Sometimes Survival Is Not About WHAT You Know – It’s About WHO You Know

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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Build a Better Pantry on a Budget online course

Like a lot of frequent travelers, I’d been itching to get back on the road after months of lockdown. A couple of months ago, I drove from the east coast to the west coast and ended up in Mexico, where I rented a condo near some close friends to settle in for the expected second wave of Covid-19.

I’m all about new cultures and new experiences when I travel. As I’ve written before, traveling has made me a far more adaptable person and I believe has greatly enhanced my resilient mindset. Just like the previous article, this isn’t a newsy article filled with deep research or a how-to that will teach you ways to deal with specific threats. It’s simply a blog post in which I’m sharing a personal story and philosophy that some folks will find thought-provoking and others will find outlandish. But either way, do share your thoughts in the comments.

I learn a lot by observing others when traveling, and there is one theme that has been consistent throughout the current adventure.

It’s not so much about what you know, as it is about who you know.

So here’s something I’ve learned living in Mexico – it’s not so much about what you know, as it is about who you know. And those who “know” the most people will have a far better handle on survival in difficult situations.

There are certain people I’ve met here who simply know everyone. They know a guard at my condo complex, they know a mechanic, they know a veterinarian, they know a pharmacist, they know somebody who works at the border, they know someone in the police department.

These are the people you call when something goes wrong. When my Jeep sprung a leak, I contacted a couple of in-the-know people and had someone over to repair it in short order. The work was reasonably priced and when there was a small unforeseeable issue afterward, it was taken care of without further charge after I made a quick phone call.

Because my friend-who-knows-everyone knows the guards and introduced me, now I know the guards and they are very helpful. For example, when there was an event in the nearby city that was likely to get rowdy, one of the guards pulled me aside and said, “Daisy, you should stay in tonight. Things might get carried away in town.” I don’t go out a lot at night here, but it was still really nice to get the warning. These are sources I nurture with cold drinks on a hot day, a friendly smile, and a warm greeting – and sometimes a few pesos when they’re particularly helpful.

Getting my inhaler refilled is as simple as a buddy calling a buddy. I watched a pal get pulled over by the police for a minor traffic infraction but he knows the police chief and after a quick call, was on his way. Even though I live outside the regular delivery area, someone who knows someone got me pizza delivered with a text message.

What I’ve also discovered is that a “friend of a friend” is often a more reliable service provider than a storefront you’d walk into in order to do business. Nobody wants their friend to hear how they ripped off another friend, or how they did a shoddy repair. There’s a lot of social clout gained from doing a great job. As well, when you do a great job, your friend will recommend you to the next gringo who has car trouble/hot water heater issues/some other issue that needs to be resolved. And keep in mind, the recommender is then owed a favor by the person he or she recommended. The friend who “knows someone” will be in a good position during difficult times.

As you can see, they take networking to the next level. In the US, you see this kind of thing in small towns where everyone has known everyone else since they were kneehigh to a bullfrog, but it’s less common in suburbia and the city.

Being the person who knows everyone is a good position to be in.

One of the stories Selco shared in his book, The Dark Secrets of Survival, was about a man who “knew someone.”  He was able to help people acquire needed items. He was able to connect people with the folks who could offer the services they needed. He didn’t have any particular talents or abilities that you’d normally find on a list of “Skills You Need to Survive the Apocalypse,” but he didn’t have to – because he knew someone who did.

The man became important not because of what he knew, but because of who he knew. He survived the terrible situation not through his own skills, but the skills of others.

In Selco’s on-demand webinar about survival communities, he, Toby, and I discussed making oneself a valuable part of a survival community. A lot of folks underestimate what they bring to the table – and being the person who always “knows someone” is something that is well within reach for many of us, whether we’re young or old, fit or fat, or are adept at combat. Being able to connect two people is a very valuable skill.

