SELCO: Why It’s Very Hard to Go It Alone When the SHTF

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Author of The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival and the online course SHTF Survival Boot Camp

I often say that survival is about being ahead of other folks around you.

If I want to “complicate” that definition a bit I would say that survival is also keeping the ability to cope with everyday tasks, stay alive, and still have the kind of life that makes you human.

What does that mean?

Survival is about staying alive of course, but to keep your self alive in an SHTF world can mean a lot of things. If you plan to live like an animal, completely without morals, it is not the kind of survival that I am talking about.

I am talking about life inside “boundaries” or a moral norm (or a religious norm, whichever suits you). That’s what actually makes us humans.

It can be a tough task. Actually, from the point of “toughness”, it is easier to refer to the most basic lower instincts in order to survive, but as I said it is not bare survival that I am talking about.

The reality of everyday life when the SHTF

One of the takeaways from students in our physical courses is that “this is complicated” or “this takes a lot of time” or “this is hard.”

Now, please note that on the physical courses we do not teach and train rocket science. It is all about finishing everyday tasks, in very different settings. That’s what SHTF life is. Students look for resources, shelter, and safety in settings that are closest to a real-life SHTF scenario.

We can say that we all do the same in our everyday life. We work in order to obtain resources, safety, and security for ourselves and our families.
The thing here is that we have a running system around us to help us with all that. When that system goes, we do the same, we want the same – but our techniques, timing, and aspirations are very different.

The easiest word to use it here is the word “harder.” Everything will be harder when the SHTF.

You will need more time, more effort, and more energy, and you’ll have much less safety and security while doing it. You’ll be under a whole set of new dangers.

You can make it easier to some extent by taking away some luxuries. I mean you can lower down the amount of time and the amount of energy and reduce your exposure to danger by taking away any unneeded luxuries from your life when the SHTF.

An example would be that once the SHTF you’ll be forced to cook your food once per week only, because it requires less fuel or exposes you to less danger. Or you’ll lower your consumption of water by 50 percent because it takes you 2 days to obtain 20 liters of water and so on and so on.

Or simply you are not gonna have your favorite chocolate anymore because it will be too expensive on the black market, or your cigarettes or whatever.

The examples are numerous, but the point is that life will be different.

Being alone or working with others

As I said, it is not rocket science. It is a simple fact that everyday life tasks will get much more complicated and you will need much more time to finish them, even the simplest one. The debate about going it alone or working with a group will go on forever, and while there is not just one answer, groups will make your life much easier in bad times.

Test yourself and see how much water you need for one day, and then go and check how much time and effort you need to get that water, carry it from whenever, purify it, and make it ready to use.

Or see how much fuel you need to keep yourself warm and how long it takes you to acquire that fuel and prepare it for use.

Going through all of that while being alone complicates things a lot.

Yes, you can say “but I’ll need fewer resources if I am alone.” You might be right, but you are also gonna have much less manpower for it. Remember, we are not talking about normal times. Who will watch your home while you are looking for resources? Or to bring it to a higher level, who will stand watch for you while you are sleeping?

Who will take care of you if you are sick?

A misconception is that you HAVE to have a group when SHTF. While it would be great to have that, if it is impossible you may try to work on some kind of loose network of people.

For example, if it is impossible to have more manpower physically with you when the SHTF, you can try to have some trusted people in your area, some kind of network that you can look to for help when SHTF.

It is a great thing to have more people with you, but also it is also good to have trusted people that you can visit and look to for help (or vice versa) once the SHTF. If you don’t have that kind of community now, you can learn how to form a survival network.

Having a group

As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers, so if you have people with you when SHTF it is good. But remember, it is not only about the people around you. It is about what abilities those people have, too.

Yes, there is always that “husband (sister, brother, son) who is not into prepping, he is basically useless…” Yes, but he is your husband (or whatever) so you have known him for years. It is a great start if you have someone that you can trust when the SHTF.

Or there is a combination where you have a great friend with skills, but he turns into a creepy maniac once the SHTF.

To learn more about forming a group or a loose network of people you can trust, check out our on-demand webinar, Survival Communities. Go here for more information.

Forming a group does not happen overnight. It is a process that takes time to build. More time means more trust and more skills.

Do you have a group or network?

Why or why not? Let’s talk about it in the comments section.



Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today. He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months. Read more of Selco's articles here. Buy his PDF books here. Take advantage of a deep and profound insight into his knowledge by signing up for his unrivaled online course. Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.

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  • There is a reason that, throughout history, man has always come together in some form of community. The lone “Mountain Man” is the subject of legend because he is so far out of the norm (and even the trapper living alone still had to come into town regularly).

    Selco makes a key point here: “and still have the kind of life that makes you human”. Far too many people only think about what it takes to keep from starving to death, while giving no thought to what it really means to be human. Excellent article!

