In today’s world, we depend on many things, from the electric grid that powers our homes to the cars we drive to go to our jobs. But emergencies and crises, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic, have shown us how vulnerable we can be when too dependent on external factors.
So, how can we become less reliant on these external systems? Can we even be completely independent of those systems? Better yet — is there a more realistic way we can face life’s uncertainties head-on?
In this episode, Dylan dives into these questions and provides tips for building resiliency in our lives.
- [04:54] Independence vs. resilience
- [05:44] Examples of things we are dependent on
- [15:10] How dependencies are interconnected
- [18:03] Five tips for building resiliency in your life
- [30:47] How I have used those tips in my life
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[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage Podcast.
[00:00:16] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. I’m your host, Dylan Bain. And today, I wanna tell you about a conversation that I had with the woman who’d become my wife very early on in our courtship. See, our guy has to tell you all that. I really lucked out because I was really punching out of my weight class on this one. See, my wife is incredibly smart, incredibly intelligent, and incredibly empathetic. And when I met her, she was just finishing up her degree in biomedical engineering and she had spent some time in Nicaragua in Costa Rica working on medical equipment. And the conversation we were having at the time related to that in she was explaining why she was not going to go into biomedical engineering but instead wanted to pursue master’s level work in order to be able to be a decision maker in terms of creating resiliency on the US electric power grid. And I was very curious as to why she had spent so much time training as this biomedical engineer. And she explained that at the end of the day, everything was dependent on the power grid, and she saw this firsthand when she was repairing medical equipment in Nicaragua because when the power grid would fluctuate, that MRI machine that she had just put together would fry and now was completely useless. Without a stable, reliable electric grid, nothing could work in their medical system, particularly when they were using tools and machines that they were importing from the United States oftentimes secondhand. And as she was explaining this to me, she was pointing out that every large building complex in America is dependent on a steady source of reliable, cheap electricity to keep the building habitable. Because without that, they won’t move air, things will stagnate, mold will grow in there, and those buildings will become hazardous to human health. And this also applies to things like the sewer systems, the water, the natural gas that comes to your house, you know, food systems. Literally almost everything that underlines and underpins our modern economy in the United States is dependent on this one thing called the power grid. And I’m suddenly struggling while I’m having this conversation with her because my brain is cascading through thousands of scenarios on how this could all go horribly, horribly wrong. And I’m wondering how I could possibly become more resilient in the face of this one thing that seems so fragile yet I’m so dependent on.
[00:02:57] What I want to talk to you about today is really about this idea of dependency versus being independent. And I wanna start off by just pointing out one thing that I think that we all should know and acknowledge, but I also feel that in our current political climate and even just true in American mythos generally, we have this idea that it’s not true and that is that we live in a society. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. I feel like I’m stating the obvious here, but humans are communal animals. Like we live in groups. We mob up. If you put a bunch of humans into a room and, you know, create some conditions for competition, they’re going to separate themselves into groups and those groups are gonna start to interact and those groups will create culture. Those groups will create mythos. Those groups will create rules. This happens every single time because that’s what humans do. And living in a society, societies are systems, and systems by their very definition are interconnected and interdependent with one another.
[00:04:00] So if you think about this, just think about like our food system and how interconnected that is to everything. There is a statement that I’ve heard that our civilization, despite all of its accomplishments, is completely dependent on six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains. That’s right. If you’re in, say, the soda business, your entire business is based upon the idea that we can continue to grow the inputs into your soda business, which means you’re entirely dependent on the agricultural system, which is entirely dependent on the transportation system and the fertilizer system and the oil system and so on and so forth. They’re interconnected and they’re interdependent. If any one of those pieces goes out, the entire thing starts to fall apart. And we’ve seen this with COVID. And I will get to a couple of very specific examples as we go along. But this shouldn’t come as a shock to people.
[00:04:54] There is this idea that we like to believe that we can somehow be completely independent, and the reality is it’s not actually possible. What we can become is more resilient. But true independence is not possible because at the end of the day, you’re still gonna be dependent on something. There is literally no avoiding this. And so rather than try to create a mythos around, well, we have this rugged individualism where we can be completely independent and not have to rely on anyone or anything, let’s just accept reality quickly and move on to actually discussing what this means. Because it’s not a question of being independent versus dependent. The real question that we need to be struggling with is: what are we dependent on, and how comfortable are we with that fact?