It’s something that comes more naturally to people with extroverted personalities, but even us introverts can get to know people wherever we go. One thing I’ve done since becoming a full-time traveler is that I immediately put the contact information for people I meet in my phone. I save the contacts in two ways – one is what they do – like “Landlord – Montenegro” or “Doctor – Skopje,” and the other is by name. I’ve got contacts in all sorts of different places that could prove useful at some point in the future. If I revisit any of the same countries, I’ll save a fortune by bypassing rental apps and going direct to the landlords. But it isn’t just something that I do in faraway lands. I’ll be in this area for several months, and I’ve already added at least a dozen “someones” of my own. I even had the fun of being able to say to another American traveling here, “Oh, I know someone who could help you with that.”

Add “knowing someone” to your arsenal.

Let me be perfectly clear in that I am absolutely not suggesting that you throw all your preps out and forget about learning skills to live off being a social butterfly. It’s better yet when you can do things yourself and you don’t need to “know someone.” You will never regret being able to cover all the pillars of preparedness on your own, at least to some degree.

But no person is an island – that’s why community is so important. People can be resources, even if they aren’t members of your immediate community. Being the person who always knows someone is something you can begin working on immediately and absolutely anyone can do it.

Do you know any folks who always “know someone?” Are you that person? What are the best ways to develop your network? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Kindness goes a long way. Having spent time in the service industry, you see the best and worst of people. Politeness and empathy can and do make all the difference in personal engagements. I have gotten deals and favors by simply saying “please”.

    And its not about being a “big man”, its about respecting the small ones. The ones who cut your meat at the deli counter, or deliver your wood. The server at your table, or the rep on the phone. Work contacts have been huge for me-working and learning with people, building outside relationships that let you trade favors and create healthy interdependencies. I did city living a long while ago, and it is amazing who you dont know in your building/ apartment. Country life is easier, but people can be a tad more cagey, especially if you are from “away”. But the right neighbor, the right entre, and doors open, trust builds.

    Also, doing small favors for nothing helps in trust building as well. Asking your elderly neighbors if they need help- easy win. Offering to pay a friend for their time and skills, instead of assuming they will help- also bonus. Finally, your personal reputation matters a TON. You cannot afford to be seen as a “taker”- you lose all street cred and will get left in the proverbial cold.

    I have a few personal guidlines that have helped me: be honest, polite, keep your favor debts to a minimum, and pass on the names of people who know how to those who need.

      • I agree too. People can know you almost immediately if you’re a giver, kind, sincere and courteous. It’s amazing how much of what we consider “third world” is way ahead of us in that regard. A good reputation is just plain, good collateral.

  • Well this poses a problem for many I think. I was just mulling this sort of thing over. I think a lot of people are moving, a lot of preppers just now getting their first homestead etc. in a new area. My question I’m asking myself is would one be better off in an inhabitable spot where they know lots of people, or moving to a more habitable area and not knowing anyone? Or very few people at least.

    • Rebecca-

      It’s a challenging balance I would think. Based on your above, I would be asking, what type and quality of people? Definitely not attempting to cast doubt or aspersions on your contacts, but numbers of associations doesn’t always mean quality of associations. Personally, I think more rural, less predictable locations that present planning opportunities for runs into the nearest town, and resources from the land- with fewer neighbors- may present more deliberate engagements and allow for better personal assessments of your associates (old or new) than simply being near lots of people you know. Those “lots of people” can quickly become resource drainers if they haven’t worked to build their own skill sets or are reliant upon knowing “lots of people” themselves. Just thoughts.

      • @Rebecca,
        I have seen both.
        Afghanistan. Very inhabitable spot, but with a lot of people who know each other. They work together because they have to in order to survive. They are very tribal or community orientated.
        I think you would be better off in a area that can provide for you and yours and then get to know the locals.
        Having lived in urban, suburban and now a rural area, I can say that people are a bit more friendly out here in the sicks.

