Saturday, March 14, 2015

Letter to My Younger Self - Prepper Edition

Recently, You Tube featured videos by female You Tubers giving advice to their younger selves. I  watched a number of these and was less than impressed. The vast majority of the advice was nothing more than the vague general platitudes that can be found on any graduation greeting card from Hallmark. Advice like "be yourself" and "don't worry about body image" may sound wise, but in reality is so generalized and obvious that it is meaningless.  In response, I've decided to write a letter to my younger self offering real advice.

To My Younger Self (Tim at age 14 in 1981):

Don't worry about the impossibility of time traveling mail, just accept this letter as from your future self, at age 47 in 2015. Between 1981 and 2015, a lot happens and a lot changes - some things for the better, but most not. It is a very different world today than the one that exists in 1981. I am not allowed to give you the details, but I can give you some advice. Please follow it carefully, as I do know what I am talking about.

First, (please don't roll your eyes at this, it is important) get right with God. I know the doubts you will have, and the spiritual journey you will take, so let me tell you that getting right with God is extremely important. It is not just to secure your eternal destination, but to save you decades of grief, mistakes, and missed opportunities. It took me a long time, but I finally figured it out. I am now a firm believer in God, and an imperfect follower of Jesus (but working on it). For a variety of reasons, I found my home in Christian Orthodoxy, so I suggest you start exploring there. You should also read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Most importantly, I suggest making prayer and bible study a daily habit. Trust me, this will help you in many ways.

My next bit of advice is to take your health very seriously. As a teenager, you don't realize how good your health really is, and how much energy and vitality you have right now. Nor do you realize how quickly it can fade as you age. Eat right, which means plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and chicken, whole grains, and lean meats in moderation. Avoid fried foods, junk foods, sweets, sodas, and especially something called high fructose corn syrup. Maintain a healthy weight. Exercise daily, and stay in shape. Look into the Mediterranean Diet.

I'll give you some more financial advice later in this letter, but for the moment let me warn you to avoid personal debt at all costs. Except for perhaps a home mortgage, debt is never a good idea. Especially avoid consumer debt like credit cards, car loans, student loans, and payday loans. The saying that debt makes the debtor slave to the lender is very true. Don't do it, even if it means doing without.

You will consider joining the navy or air force after you graduate high school. Unfortunately, you decide not to join, instead going straight into college. In hindsight, I consider this a mistake and strongly urge you to join the military. Not only will this pay for your college without student loan debt, but it will help you "grow up" faster, as well as instill some much needed discipline into your life.

When you do go to college, I strongly suggest a useful, practical field of study like engineering, mathematics, chemistry, or some other science or technology major. Also, take some classes in accounting and business. Avoid useless and goofy degrees like ethnic or gender studies. Even traditional liberal arts, like history, literature, and philosophy, are fairly useless. Besides, you can study those things for free by simply getting a library card.

Please take the time to read:

The Declaration of Independence

The Constitution

The Bill of Rights

The Federalist Papers

Also read these books:

The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek

Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

1984 by George Orwell

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bardbury

The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Read the following books by Richard J. Maybury:

1) Personal, Career, and Financial Security
2) Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?
3) Whatever Happened to Justice?
4) The Money Mystery
5) The Clipper Ship Strategy

Although Mr. Maybury has written a number of other books, these five are the ones I consider his best and most important. Read them first, before reading his others if you want to later... I must warn you that in a few of his later books, he cherry picks his facts to fit his personal ideology, ignoring the facts that don't fit. Still, all his books are worth reading, just be aware of his bias (as you should be aware of the bias of all authors).

There are lots of other great books on history, economics, and other important topics, but the suggestions I am making throughout this letter form an influential core of books that will benefit your greatly.

One more book I'll recommend to you is C. S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man. This is a short book but VERY difficult to read due to its depth and subject matter. I actually don't recommend you read it in your teen years. It will be best if you wait until you have been seasoned for a couple of years in the real world before trying to tackle it.

In addition to getting a practical college degree, you should also learn a trade. Some to consider include auto mechanics, plumbing, or electrical work. Not only will this give you a back-up plan for your career/job, but the skills learned will be very useful to you even if you don't ever actually work in those fields.

 Now, for an important, and perhaps surprising, bit of advice: Get married, and the sooner the better.

As I write this, I am single, never married, and have no children. At one point in my life, I was very happy (so I thought) with being a bachelor and enjoying the freedom (so I thought) that being single gave me.  I was wrong.

This has become the biggest regret in my life. Marriage is good. It matures a person, provides stability, gives focus and purpose, and provides one with a partner to face the challenges of life with - something that I've come to realize is much more important than is commonly realized.