[00:05:44] Now, the electric grid is an easy one to see. And that’s because if you just stop and think about all the different things that you are dependent on that the electricity system underpins. So for example, if you go to the grocery store to get food, you are dependent on the electric company keeping these those freezers running, that’s keeping the registers and the self-checkout aisles open. You’re dependent on the traffic lights to be able to facilitate the flow of traffic up to the grocery store. You’re dependent on electricity coming into your homes so that your refrigerators and freezers will continue to function. And if you have an electric stove, you’re dependent on that as well. But think about all the other things that are in that place as well. You’ve got maybe your job, maybe you’re a remote worker, you work from home, or you work in cities downtown. And in all these different cases, if you’re in an office complex, the functioning of that office is entirely dependent on the electric grid being up. And so there are some people who will say, well, you know, the power went out but my phone still works, so, you know, clearly there’s something going on here. Well, yes. What’s happening in those cases is backup generators exist, but backup generators are reliant on diesel fuel. And so like the reason your cellphone will work even if the power is out is because the transmitters and repeaters that create the telecom infrastructure have diesel generator backups, but they only got about five hours worth of fuel and after that, they’re SOL and so are we. And so when you look at this and you ask yourself, well, I want to be completely independent. I’ll have my own generator system going on. Well, yeah, but you’re gonna run into the same problem that the telecoms are running into. That is, you have limited fuel, and now we have a much bigger problem on our hands.
[00:07:27] Your job is another place where you’re very dependent. Just ask yourself if you lost your job, how long could you go without a paycheck? If you’re somebody who’s heavily in debt and you’re going paycheck to paycheck, well, the loss or interruption of any type of inflow of income would be devastating to you, and so that means your job gets to call all the shots. This is why so many people work jobs they hate — just so that they can continue the income coming in. And I think there’s one thing that we’ve learned over COVID is just how much our time is worth as husbands, fathers, mothers, wives, and everything else we are in our lives. And so I do believe that one of the things that we’re seeing is people starting to look at it and go, well, I don’t want my job to have nearly as much power over me, and I think that’s what’s driven a lot of changes in the labor market. But it’s worth understanding just how dependent you are on your job. And when you are that dependent, they get to call the shots about a lot more than just your working life.
[00:08:29] And I’ve experienced that firsthand. I’ve talked on the show repeatedly about when I left education because my principal told me that she wanted me to commit fraud to make the school look better. I refused to do it, but her leverage over me was to threaten my job because she knew that that job wasn’t paying all my bills. I had two additional jobs and I was on welfare and I was still not making it work. And so that’s an example of how my dependence on my job means my job has actual leverage over me to violate something like my ethics.
[00:09:03] Healthcare is another great example of this. So let’s just look at this in a holistic level. If you have a serious illness and you rely on that medication to keep you alive, well, you’re pretty dependent on the healthcare system, which of course is why in the US drug prices are so high. But maybe you’re in a situation where you’re like, well, I take some blood pressure medications, but it’s not that really that big of a deal. I could go a couple of days without them. The key point here is though it’s the couple of days turns into a couple of weeks turns into a couple of months, and now your high blood pressure is actually causing a cardiac issue, and now your dependency really starts to be seen, and then you exit early because you have a heart attack because you don’t have access to your medications. And healthcare goes all the way through this. Like for example, let’s just say that we had a grid-down event. The electrical grid goes down. The healthcare system goes out as a result of it. And now you’re sitting there with, say, you know, a pregnant wife and she’s about to deliver a baby. Well, you were dependent on the knowledge and the equipment of all the doctors at the hospital who are now no longer available to you. And so this is another example of like, oh, yeah. We’re dependent on this thing to help us do it. Even if you were saying, well, we’re gonna have an at-home birth with a midwife, which is how my children came into the world, we were still dependent on, you know, being able to see what we’re doing in the middle of the night because we needed the lights on. And it’s not like I had like torches I could like light up in my apartment so that we could continue the process of bringing my children into the world.
