How “Embracing the Suck” Will Help You Survive When the SHTF

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Throughout my Army career, I had been told to, “embrace the suck,” or “suck it up,” countless times when dealing with frustrating or harsh conditions. For pretty much all of it, I thought they meant the same thing. I finally realized they do not. Both, however, are great pieces of advice. I had meant to write this article on my own blog but I decided to write it for you here instead. This isn’t just advice that can help you if SHTF, it’s advice that could literally change your life.

Let’s break this down.

Preparing for emergencies, disasters, or even SHTF takes several avenues. Most people understand that you need to continually work on:

  • Gathering supplies
  • Learning survival skills
  • Learning how to defend yourself
  • Becoming/staying physically fit and healthy
  • Building a team you trust
  • Coming up with a way to communicate with your team when comms are down
  • Coming up with contingency plans

Did you see the most important thing on the list though? It’s preparing yourself mentally.

Sucking it up

Another way of saying this is to just push through the pain. Sucking it up is great advice for most situations, and it’s something that’s kind of an acquired skill. What it basically means is to just quit b*tching and get back to the problem at hand.

It’s what an EMT has to do when they come across a child who was hit on their bicycle or what a soldier has to do when their buddy has been hit and is starting to bleed out. You’ll have the rest of your life to freak out if you need to – now is not the time.

By learning how to become less reactive to stressful situations in life that aren’t so crazy, you toughen your mind a bit at a time. Some things that would freak others out become no problem for you. Things like waiting in traffic due to an accident ahead become less and less stressful and your life actually starts to improve. Eventually, situations that would have been debilitating to you previously become quite bearable.

Now, what does this have to do with embracing the suck and how are they different?

Embracing the suck

Sucking it up means to just deal with the situation even though you really don’t want to. Embracing the suck means just what it literally says – embrace it. When you embrace your loved one, that doesn’t mean you’re just tolerating them or just accepting them, it means you’re welcoming them into your life and your heart. You’re asking them to be a part of you. Not only do you accept the situation – you want it.

Embracing the suck means to put yourself in situations that you normally wouldn’t be in and to push yourself more than you normally would. It’s a mindset. It’s a whole different level of toughening your mind than sucking it up is, and is incredibly powerful.

A lot of people have survived incredibly dangerous situations without the skill or equipment they needed because they just flat out refused to give up. This is a skill that can be learned and improved. It’s a skill that you can master.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should run out and yell at a tornado but there’s nothing wrong with just standing in a rainstorm and enjoying the experience instead of running for shelter every time.

How to embrace the suck in your life

So what can you do to learn how to embrace the suck in your life now and what will happen in the future?

The best way to do this is to start with a few small things and gradually take on tougher and tougher challenges. Here are some examples:

  • Take a cold shower in the morning (Hey, you can always follow up with a warm one after).
  • When counting how many miles you run or bike, don’t start measuring until you’re ready to give up. Not only will this help you burn more calories and get you into better shape, each foot of that exercise after you would have given up will help build your tolerance for pain.
  • Reframe uncomfortable situations such as physical or social discomfort and instead of running away, figure out what you can learn from the situation as it’s happening.
  • Look at some of the things on your to-do list that you’ve been avoiding the longest. In many cases, you’re avoiding them because they’re uncomfortable for some reason and not because you don’t have what you need in order to accomplish them. Purposely target one of these things and do it.
  • Build in embracing something that sucks into your normal routine. Start with one small thing each day and build on that. Make it a habit and it will become part of you.
  • When you’re taking on one of these small challenges that suck, learn to not only push through that discomfort, enjoy the process and the satisfaction of doing it JUST BECAUSE IT SUCKS. Remember, it isn’t about dealing with uncomfortable situations, it’s about becoming comfortable with discomfort.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you start something that sucks and then quit because it sucked more than you could handle. You’ve already started the process by just taking on the challenge. Even though you didn’t finish the goal this time – you’re now just a bit tougher than you were. Find something else that sucks and attack it.

As I mentioned above, this little life hack isn’t just something that could help you deal with some catastrophic event, it’s something that could help you achieve great things in life.

Check out this video by former Navy SEAL David Goggins. He explains this quite well, using personal examples.

Have you learned how to embrace the suck?

How do you deal with uncomfortable or unpleasant situations? Have you learned to embrace the suck?  What are some unpleasant situations in your own life to which you could apply this philosophy? Let us know in the comments.

About Graywolf

Graywolf is a former Counterintelligence Agent and US Army combat veteran. His experience as an agent, soldier and government contractor on assignments around the world gives him a unique perspective on the world and how to deal with it. His website is Graywolf Survival.

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  • I walk in bad weather. Rain or shine, with or without an umbrella. I go out and get soaked and still put in some distance every day. It is really satisfying to be out there voluntarily while everyone else is rushing for cover and looking miserable.

    • I make it point to walk my mile long property every time it snows more than 2 feet deep (actually every time it snows period but the deeper it is the better I like it! Survived a heart attack once doing that very thing). Since I turned 60 that is quite a chore…but the Nature you observe makes it all worth while. I could drive the 4WD Kubota tractor, but the view would not be as fine.

      Rain is just wet air to me. Momma always told me I wasn’t made of sugar and wasn’t anyone’s sweetheart…so get your chores done. You don’t want to know what Daddy taught me. That would shrivel your soul.

      Sorry to “one up” you, but I’m gettin’ the sense that I’m a generation behind you and folks need to remember how things used to be.

      Like I told you before, I’ve got tons of anecdotes to relate if given the chance.