    • This is a question with no easy answer. There are pros and cons to both lifestyles. One thing to remember is that no person is an island. If you have the best homestead in the world, but you live there alone and you break your leg, you’re in big trouble.

      I have done the secluded homestead, the big city, and the neighborhoods. I prefer a neighborhood for my circumstances. If I lived with a big family, I might lean more toward the country. You can do a lot of homesteading in a neighborhood if you choose your location carefully.

    • I’m going to give you a valuable tip, but don’t pass it around. Areas that are isolated by distance or natural features (mountain ranges or islands, for example) are the ticket.

  • if you know enough, then you are the someone whom everyone wants to know.

    The principle here is: are YOU a valuable resource to some one else?
    Come SHTF, you better be.

    Just because you know someone, does not mean it will do you or any one else any good ; UNLESS you( or they) have something to trade for either the stuff or the connection.
    What you have to trade may not be enough or the right stuff, So hopefully you will have the knowledge and the skills needed to make the trade happen.
    During SHTF, don’t expect anyone to give away anything for free!!!!

    As far as building a network, that is fine, but if 80% of the population perished within the first year ( as some people forecast), it is doubtful that most of your current “network” connections that you make, will be alive in a POST SHTF world.
    It is also doubtful that most of the connections you make today will have anything useful to supply, Post SHFT world, unless we are talking about stuff, you should already know.

    Who is going to know. Today, where to find someone who has Gasoline, 6 months into SHTF?
    Who, Today will be able to tell you who or where there will still be food or other supplies, 6 month or a year into SHTF?
    Who is to say, that you will not be forced to bug out, but they might not be.
    So how much use will your network be then, if you are relocating 20, 50 or 100 miles away?
    Assuming transportation options will be limited, that won’t help you much.

    Also by networking now, you are disclosing what you have or can do.
    Not everyone you meet this way, will be “Preppers”. Some of them will be “Raiders and Looters” in “Preppers” clothing (ie wolves in sheep’s clothing) and you just made yourself their target.

    So beware of wasting to much of your time on this, before SHTF happens.

      • I have to say there is some truth to what MIc says. As someone who lives the prepper lifestyle, I rarely have time to stop and help those who failed to help themselves. My phone is often filled with messages from others who have the time and money to go to Disney World but none to stock up a pantry, who can afford the latest iPhone but not a generator.

        I do have a small circle of friends who I help and who help me. Some are elderly and can’t physically do some of the chores they need help with. My experience is that many conflate acquaintances with friends, the two are very different. I learned this when, as a young man, I bought my first truck while all my “friends” had BMW’s and Audi’s. The usual comment was “Oh good, now I know who to call when I need to move.

        My philosophy now is my friends know my level of preparation. My acquaintances aren’t even sure where I live.

    • MIc,
      You always have so much to say on here that I decided to search for your blog online. I’ve tried googling everything I can think of…. “Debbie Downer”, “Single for Life”, “Human Raincloud”, but I come up with nothing. Can you help?

    • Mic
      You bring up some good questions. We really don’t know what will hit us and how until it happens and what the affect will be on our lives. Just look at how COVID was different than what was expected. Those contacts might be dead, bugged out, scared, etc. but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make them. Even now they are helpful – I was just helped to get wood for winter and tomatoes I’m canning today – all free.

      You are also totally right that you need to have knowledge and skills to help others – you have more clout that way not to mention it’s the decent thing to do. I’m known for my garden – neighbors will definitely be asking for advice. Yes it puts me in danger that they know I have a garden but there isn’t a way to hide it anyway. Putting a fence around it for deer and humans is on the list to do. Yes I know there is no way to keep a determined human out.

      Some of other people’s skills/knowledge will help me. Hopefully we can help protect each other. Our chance for survival is higher if we have a group helping each other. You are right – we need to be careful on how much we reveal to other people. Just because we network today doesn’t mean we have to share all our business.