[00:10:35] Or let me give you another example of where we may not acknowledge the dependency that we have, and I’m gonna talk very specifically about what I view as perhaps one of the most demanding and important jobs that can exist, and that is the role of a homemaker. Typically, this is a wife who stays home with the kids and is a homemaker, but, you know, men have been stepping into that role, too. But the economic value provided by a homemaker is massive. They take care of the kids, they cook, they clean, they do the laundry, they manage household tasks. And there is an arrangement and understanding in those relationships that makes them work. And a lot of clients who have come into the coaching practice, a lot of them have stay-at-home parts of their relationship. But stop and think about what would happen if that homemaker suddenly disappeared or was incapacitated? All of that care, all of that service that they’re providing into the economic unit that is the marriage now suddenly, you have to go to market to purchase it. And as somebody who, you know, my wife worked her whole way through raising our kids, and both her and I still have full-time jobs. I know firsthand just how hard it is to pay for daycare, to manage a scratch kitchen, which is what we run in my household where we don’t have processed foods so everything we start with ingredients and we build it up. That would be easier if one of us stayed home, and it’s a huge sacrifice for us in terms of time and planning and energy to make that happen, and don’t even get me started on laundry. And so if you were to lose that homemaker, you’re losing a critical component of the way that your life is organized. You are dependent on that person, which means that if you’re looking at the dependence, you’re going to want to have something to backstop it like a life insurance policy or a disability policy from an insurance company. But even in that case, you might say, well, now, I’ve got some insurance. Whew, I can sleep at night. But you’re also now then accepting dependence that the insurance company will actually pay out.
[00:12:42] And last but not least in terms of the examples that I have is the uniquely American issue of things like car dependency. We have our far-flung suburbs. And we made that choice as a society. That was a massive government spending program that created the suburbs and all the car dependency we see. And there were a lot of great benefits, economic growth being one of them. But what it’s done is it’s also made us extremely dependent on oil prices because if as gas goes up and down, so do a lot of the fortunes of Americans who are dependent on their cars, particularly if you’re driving, say, a large pickup truck. When oil prices spike and gas prices spike, that’s gonna hurt you a lot more because you’re more dependent on gas prices and oil prices than, say, someone like myself who’s driving a much smaller car — not to say that it doesn’t bite me. It’s just that when I’m getting 35 miles of the gallon, it’s a little bit different than my neighbor who has the Ford F-150.
[00:13:42] But the car dependency goes further than just oil. It’s literally the entire global supply chain. For example, one of the things that happened over COVID was that the used car market just got bonkers out of control. Well, why? Because the supply of new cars got restricted, which meant that the low prices of used cars were actually dependent on the manufacture of new cars coming onto the market that would depress the prices in the used car market. That was one factor. Well, why did the new cars start being produced in smaller and smaller volumes? Well, that has to do with the rest of the global supply chain. Aluminum and steel are major components into those vehicles but as are small computer chips that run basically the entire thing. And if you’ve been following the news over the last three years, you understand that companies like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufactures have had trouble producing enough chips for a variety of reasons, up to and including Taiwan going into a drought. That’s right. This tropical island in the Pacific suddenly not getting the rainstorms that they get, you know, on a near-daily basis — they stopped, which means your car and your ability to buy a new one is dependent on rainfall in Taiwan because without that, you don’t have the water in the river systems to be able to produce the microchips required to build the cars.
[00:15:10] And so this is an example of how this web of dependency is actually working. The aluminum markets, the steel markets, the rubber markets — all of these things go into the car dependency, but that’s just for the car. We also need to talk about the roads. Actually, first off, if you have to build them, then in theory at least you should maintain them. But you also have the traffic lights, which are dependent on electricity and computer chips to be able to run them. You need to have parking for the cars, which necessitates huge zoning changes to be able to have parking lots sprawling over the place. We need to have traffic laws and ownership laws. There’s an entire fleet of lawyers who are around trying to get these cars registered and sales done and titles transferred and all this other stuff. And then, we also have to have enforcement of those laws, which is where traffic police comes in and different court functions come in. And perhaps most critically, you have to have the cooperation of the population to obey any of that in the first place. And without all of those components working together, we couldn’t have the car-dependent society that we have, which of course is even itself a dependency because if you live and work in America and you don’t have a car, you’re not nearly as economically viable as somebody who does. And if you’ve ever tried to walk anywhere or live without a car in America like I have at various times in my life, I can tell you it’s next to impossible to do the most mundane of things.
