We are often told that in today’s world, the key to success in life is making yourself indispensable. If you can do something that no one else in your work place can do, then when it comes to down-sizing, you’ll be the one kept on. This means we’re encouraged to specialise in ever-smaller niches; we learn to do one thing well and then hoard the knowledge, not showing anyone else how to do it. In this way, we think we can protect our livelihoods.
While this might be a good strategy for our work lives, when it comes to surviving an apocalyptic event (whether it’s the dead rising or a natural disaster) this is an exceedingly dangerous attitude. You might think the best way to ensure your survival is to be able to do something no one else in your group can do, but it’s just the opposite and it might even get you killed. This is because at some point you may find yourself incapacitated and in need of someone with your own specialist skills. If you’re the only one with those skills, you’ll be well and truly screwed. You don’t believe me? Think of it like this: if you’re the only one with any medical knowledge, who will treat you if you get injured? If you’re the only one who can navigate, what happens if you fall ill? If you’re the only one who can drive your transport, what happens if you get knocked out and those around you need to get you back to your safe house? The same goes for making traps to catch food, fixing engines, keeping your solar panels working, handling guns, making more ammo and so on.
This means it’s important that you share around any useful skills you happen to have. If you know which mushrooms are edible and which aren’t, teach this knowledge to those around you; if you know how to do CPR or set a broken bone, train others to be able to do the same; if you can read a map and use a compass to navigate, show others how to do it too. By sharing your knowledge, you’ll not only be helping others, but you’ll be increasing your own chances of survival. There’s also a flip side to this, if you come across someone with a skill you don’t already have, get them to show you how to do it too. It will expand your knowledge and you never know when you might find it useful.
This attitude of sharing skills isn’t just something that applies to post-apocalyptic survival, it applies to everyday life too. If you know how to do something, don’t just keep it to yourself; instead share your knowledge with those around you. In particular, if you are the only one in your group of friends happens to know something which could help when things go wrong, make sure you show at least one other person how to do it, or even better make sure everyone knows, just in case. Similarly, remember you can’t always rely on your friends, so if they’re the ones with the skills, get them to teach you. These needn’t be complicated skills, instead it can be very basic stuff, such as how to drive a vehicle or how to stop a deep wound bleeding. You might not think it, but this could be the difference between life and death for you or for others around you.
I can actually give you an example of this from my own life where I did something that, looking back, was exceedingly stupid but that at the time I did without pausing to think of the consequences. It was one tiny misjudgment but it could so easily have turned out to be fatal. I was out on a motorboat with a friend and her brother. While the friend had been out with me before, and so also knew how to drive the boat, her brother hadn’t. The day was going fine until my friend’s hat blew off into the water. This was in the Bahamas, so the water was warm enough that she chose to go in after it. However, she had trouble finding it because it had sunk. This is where I did the stupid thing: I turned off the boat’s engine, grabbed my mask and dived in.
Now I know what you’re thinking, how on Earth could that have fatal consequences? Well, what I hadn’t considered was the fact there was a 20 knot breeze blowing and because I hadn’t bothered to drop the anchor, the boat was gradually drifting away from us. By the time I’d retrieved the hat and the two of us started to swim back to the boat it was already a good 30 feet away. After five minutes of swimming, this distance between us and the boat had increased to about 50 feet and my friend was tiring (swimming through choppy seas is not as easy as swimming in the still waters of a pool). This was when I realised we could be in deep trouble: we were three or four miles from the nearest land, a distance neither of us would be capable of swimming, and since this was the Bahamas, there was always the worry of sharks, especially if you’re floating around in the water for a substantial period of time..
At this point, you’re probably wondering why the guy in the boat didn’t simply drive over and pick us up. There were two reasons for this. The first was that not having really been around boats before, he didn’t realise we were in trouble; after all, to him it just looked like we were swimming back to the boat. The second was more critical: he didn’t know how to do it; he didn’t know how to start the engine, let alone how to put it into gear and manoeuvre it. Before that, I’d always figured that as long as two people in the boat knew how to drive it, we’d have everything covered, and we would have if I’d simply dropped the anchor before quite freely and intentionally jumping over the side but I hadn’t. I figured I’d only be in the water for a few second at the most, and simply didn’t take into account of how quickly the wind would carry the boat away from us.
In the end, I left my friend to tread water (which is much less tiring) and swam ahead. By the time I finally caught the boat, I was close to complete exhaustion but once I was back on board I circled back and picked her up. That was when it occurred to me quite how lucky we’d been. If the wind had been just slightly stronger, I’d never have been able to swim fast enough or for long enough to catch it. From that point on, I’ve always made sure that whenever I take a boat out, everyone who comes with me knows at least three basic things: how to start the engine, how to stop it and how to drop the anchor. Beyond that, I also try to make sure I give them a go at driving it as well as other basic things like navigation and what to do if someone ends up in the water. By sharing these skills, I hope to avoid ever being in the situation again of ending up in the water watching my boat floating away from me.
These events were brought back to me recently when I heard about a similar event with a much more tragic ending. A British couple were sailing in the North Pacific some 500 miles from land when somehow the man, who was the experienced sailor, ended up in the water. He was wearing a life jacket so this shouldn’t have been a major problem, but his partner apparently didn’t know how to drop the sails or manoeuvre the boat meaning all she could do was watch as the boat sailed on, with the man disappearing off into the distance. The woman was rescued by the coastguard but despite an extensive search her partner was never found.
The critical point to take home here is that you should share around any skills you have which can help if things go wrong. Similarly, remember that you can’t always rely on others to be around to help you if you get into trouble so if you come across anyone with a potentially useful skill, get them to show you the basics in case you ever need them. Finally, if you ever go to sea, always make sure you at least know the basics of how to drive a boat because you never know when you might be called upon to do it.
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 print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.