  • Great stuff as always Selco.
    Pulling 24hr guard duty is an impossible tasking even for couples. We’ve all got strengths and weaknesses and someone who knows how to capitalize on them will prevail.
    I will also add that it is not easy to keep a group together. In fact it’s downright hard. It’s easier when they are scared but when they are not the dynamics of emotions and character come into play.

    • @Matt in OK,

      Well said about groups.
      Group dynamics can make or break a group. All it takes is one toxic member to sow the seeds of discord and discontent.

      It could be that one loud mouth braggart, never been anywhere, never done anything, never been in a leadership position, that thinks he is going to take charge and lead the group. Or is always undermining those actually in a leadership position, thinking he knows better.

      The Rambowannabez who thinks watching 3,500 hours of YouTube makes him a Operator.
      (Note: I had a co-worker who fits the above descriptions)

      Could be that pretty young girl who does not like work, and uses her physical attributes to get her way, at the expense of others.
      (seen that too)

      How to deal with such disruptions to the group/community is the question.

  • Thank you for this post and for setting up a webinar about building a community, because this is exactly what I need to learn right now! Great info as always!

  • I have met a few and seen a number of the Rambowannabez, with the minimalist mindset taken to an extreme, as if the greater the self-imposed degradation makes them that much better then you, or them a bigger man.
    These are the kind of guys who end up talking to a volley ball. And a woman? Yeah, after 6 months or a year, they are the ones that would abduct a woman, drag her back to his cave.

    I look at my Amish neighbors as a better example of what a community should look like post-SHTF. While they all have their own homes, property, livestock, other assets, they are a closely knitted community that aids each other when the need arises. I have done business and helped them out on more than a few occasions.

    Generally in every community there is one guy or family that is known by everyone (IIRC, Selco wrote about one such man). Get to know that person or family and be seen as a good person, and others will be more willing to deal or work with you.
    In short, network.

    Reputation will also go far. We insist on paying immediately, in cash. If we say we are going to do something, or be some place at a given time, we are there. Always offer a helping hand. In the event of SHTF, and the fuel is gone, there are going to be things one person could do with a tractor in an afternoon that will now take one person a week to do manually. Having several good neighbors will shorten that work considerably. Maybe not as much as a tractor with a PTO, but better than doing it by yourself.

    • Problem with the Amish is that they will not be able to defend themselves if attacked. Because of that, they will not survive a SHTF scenario.

      • We English (what the Amish call us around here, non-derogatory), are fully aware of the limitations the Amish and their ways put on them.
        We also know we are going to need them in our community if we are to survive.
        And that is where we come in, to their defense.

  • I think this sort of community/network takes some time to develop. I had this where I used to live(and farm). I moved to my current location during the pandemic and it’s not a great time for getting to know people and join in on community happenings as so much is closed and so many are hunkered down. So I do morn for my former community but that can’t be helped. And yes, I totally agree that trying to go it on one’s own is probably not gonna work in a crisis situation. The notion of “self-sufficiency” is not realistic imho.

  • Many years ago, our close knit neighborhood gathered around the fire pit and discussed emergency situations and how we would survive as a unit. Everyone has strengths and we played to them to loosely develop a plan. Luckily, we have two huge gardens, heirloom seeds, a spring fed year round water source and lots of stored staples/first aid. We have stocked up on fire starting equipment, solar shower, water treatment system. Everyone has stores of fuel that get rotated and replaced. Lots of items to barter (hopefully for a couple goats for milk/cheese and some chickens). I have purchased soap nuts to make shampoo/laundry detergent. Recently added a Nurse Practitioner and two EMT to the group so first aid supplies were expanded to include minor surgical items like a skin stapler, sterile sutures/needles etc. We also would likely qualify as a well armed militia…We pray we never have to use our supplies but we all rest easy knowing we stand a fair chance of making it as a community.

    • Sue B. Some of the best trade items for getting folks to part with suddenly VERY valuable small livestock is Animal FEED. Almost no body I know has more than a few months at best of food for their chickens and such. YOUR going to need it also when you get some chickens for example. Tractor Supply might not be open anymore?

      Knowledge of what farmers fed their livestock before Purina Laying Chow is also a great idea. Field Peas Or soybeans or beans in general) and Cracked corn is the basics I have found from reading older pre 1900 farmer handbooks. Proteins and Carbs who would have thought? A couple of screw top barrels of whole corn kept cool and dry can last for years, you will need an iron plate Corona style grain grinder and set the plates for coarse grind to crack it for the birds and small livestock. Field peas and corn are not that hard to grow, I use field peas as a cool weather spring and fall plantings to build up my soil. Then let the critters enjoy the food. A win-win.

      Winter is coming, you cannot assume that a small farmer is simply going to trade a few silver coins for some chickens and they will forage for their food and give you eggs and new chicks. Food and safe water will be far more valuable than today.

      Congratulations for having the foresight to secure a good group and water source. You are miles ahead of most of us.