[00:16:36] So I could be here all day talking about all the different layers of dependency. But remember it’s not about a question of how do we become independent because that’s actually not possible. It’s a question of what are we dependent on, and how comfortable are we with that? Because that’s the choice we actually have to make. One of the things one of my favorite authors has pointed out repeatedly, his name is Jack Donovan, who wrote The Way of Men — highly recommend the book — but he has pointed out that there is always this tension between the individual rights of the individuals within a society and the society’s role in maintaining order for those individuals. There’s a push and pull between them. Every law that we pass, even if we pass it by vote, even if we pass it by unanimous consent and we all agree that this is a law that we need to have in our society we would be better for it, requires by necessity by its nature a diminishment of the freedom and agency of those individuals to be replaced by the authority of that society. This is not to say that one is bad and the other one isn’t because the extremes on either end will tap down and destroy human flourishing. But it is to say that that is the choice that we have to make. And so much of our political debate is where on that spectrum between total societal control and complete individual anarchy do we want to be as a society.
[00:18:03] That political discussion aside, the question is for you as my listener: what can you do? What are the keys to building resiliency in your life? So what I have for you is five tips on how to build resiliency in your life or, if nothing else, just be able to identify what resiliency might look like.
[00:18:24] Okay, so let’s go with number one. Number one: in order to build resiliency, you have to know what you’re dependent on. So if something were to disappear or to be degraded in its function, how effective would your life be and in what time scale? So for example, let’s just use the electrical grid. We know we’re dependent on the electrical grid. If the electrical grid were to go down and you have a generator, you’ve decreased your dependence on the electrical grid, but you have a set finite amount of time until you’re going to need fuel. If we actually had a grid-down event, going to the gas station to pick up more gas or diesel or whatever was running your generator isn’t going to work because you know what they need in order to give you gas? That’s right. They need electricity to run the pumps because that’s how they get it out of the tanks over at the gas station. So understanding what you’re dependent on and on what time frame are you dependent on it is very critical because without that component, there’s no way for you to know what you need to do to alleviate that dependency if — and this is critical — if you have decided you wish to reduce your dependency on it.
[00:19:34] Number two: you need to make choices as to what you are willing to accept in terms of dependency. One of the great examples that gets brought up a lot, particularly like in the manosphere podcasts, is the idea of, you know, getting really fit and getting off your medications. This isn’t bad advice just out of the box, but it’s important to understand what the core of this is. Yes, stronger people are harder to kill. Blah, blah, blah, blah. But in terms of what we’re talking about here, It’s important to understand that if you’re more fit, you’re less likely to need medications that you are dependent on in order to keep your body functioning. Now, not everyone’s going to have that choice. That might not be something they’re able to actually reduce their dependency on, but this entire episode is kind of in the, you know, be prepared if not prepper space. And I think the biggest thing people always forget is that your physical fitness is like prep number one. The more physically fit you are, the better you’re gonna be able to handle just about everything. But understand what other choices you’ve made and what you’re dependent on. Electrical grid, we all know. But your job, how dependent are you on the job and are you so confident that that job is gonna be there that you’re willing to accept that dependency? Not all dependencies can or should be mitigated. Sometimes, we just have to rely on things and hope for the best because that’s just how humans function.
[00:21:00] Alright. Number three: know that humans are resilient when in kin groups, and this one’s huge. Let me ask you a question. Do you know your neighbors? Like do you know their name? Do you know where they came from? Do you know what beliefs they have? Do you know what skills they have? Do you know anything about them? Chances are good that, you know, if you live in America, you might know one person. But it’s rare you know everyone who borders where you live, whether it’s in a house out in the suburbs, a rural farm in the middle of Montana, or a concrete box in the sky in downtown Chicago. Do you know the people around you? Do you know who would have a similar belief structure to you that you could rely on if you ever needed it?