  • I lived in a rooming house for 5 years and had some genuine loonybirds as neighbors. You learned fast to lock your door and keep things in your fanny pack. It was cheap but affordable as I was broke. I have eaten out of dumpsters and gone to soup kitchens. Very humbling to have homeless friends. You learn from them.

  • Daisy, This is a truly inspirational video. Thank you for presenting it. I can identify with Groggins’ attitude but my father wasn’t like his. My father encouraged me to be the best I could be and to NEVER GIVE UP! I hope I’ve instilled that in my son and maybe I have. He graduated from High School in 1985 and completed his bachelor’s degree in 2016. He’s now working on his Master’s. All the while supporting his wife and her niece who has come to live with them because of extraordinary circumstances.

    I have referred people to your web-site as I believe you have one of the best on the web for practical survival/SHTF training. I’ve just completed the “Meals in a Jar” session and will look into putting that into practice.

    Thanks for what you are doing to bring folks to the realization that we are living in dangerous times.

  • There is an expression that’s been around for a long time. It’s even been copywrited by someone who doesn’t know the originator. It is

    “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass… it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

    Lots of large organizations have an obsession with slapping unique vocabulary onto items or issues of common wisdom. The military is no different.

    –Lewis

  • Interesting take, and excellent advice. Learning to accept any unpleasant or stressful situation is step one in coping with it. Anyone who is familiar with the “Serenity Prayer” will recognize this philosophy:

    Accept the things you cannot change,
    Change the things you can,
    Learn to recognize the difference.

    Granted, there are many degrees of “suckitude”, and everyone has a different threshold of tolerance and coping abilities. Learning to be flexible and adapting your mindset is a valuable skill to cultivate under any circumstances.
    Thanks Graywolf for an interesting article.

    • The Apostle Paul exhorts us to “be content in every circumstance”.

      I have done so much with so little for so long that it is now possible for me to do anything with absolutely nothing.

  • I worked in construction during the summers when I was a teenager. 90-100+ is the norm in the summer where I lived then. I sweat a lot and when on the job I was dressed for sweating and learned to enjoy it (well maybe tolerate is a better word). My car had no AC then and I absolutely hated sweating in the car, and everywhere else, when I wasn’t dressed or physiced for it.

    • Try running black iron gas pipe in an attic in southern Alabama in July. The temperature in the attic was over 140 F. with no air flow. We worked in 10 minute shifts and shared space with the electricians. Four guys in an oven with one 3X3 foot exit to a one man ladder. 5 days a week every week plus overtime.

      Yup. I know heat. For me it wasn’t the heat as much as the claustrophobia. You didn’t want to be the guy between me and the exit when I was ready to leave.

  • Awesome article Greywolf!
    Life does indeed have more quality when one quits b*tching about everything and learns to go with it. Embrace the suck as your article puts it so well!
    I have a hard time with negative attitudes and constant complaining. It is so non-productive and just makes people not want to be around such a person.
    You give very good advice and I will try to do even more with my own attitude! Good encouragement 🙂

  • I can suck it up with the very best of them, but I have a moral problem with “embracing the suck”. As a follower of Christ Jesus, I have been instructed that I am MORE than a conqueror.

    I am an heir to The Creator of the Universe. I was not born to “embrace the suck”. I was born to overcome the suck! For me, to embrace the suck is to surrender to the Enemy. I would rather die.

    • The way you are “more than conqueror” is not that you escape the pains and suffering of life, but that you suffer them for Christ, and in imitation of Him. He endured the flogging,, the crown of thorns and mocking soldiers, the carrying of the cross and dying on it. In the end He was resurrected and so will we be. But very seldom are Christians conquerors in a material sense in this life. If we keep turning to Him we can conquer our own sins, and endure suffering joyfully for Christ.

  • One of our favorite stories we read together as a family was Endurance about the explorer Ernest Shackleford and the amazing fortitude his crew found when their expedition to the South Pole went wrong.. Highly recommended to all preppers. Very encouraging when people come out on the good end because of their grit.

    One thing about people who have been tried by fire, they don’t ever think about themselves as being exceptional. But their maturity and understanding of life is amazing. There’s no way around that kind of training. What’s that saying? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

    Graywolf, thank you for this sobering reminder of what it’s going to take to survive the future that’s coming at us.

  • Odd, this is the first time I have ever seen a member of the US military wearing their formal uniform and wearing their commendations on the right side of their chest, and this guy even has his Trident on the right side of his chest.

    Flaky picture.

      • The pic is mirrored/reversed.
        Advertisers/publishers will sometimes flip the pic so they can put lettering on the opposite side and still have the medals, not realizing it is inaccurate.

          • I did a quick search for David Goggins images. Came across what appears to be the same photo (for his book I believe) but correctly imaged.
            The vid, they mirrored the image to put the lettering on the right, but sill look ascetically pleasing.
            Was it done by mistake or they just did not care, who knows. (shrugs shoulders)
            Yep, he is the real deal.

      • Daisy,
        Did you read my comment? or did you just go on automatic defensive because someone challenged the article or, more specifically the PICTURE?? Read it again and you will NOT find one unkind thing that I said about Goggins. I was merely commenting on the FLAKY PICTURE wondering why the medals and his Trident appear to be on his right side rather than his left.

  • I frikkin love this article and embrace it. I’ve share our with a few friends and family too. I also have the morale patch on my edc. Peace from the UK.

  • I was always taught not to embrace the suck, rather to overcome and have victory over the suck. It was not taught in those exact words, but that’s the basic idea.

    I don’t have the physical abilities, I respect those who are able to finish Hell Week. But there are other challenges that just need to be plowed through in order to have victory. The main challenge is mental, just to keep at it until victory. Most people try the easy way, and never get the victory.

    David Goggins’ video is about victory, not embracing.

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