      • “…we need to be careful on how much we reveal to other people…” is right on the money. I heard that during WW II people were required to purchase food with cash and “rationing stamps” issued by the govt. If someone
        ( neighbor, former spouse, disgruntled ex-employee) tipped off authorities that you were “hoarding” food, the jackbooted thugs would come into your home and perform a food audit. Those who had more food than the govt though they should were arrested. Govt didn’t need to prove how you came to have it–even if you did by feeding yourself smaller portions to make the food last. History may well repeat itself…

    • @MIc,

      The idea behind networking now, is that your network will not be among the 80% die off.
      And it will take a group of people to actually survive a post-SHTF collapse. Those in your network, you will be more inclined to trust to have your back, be it bringing in hay, firewood, or in self-defense.
      Are there going to be people like you, all closed off, hiding in your cave, talking to a volley ball?
      Of course.
      We will just leave you be, and go about our business, growing our gardens, raising livestock, talking and socializing in front of a fire.
      Come Octoberfest, when we have tapped the hard cider, or blackberry wine, and the smell of a recently slaughter hog, roasting over a pit comes your way, we will still let you join our group.
      Although after 6 months to a year of you out there by yourself, any of the women folk go missing, we are coming to your cave first.

  • I love this article. The way you organize your contacts is how I’ve started to organize some of mine. I actually enjoy connecting people together and being able to provide good recommendations, thereby supporting both the friend with the question, and the business.

    It also occurs to me that for some of us, it could be good to further help the network by emulating the behavior of the folks in Mexico you mentioned. Being honest and hardworking when a friend of a friend asks you for a favor could pay big bonuses in the future. Not by working for free or something like that, but just making sure that person gets treated right.

    Kindness does indeed go a long way. It’s amazing how many small favors I’ve gotten, unasked for, just because I want to treat people right. It makes going to my grocery store, for example, a pleasure instead of a chore. Kindness spreads.

  • MIc, does that stand for ‘MY C’ondescending opinion? Or is it Mic as in ‘microphone’, someone who knows more than everyone else and has to broadcast alledged words of wisdom to all?
    Is there anything, ever, that Daisy or one of her writers deserve a thumbs up from you on?
    Did you never watch Bambi as a kid? ‘If you can’t say something nice don’t say nothing at all.’
    As CLY asks, where’s YOUR blog? Where’s YOUR teaching from a position of humility?
    Are your really Mic the Prick in real life or is that just your online personna?
    Can we not block him already…?
    Oh wait. Daisy actually WELCOMES other opinions. You Sir/Ma’am, need to be more encouraging in yours.

  • relying on others for one’s survival is not being self sufficient or self reliant, its being a sheeple.
    people one can trust in everyday normal life are not necessarily the ones one cant trust after a catastrophe.
    self preservation is the key.

    • The naysayers and name callers are amazing. Funny part is no one is real life ever does this. I’ve been to hundreds of matches, rallies, trainings, meetings, conventions and get togethers and no one calls others sheep to their face. No one tells me how stupid I am with their voice in person.

      Your either not wanting folks to better themselves, you are a child or just immature, a troll, have nothing to offer and are therefore mean and rude or you aren’t even real and into preparedness.

      If you can’t articulate a response either for or against the topic of discussion without name calling and belittling then you need professional help. For those who can’t articulate a response without all caps and stay on topic, AZ, you also need help.

        • people that get offended by a mere name are liable to not survive when the going gets touch.
          also relying on someone you might know on a casual basis, a mechanic or whatever, is not a basis for survival in bad times.
          there is a saying which all real preppers know: ” if you dont know them, havent worked with them or spent time with them, then dont trust them!”
          this goes double for any workman or technician one might employ for minor work.

          • Good thing that wasn’t what the article was really about, huh? It was really more about connecting people and letting information gathering be one of your skills, not really about depending on anyone.