[00:21:42] One of the things that I’ve had to do in my life — and this has served me very, very well in every place I lived — is to know my neighbors. When I was in Flagstaff, I made it a point, particularly because I did not live in a really good part of town, to know every one of my neighbors, to say hi to them, to know who their kids were, to say hi to their kids and to their spouses, to know what was going on around me. And as a result, we did watch out for each other. When somebody tried to break into my car one night, the guy who had the unit next to me in the duplex that we were living into went running out there and said, “Hey, get away from the car.” Well, he did that because he knew something about me. When my neighbor needed to get to a medical procedure, he came over and knocked on the door ’cause he saw my car in the driveway and said, “Hey, could you run me over to the clinic?” And I said sure. These are examples of how humans become more resilient when they’re in a kin group. And while I had very little in common with the people that I lived around, I did have the one thing that we all lived in this part of town. As a result, we had what was close enough to a kin group in order to be able to rely on each other. I knew what skills I had around me. I knew who were tradesmen, who were administrators, who might know somebody that I needed. And that is in fact how I got one of the many jobs I had when I lived in Flagstaff. Know your neighbors. Create your kin groups. Know who you would call up if you actually needed something.
[00:23:07] Another great example of this is when my wife was, you know, eight months pregnant with our second child, she was involved in a car crash. And I needed to go to the hospital, but the problem was is that my first daughter was still at school. I could not be in two places at once. And so being able to call somebody and say, “Hey, can you please pick up my oldest daughter over at her daycare? I need to go to the hospital.” And they said, sure, I got you covered. These things are really important.
[00:23:37] Number four: build a buffer. Here’s the deal. The vast majority of things that really bump people off the path of things like building financial sovereignty have everything to do with the fact that life is lumpy. Very rarely do we have huge, sustained periods of disaster. What we do have are very acute and finitely-timed disasters in our life, and our ability to make it through those finitely-timed disasters is how much of a buffer do we actually have.
[00:24:09] The best example you have with this is losing a job. If you were subject to a layoff right now, how long could you survive? The bigger the buffer you have, the more freedom and agency you’re going to have to deal with that. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck and you lost your job, man, your hair is on fire because you desperately need a job, which means you’re going to apply to everything. You’re gonna be under stress, and you’re gonna take the first thing that comes your way, even if it isn’t the right thing, even if it’s a bad situation. But if you have a buffer within savings, you can take your time and do it right. The bigger the buffer, the more time you have to actually just wait something out. And this applies more than just the finances. There’s also supplies. In my house, I keep, you know, a certain amount of food and water on hand and in containers that I could easily throw in a car and go. Why do I do that? Well, because I live in an area that’s prone to wildfires, and I have for the last decade. Flagstaff, Arizona? Not exactly a wet place to be, and if you’ve been watching the news, you know that, you know, fires happen there a lot. And so I was always ready to go, but then I had supplies so that I knew that I wouldn’t have a problem with food because I had already solved that problem ahead of time. Again, the bigger the buffer, the more time I have to be able to enact a plan. And, of course, a buffer includes your plans, too. If something were to happen, do you know where to take your kids? Do your kids know where to go? Do your kids know the plan? Does your spouse? If you’re on one side of the city and your spouse is on the other side of the city and something happens, which one of you is going to get the kids? Like that’s a super big question. That’s part of your buffer. And the bigger you have those plans, the more on the same page you are, well, the more time you have to be able to wait out a finitely-timed disaster. And just know that typically, order is re-established within a week’s time. Like a week-long is a long time. And so if it’s not re-established, well, you’re gonna be ahead of the game by having a buffer in the first place. But typically, the realistic scenario is if the power were to go out, it’ll probably be back on relatively soon — relatively being, of course, the keyword.
