In business they say it’s not what you know but who you know that counts. Come the apocalyptic collapse of society as we know it (whether crushed under the shambling feet of the walking dead, devastation wrought by nuclear terrorism or decimation of most of the population by a bio-engineered virus), it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to survive on your own, not for long at any rate. However, if you’re not careful, you may find that being part of a group is even worse. This is because if you don’t pick the people you’re planning on riding out the apocalypse with carefully, they’ll drag you down and your chance of survival get dragged down with you. Pick the right ones, though, and life will be easy (well maybe not easy, but at least you’ll have a reasonable chance of surviving). So who should be on your post-apocalyptic survival crew?
There’s three key issues here. The first is skills. You’re going to want people around you that know how to do things. Practical, old-fashioned things, like being able to fix an engine rather than modern, new fangled things like being able to complete angry birds in one session on the latest incarnation of the iPad. However, it’s important that the skills different members have are diverse and complimentary. Having ten mechanics in a group is all fine and well, but what happens when you need someone to hunt, kill and clean a deer for supper? Yet, you also need some overlap between different people’s skill sets. If you’re medic gets eaten by radio-active mutants, you’ll need to be able to divide his duties up between the remaining members. So what sort of skills should you have in your group? I’d say at a minimum you’d need a mechanic, a navigator (one that can read a map and not just a GPS receiver!), a medic of some kind (since there’s going to inevitably be injuries), a weapons expert, a strategist (to work on your long-term plans), a driver, a hunter and a scrounger (you know one of those people who can always find you something that will do the job). While on the subject of skills, if you can’t work out what useful skills you’d bring to a group, you may find that no one else wants you on their team. In this case, I suggest you start learning how to do some useful, and fast.
So what about intelligence? In general, you’ll find that a group made of intelligent people will do better than one filled with, to use an old Scottish term, dunderheeds. However, here intelligence isn’t about knowing useless facts, it’s about practical application of ideas and thinking outside the box, so don’t get the two confused. You may think that the members of that team who always win your local pub quiz are super-smart, but all their carefully remembered facts won’t help them work out how to escape from the killer zombies. Instead, go for the couple who sit in the corner keeping themselves to themselves while playing each other chess and backgammon at the same time. They’re going to be the type of people who can think two steps ahead and work out a plan to get you safely out of the city.
Now onto personality. This is critical. Someone can always learn a new skill, but few can change their personality. This is because personality is something that is pretty much set by the time you reach your twenties. Why is personality so important? I’ve spent a lot of time working in remote locations as part of small teams of people, and time and again, I’ve seen groups fall apart because of what would seem like minor clashes of personality in normal life. Sometimes it’s just that one person just rubs everyone else up the wrong way, causing friction either by accident or design. The apocalypse may be forever, and even if it’s not, it’s very likely that you’re going to be stuck with these people for a very long time. That guy down the road might be a great mechanic, but eventually his braying laugh and the constant double innuendos are going to drive you to the point where you start looking at death by zombie as a viable alternative to spending another second in his company. Yet, this is by far the most minor type of personality clashes you can encounter. Worse is when you end up stuck with someone who just sees the world differently that you. They might be all gung-ho and let’s get ‘em, while you’re more of the sit tight, stay safe and avoid all conflict with the undead unless you can’t avoid it. Sooner or later will cause problems, and most likely at a critical moment and you’ll al end up dead because you can’t agree on what you should be doing next. Then you get to those with borderline personality disorders. It’s important that you realise before it’s too late that you’ve included a closet sociopath in your group. They’ll manipulate, they’ll undermine, they’ll kill you if they don’t get their own way, and they’re surprisingly more common in society that you might think (about 1% of the general population, but rising close to double digits in professions like banker, business and politics). These people are best avoided at all costs (both in the event of the apocalypse and in your everyday life). One of the best life skills you can learn is how to spot when people like this enter your life so you can kick them out before it’s too late.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.