  • I have been saying for years that I am NOT a “prepper”. Because that makes it sound like you’re getting ready for something bad to happen sometime in the future.

    No my friends, I am an American. Because I know that bad shit happens all the time, so I’m not at all surprised when it does. Extra toilet paper, bleach, hand sanitizer, dish liquid on hand? That’s not SHTF at my house, that’s called “Tuesday”

    Ever since the latest riots started, I have been warning people:

    Because this notion that what’s happening in them there blue cities “could never happen here” is just flat out stupid. Seriously, thinking that the insanity can’t show up in your town is like looking at a cancerous tumor and saying, “Well, that won’t spread.” OF COURSE IT WILL!!!

    Like that guy said in Tropic Thunder, “Never go full retard”

    Don’t wait for the cops to save you. Don’t wait for the President. Damn sure don’t wait for your local politicians; they’ll fold like cheap lawn chairs at the first hint of mob violence.

    Look, I ain’t no “tough guy”. I wasn’t in the army, I’m not ex law enforcement. I’m not 6’5″ with arms the size of your legs. You’d walk by me on the street and never blink. So I’m not talking about all of us in out towns forming “militias”. That’s just phony tough guy blather for ” wear camo and talk a lot and do nothing”.

    What I’m saying is, find out which of your friends and neighbors are armed. If they are newly armed, help them get advice from folks you know and trust who know better. And hey, use your damned phones: have a text message set up that says something like “HELP ME!!!” that you can send out to a dozen people in the event that some folks up to no good have shown up where you live.

    Do you know any retired folks? I do; and they will let everyone know in an instant if they see something going on. Come on; they’re bored, and a lot of them are scared after watching the news. No one wants to feel helpless.

    Bottom line: don’t wait for bad stuff to happen tomorrow. Tomorrow is already here

  • Always a good discussion with Selco. Since every human has a breaking point where they go off their rocker — even the prepped, it’s soooo very important to have someone around who’s not afraid to give us a little slap because they care. As we have seen by the events of these past four months, true colors come out of the woodwork. We might not take everyone into our bosom confidence but we can network with those who understand what’s required to survive. Those who are closest, we can trust to have our back in every case. The important thing as others have pointed out is to treat those who are not in our immediate circle with a good will until they prove unworthy — then … ugh… we have to cut ties.

    Really, how many people are going to see the gravity of the matter the same. Kingdoms are lost for the want of a horseshoe nail. We’re only as strong as the weakest link. Etc. ETC! So coming alongside those who are weaker to help them be stronger is so very important. Being strong enough to carry our own burden leaves a little room for others who struggle with their own burden.

    In The End, being human requires being with other humans to share the burden of surviving. Not only in our living but in our dying. Kind of gloomy, but last rites are important to being–to being human.

  • it would be very interesting to learn how to build a community in pandemic environment, i mean everybody with at least common sense (i’m not talking about preppers who aim to be ahead of others who already have a community) consider lay low and avoide any offline person to person contact

  • Anyone who travels to different areas of the country knows that people are a bit different from place to place, especially ‘country’ people from ‘urban’ people. So what people from those two groups would you think would be easier and more beneficial to develop a loose association with? Point is, depending upon where you live, developing a loose but mutually beneficial association is much more difficult in some places than others.

  • I’m alone, at the moment. (Isolation due to Covid is merely added to isolation due to friends moving to chase jobs and isolation due to preventative treatment of psych issues.) The roommates I have are going to be “avenge now, survive later” types. (This is evident in their need for frozen meats and cheap restaurant food and utter disdain for fruits, vegetables, starches, and grains. I have weeks of rice and beans, but they’ve not touched them. They only keep them because I told them to.)

    Also, I’m relatively poor at the moment. I’m helping friends stay afloat and paying for loans that helped them, and paying school. I was doing some prepping (2 huge bags of charcoal, collecting various steels, said beans and rice plus oatmeal, vitamin/mineral supplements, relevant tools), but most of that was tossed by my current roommates before I’d considered what “free reign” meant. (Another psych issue – slow on uptake despite fast on reasoning and expansive knowledge.)

    At this point, I have plans for what to do, but very little of save-for-crisis. (First farm will be an issue, as will be finding clay and making first charcoal. I’m disdaining hunting mostly because of how many folks are in the area and how much effort/$ is needed to ensure good ammo and gun maintenance.) Post-first-farm, I know the basics of smelting, materials science, steam power, hammer-mills & gearing, water retention methods, pumping, blacksmithing, and a few other areas.

  • There’s been this romantic idea about the lone wolf, making his own way… that is nothing more than a fantasy. Sure, there is a tiny portion of the population that could live like that, but what about people with families? What about neighbors?

    I have small children. If the human waste hits the rotating airfoil, I’m not going to pull on my bugout backpack and ditch my family. I doubt anyone would. I also have neighbors who have skillsets that are useful. We started talk about pooling our skills a few years ago during the Valentine’s Day Blackout/Freeze.

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