[00:26:27] There is I think a temptation though to just be massively unrealistic and be like, power’s out! Grids down! Armageddon here! Societal collapse! Ah! Like no, no, no. Stop. Stop. Breathe. We’ll be fine. Because that’s not typically how this goes. What typically happens is the power goes out and the power company goes out and gets it back on. If we actually had a national grid-down event, well, that would be devastating on a lot of levels. But even when we’ve had massive sections of the United States go out, similar to what we had in I believe it was in 2001 where a huge section of the East Coast lost power due to a tree branch in Ohio, well, the power was restored relatively quickly. That is to say that hospitals and other critical infrastructure didn’t run out of diesel. Their backup generators were still in place. And, well, for the person who lost that deer that they had shot because their freezer thought out, that sucked. But they weren’t, like, there wasn’t a mass die-off. So even in those huge problems, order and services tend to be re-established fairly quickly. And, you know, yes, there’s somebody who’s gonna write me and be like, but you forgot this one incident. I’m sure I did, and there are plenty of examples of where this is a terrible strategy because it was in fact a turning point in a particular country or area’s history. But we don’t know when those are gonna happen. And so what we need to do is plan for the realistic scenarios.
[00:27:52] And when you’re building your buffer, here’s one bit of advice: avoid the products. There are plenty of companies who’ve identified this as a niche in the market for them, and they will sell you everything under the sun. It’s like when I’ve gone out to different shows and there’s this that guy with like he’s got the mesh bag and he’s like, yeah, keep your cellphone in here because when the EMP happens, your cellphone will be safe. Well, hey, man, if EMP happens, my cellphone is gonna mean nothing because what’s it gonna connect to? And so like what’s he doing? He’s trying to help, you know, foster the theater of my mind to imagine a scenario where I’m the one guy in the post-apocalyptic hellscape that has a functioning cellphone. And if I had that guy’s bag, maybe I would, but that doesn’t stop the fact that there might have been other things I could have spent my money and time on than that one mesh bag. And this is what I’m talking about. There are so many different places that will help you like, oh, you need supplies to be able to survive? We’ve got all this dehydrated food for you. Like avoid that stuff. Most of it’s probably not gonna help you out in the end.
[00:28:59] Because the last point here is number five. And this is probably the most important key to resilience: have your health, wealth, and family in good working order. Those are your first lines of defense. Having your health taken care of is super critical because your health is the foundation on which you build basically everything else. Your health will contribute to your wealth, and if you have cash on hand, if you’ve got good savings, if you have the resources to be able to survive when life is lumpy, well, you’re gonna come out the other side just fine. And your family, well, they’re your kin group. Having a good relationship with your spouse and with your kids, playing the long game, working for that infinite game that is their entire life so that you have children who are securely attached, who will trust you, who will follow you, who will be there with you through every step of the way is super critical. Your family are going to be the first and last people you can rely on if you need it, whether it’s a grid-down event, a job loss, or the fact that, you know, this one drug that you were dependent on is no longer being manufactured. Those people can help you. And so it’s really important for us to start there; to start with the human stuff. Before we get into the products and we get into all the different classes and we get into all the other fancy bells and whistles, start with the simple. Be brilliant in the basics with your health, your wealth, and your family.
[00:30:31] Alright. So just those five again: know what you’re dependent on; make the choice of what you are willing to be dependent on; know that humans are resilient when in kin groups; build a buffer; and have your health, wealth, and family in good working order.
[00:30:47] And, ladies and gentlemen, this is part of how we live our lives over here because after my wife had pointed out to me just how dependent we were on the power grid, I sat down and made a plan of how we would be able to survive if the power was knocked out by something like a wildfire and how long we would have. And part of that plan was that I bought up packages of little flashlights and stashed them in cabinets around the house so that if my wife was upstairs when the power went out, she would know right where to go so she could have a light so that she could be with her child and make the world okay for her. And that went through of how we would handle all the food in the refrigerator and all the different pieces. And we sat down and we worked on it together. And as fate would have it, three months after that fact, our power got knocked out by a wildfire. It was the Slide Fire coming out of Sedona, Arizona, burning towards Flagstaff, Arizona. And when the power went off, she looked at me and she said, man, I’m not even worried. And walked over to the cabinet and pulled out a flashlight and turned it on as our daughter cooed in the darkness at the new novelty that was the flashlight. The power wasn’t turned on for another four hours. And in that four hours, we made shadow puppets and we played with our daughter and we made sure that we as a family were okay because we had a plan and got through that small little disaster, that one example of life being lumpy with no lasting ill effects — all because we had a plan, all because we knew what to do, all because we had built resiliency in our lives.
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