As to who you should marry, I have no specific names to give. Over the years, I've known any number of women who would have made a good wife for me had I been smart enough to realize it at the time. Some advice on what to look for: Compatibility - someone with similar values, beliefs, worldview, and goals as you. Friendship - looks fade and sexual and romantic excitement wanes, so be with someone who really will be your best friend throughout life. Loyalty - life is rough and you will face many challenges as individuals and as a couple, so loyalty to each other is extremely important. You want someone who will stick with you through thick and thin, not run at the first sign of trouble. Finally, check out what Proverbs 31: 10-31 has to say on the subject.

Once you find her, treat her well. She is your treasure in this life. Be loyal, kind, affectionate, caring, and protective of her. May she always feel safe with you, physically and emotionally. Never give her reason to doubt your love, friendship, or loyalty.

Always be a man. Not a modern, watered-down, wimpy version of a man, but a real one. This means strength, courage, honor, integrity, leadership, self-reliance, self-control, sacrifice... Look to the Biblical standard of manhood. At the core of true manhood is your relationship with God. On this subject, two books that will be published in the 1990s would be good for you to read when they come out: Point Man by Steve Farrar, and Tender Warrior by Stu Weber.

I will not tell you the specifics of what the future holds. Frankly, it is nothing like you expect. There will be major surprises along the way, many very unpleasant and even dangerous. I warn you now to figure out who you are and what you believe, then hold fast to those things.

Building self-reliance and preparedness hold the key to surviving whatever the future may bring. Learn to do things, build things, fix things... The more you can do on your own, the better off you and your family will be. Consider homesteading in or near a small town away from the mega cities. Plant some fruit & nut trees, and berry bushes, on your property.

Stockpile food, water, tools, guns, ammo, first aid & medical supplies, seeds, firewood, and other supplies. Build slowly, but steadily -  a couple of weeks' worth at first, then a couple of months, then six months, then at least a year, maybe more.

Learn skills. Some to consider:
  • Gardening & Permaculture
  • Canning & Food Preservation
  • Herbal Medicine & Lore
  • Foraging for Mushrooms & Other Wild Foods
  • First Aid & CPR
  • Budgeting! and Personal Finance
  • Negotiating & Bartering
  • Hunting & Fishing
  • Shooting & Self-Defense
  • Camping & Hiking
  • Wilderness Survival
  • Auto Maintenance and Basic Repair
  • Small Engine Repair
  • Carpentry & Woodworking
  • Basic Home Repair
  • Plumping & Electrical Work
  • Knife Sharpening
  • Sewing!
  • Accepting Personal Responsibility for Your Own Life
These are just a few of the skills you can learn. You'll learn many of them in the military, if you join (and, again, I encourage you to do so). You can also learn many of these in the Boy Scouts. I know you are in the Scouts right now, Tim. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that you didn't make Eagle. You are just in it for the fun of camping and hiking, but I encourage you to change that and to take Scouting more seriously. Make reaching Eagle a major goal in your life. The skills you will learn in doing so will take you far in life.

Keep a few hundred dollars in cash is a safe, hidden place at home for emergencies. Stick back a few dozen rolls of silver coins - pre-1965 dimes, quarters, half-dollars - in a safe, hidden spot at home.

Speaking of money and finances, earlier I promised you some more tips in addition to staying out of debt. Here they are:
  • Spend less than you make, and make savings a regular part of your life. 
  • Have a well-funded emergency account in a safe, well-established credit union or small bank.
  • Learn to be entertained without having to spend a lot of money.
  • Avoid participating in fads and joining in fashionable trends.
  • Avoid impulse purchases.
  • Be careful investing in the stock market. If you do so, be a value investor, and only invest in well-established companies for the long-term. Read Benjamin Grahams' The Intelligent Investor to learn about value investing. 
  • Do invest in precious metals. 
  • Avoid financial gimmicks and get-rich-quick schemes.
  • Learn accounting to really understand the language of business.
  • A homestead and land is a great investment. 
  • Insurance is a good thing. Make sure your insurance company is sound.
Tim, there are a variety of rating services that you can check with to discover the financial soundness of banks, credit unions, insurance companies, and other financial institutions. Also, pay attention to the news and to the financial reports of your institutions. Again, learning accounting will help.

Finally, be a part of the solution to future problems. Vote. Then pay attention to what your elected officials do. Hold them accountable. Pay attention to the news. Stand up for the Constitution, limited government, capitalism, and traditional Western values. Learn real civics, real history, and real economics, not the politically correct propaganda they teach in school. 

In closing, Tim, just remember that the single most important thing you can do to survive any future chaos is to start taking responsibility for your own life now.

Best of luck,

Your Future Self (Tim at age 47, in 2015)