, their offices, and their soul-devouring jobs. Even when I started prepping initially, I probably spent more time thinking about what I should be doing instead of actually doing it.
Of course there is nothing wrong with daydreaming about something you may or may not ever do, or relaxing and taking some downtime. Realize, however, that many of the things we all daydream about, we can actually do if we choose to. We can write a novel. We can start a business. All it takes is putting word to paper or filing some paperwork at the county clerk’s office. So why do so many of us wish for things we have for the taking right in front of us?
I don’t mean to sound like an infomercial or a self-help book, because I hate all that psycho-babble mumbo-jumbo. However, these past 2 years of my life have been like waking up. In December 2009, my brother passed away from a form of brain cancer. Todd was a genius, and he had vision far greater than I will ever have. He had ideas that would have made him successful beyond imagining. And not just one idea, but dozens…they flowed out of his beautiful mind like the waters of the Mississippi. What Todd didn’t have was the drive to take one of those ideas and make it real. My father, bless his amazing heart, is the same way. For 30 years he has told me about a book he wants to write. And just last week he told me about a board game he wanted to create.
As I usually do to people nowadays, I told him to just do it, and stop talking about it. I even offered to help, with the rules or the board or anything else I could do. And still, I know that the game will stay trapped in his mind, because he lacks the drive to make it real. That may sound harsh, but I only say it because for 40 years, I was that person also.
However, in the past few years, I have somehow managed to stop over-thinking things and start doing them. And now I have built a business I am proud of. It’s not a large one by any means, but slowly and surely it grows. I’ve screwed things up, run out of inventory, stocked items that haven’t sold, and made mistakes on people’s orders. I’ve written checks to suppliers that made my stomach cramp and my hands sweat with worry at whether I would ever make it back. But at the end of the day, and almost for the first time in my life, I kept at it. Between April and June of last year, I sold less than $500 worth of stuff total, and I was convinced I had failed. And who knows, I may still fail…but not today. Because I know that even if my current line of business becomes less popular, the knowledge of conducting business is now mine and can’t be taken away, and I could repeat what I have done with Advice and Beans 100 times if necessary.
So how does any of this relate to preparedness? First, is that the Art of Doing is infinitely more powerful than the Art of Worrying. I don’t obsess about the news anymore; I read maybe 10 minutes a day just to see what’s going on. I can’t control what is occurring in Egypt or Libya, I can’t fight inflation or the cost of gas, and I can’t change the minds of stupid politicians. So why was I spending 15-20 hours a week reading about it? I’m not saying don’t be informed; but I am saying you can spend much of the time you might use worrying about things putting in place things that make you worry less. Spring is coming, so that means planting season. Maybe a project around the house you’ve been putting off could take the place another 2 hours reading about the end of the world. Maybe there is some junk cluttering your life you could eBay it and use the cash to pay off some of your debt. Do you have an idea? Put it on paper, build it, sell it…do something with it other than letting it rot on the vine stuck in your head.
There is so much information available to us now, on all subjects, 24 hours a day. But does accessing it obsessively clog your life, paralyze you, or keep you from doing other things? If so, just turn it off or drown it out and retake those hours.
The 2nd way my business relates to preparedness is that it is replicatable. Meaning, you can do exactly as I have. Not the same items, per se, but the act of being a merchant, of creating value. Just like someone can teach me to start a fire, string a trot line, or conn a ship, I can show people how to start and build a business, at home, if they choose to. I’ve told a dozen friends and family exactly what I’ve done, opened my books to show them what its cost and earned, and explained how they could do the same thing. For all that many people tell me they hate their jobs and wish they had an opportunity…when an opportunity looks them in the face, they can’t seem to see it. I certainly never expected to be selling Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers for a living, but I have to say it is more satisfying work than any I have ever done. I get to help people and make a living at the same time…that’s a pretty sweet deal.
So my call to arms today is simple…do something. Something that will make your life more stable, more secure, provide an alternate form of income, make you healthier…anything other than zoning on the couch to another episode of CSI. Building something takes work, and a lot of it. But next year at this time you might be able to look at something you have accomplished, instead of looking back at what you didn’t.