  • I live in a very small town. We are over 50 miles in every direction from anyone else. Everyone here knows nearly everyone else. For the most part, that is a good thing. For privacy, it can be not such a good thing. I think I walk a fine line here and I’m careful. I’m sure some people think I’m closed off, and maybe I am.
    We moved here from a huge city and it has taken a while (years) to be accepted by the town folks. I Here, nearly everyone is related to everyone else in some way. We have no relatives here at all, which makes us “outsiders” and we always will be. But, for the current situation I think this is the best place to be. If we need something, we do know who to call. I think it is really the best to be connected to people in the know.

  • there is only one person we can really rely on when the chips are down and that is ourselves.
    any one that isnt close family wont have the welfare of ourselves foremost in their minds, they will be thinking of themselves and only themselves, and post SHTF all such people must be treated with suspicion or at least some caution, one wrong decision could be your last.
    in a major catastrophe any survivors are liable to be well spread out and without any form of vehicular transport, no fuel, blocked roads, collapsed bridges etc. we will be very much on our own.
    what you know and what you can do without any outside help may define whether you live or die.

  • I live in a very small town, population is like 600 people, and I dont know if the 2010 census counted the Amish or not. They way they have been going, the Amish might outnumber us English in another 5-10 years.
    My one neighbor is that guy who knows everyone. They are in their senior years, so we look out for them as much as we can if something heavy needs moved, or they need to get up on a ladder.
    And they look out for us.
    But that is the prevailing attitude around here. We are far enough to know for the most part we are on our own. We are going to need each other to get through tough situations. We already have in the past during blizzards, or ice storms.
    If I can lend a hand to anyone in my community I will.

    • Interesting side note:
      Pre-CV19, the usual people grew gardens. I can see them from the road.
      During CV19, the number of people growing gardens has doubled.
      Those who previously grew gardens, doubled them in size.
      We trade with our neighbors surplus eggs for something they might have that did well and they have a surplus.
      In the past, when I had more eggs than I knew what to do with, I gave them away.
      When I raise hogs, my neighbors will give me their scap veggies or veggies that have gone bad. Apple peelings and cores. In return, they get home crafted bacon, pork chops, and sausage.
      Post SHTF, could some yahoo come and try to take something from someone?
      Of course.
      But who might be watching from across the street?

  • A little balance in all things.
    There’s the “bunker in” theory of don’t trust anyone and I don’t need anything from anybody cause I’m totally self sufficient and haven’t been to town in years or purchased anything in years (which is a lie).
    There’s the social butterfly who never met a stranger and preaches “community” where everything’s a shagrala kumbaya. They tell everything to everyone. Talking with them is like watching the first character to die in a horror movie in complete bliss.
    Having been around the world myself with the green machine followed by a career in law enforcement I’m not a trustful person at all however I’ve got sense enough to be a judge of character. If the security guy says “dont go to town tonight”, the inmate walks by and says stay close to the door or a translator says “this ain’t right” as you approach then you should consider it. The 2 pendulum swings are “I’ll go and do what I want cause I don’t trust them” and “I’ll do exactly what they say at all times cause I’m scared”. Weighing out the info, the area, the type of source and character of the individual will get you to the correct choice.
    I don’t blindly trust the folks in my loose spaced out neighborhood however the large radio antenna tells me that guy knows comms, one is a carpenter from his tools, one digs wells from his truck advertising, one is former army from his stickers and flags, ones a mechanic from his shop in the back. These are resources even in bad times.
    If you help many folks they will help you back. A simple wave or kind words carry weight. The day you need to bug out might be the day your vehicle breaks down. That mechanic might remember that you pulled his wife outta the ditch in the storm and got her home safe. Doesn’t mean I gotta give him my food inventory.

  • My daughter is that someone who knows everyone useful. She is a member of an international networking group for small businesses and the self employed. She is my go to person.

    • Funny, I understand and network.

      Not a yuppie either.

      My 23 year old daughter understands networking. She is not a yuppie.

      • Doesn’t believe in networking yet is reading information and commenting on a forum.
        Belittling others to be “lone” when they were “lone” when no one knew them and were ok with it.
        Most professionals and those with aptitude to become so understand networking and the values.

        • @Matt in OK,
          Even though you and I have never met, I got the feeling we could meet, have a beer or two, and likely be comfortable with having each others backs if such a situation were to arise.

        • “Professionals” arent likely to be the ones surviving the big one, its people with skills and the knowledge to use those skills that will.
          anyone living in an ant hill called a city will be really up against it, once the power grid shuts down and no fresh water, disease will be rife and the hospitals will be overwhelmed.
          networking isnt going to save anyone then, it will be dog eat dog.

          • “Professionals” are people with skills and the knowledge to use those skills.
            That’s a basic definition.

            • by “professionals” I suppose you mean office based individuals, finance experts, people in stocks and shares, people like my brother in law who is a financial advisor, that sort of thing?
              thats not the skills that will save anyone post WTSHTF.

              • By professional I mean just that: professional

                Professionals are in ALL trades, skills, volunteers etc. as defined above in the prior post.

                I don’t know your BIL and if he’s a stereotype but our IT computer guy is on the tac team, trains BJJ 3 times a week, shoots 3 gun or IPSC monthly and camps and back land hunts regularly.

                He’s not gonna fall apart first sign of trouble.

                You’d only know it by conversation IE networking.

          • Reading Selco’s various experiences, I would say he networked reasonably well in the Balkan war.
            Pre-war, IIRC, he was a professional too.

  • Your “circle” is paramount in good time and bad. We’ve had our connections for years. Made the recessions easier to get through and since the Great Recession, some in our circle really “get” we have to take care/help out each other. If one is objective and observant, one quickly knows if you’d want said person in the fox hole with you. I will admit there has been one instance where one made a good show of “we’re in this together”. Over time (thankfully short amount and non-critical), his true color and agenda appeared.

  • I think even the title is misleading”its not what you know its WHO you know”, every prepper/survivalist knows that self reliance is the key to survival, the emphasis being on SELF.
    whilst other people may provide some assistance in a minor event, in the big one the major catastrophe we are very liable to find ourselves all alone without help, in many cases even if outside help is available it can sometimes take days even weeks to get through to the affected area, thats even if it is available.
    in the meantime we have to survive alone until such help reaches us, no point to outside help coming if we cant survive alone and are already dead by the time help arrives.
    I know by personal experience that many “preppers” are only preparing for minor events and dont believe anything really bad can happen, a short inconvenience then they will return to life as “normal”, I am not one of those.

      • I hate to see this name-calling on the loners. I don’t take their comments as they are bashing you Daisy. I appreciate their input and contribution to the discussion. I’ve seen this on other sites that crashed to nothing. It’s the sarcastic name-callers that get me fed up. Grow up. Disagree politely like Okie Matt and Marine.

        The loners make good and valid points IF everything were an end of civilization event — and certainly something to consider in all. Doesn’t mean I have to agree with their viewpoint 100%.

        Networking is indeed a mixed blessing. Not only good people live in rural areas — or any other. One bad family can make an entire region hell in the country or small towns. There is no perfect place. Choose your locale and “bloom where you’re planted”.

        Take what you can use and leave the rest. Name-calling is used by people who haven’t the maturity or intellect to disagree intelligently. Names like conspiracy theorist (nothing they say can ever be right with that label — eh?), anti-vaxxer (legit questions and the vaccine injury court don’t exist — just take every shot), etc. Name-calling is used to invalidate others with no effort.

        For this article Daisy said up front what it was about. If you’ve never traveled maybe you won’t get it. What she described is very helpful in “many situations”. Nothing will be 100% for every event.

        To those who contribute whichever of the 7 Dwarfs they emulate — I thank you.

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