Always Be Prepared

Note: This is the unplanned first post in what has become a series of posts laying out how I approach "doing things". I've realized there are a couple tenents I follow pretty closely, and I want to figure out why. This post was a spark of inspiration after a sub-second power outage, so there may be a delay before the future posts.

There is one thing that I give myself permission to #humblebrag about: I am an Eagle Scout. I spent the majority of my childhood as a Boy Scout, starting as a Tiger and following it through until I was achieved the rank of Eagle. It remains one of the biggest and most difficult things I have achieved in my life. I can distinctly remember the moment I realized I needed to buckle down and get-shit-done or I would fail at it: I was in my bedroom, sat bolt upright in bed, turned my lights on, and wrote out the list I needed to accomplish, and the timeline. 

I tend to take the core tenent of anything, and try to fall back to it at all costs. I may let my GTD system slip, but I always remember the core tenet of getting things out of my head and into a system. I did the same thing with my Scouting career. "Always Be Prepared" is so ingrained into my life that I rarely actually think it anymore. My default state is to think "What is the most likely thing that could screw me next?", and then try to hedge against it. This has lead to what I see as a healthy focus on the stuff I use everyday (others call it the same thing, but roll their eyes a lot more), and trying to build redundancies in my life. I'm not a Prepper in any sense of the word. Rather, I just want to head off the stuff with the highest (Likeliness/Input)*Screwing ratio. This ratio weighs how:

  • Likely something is to happen: Prepper-level event probably won't happen. Internet being out for 2 weeks? Thought it was low, until it happened to me, and changed my view of Internet Access. 

  • much Input is required for something to happen. This is a rather vague metric - since this is a mental model more than anything - referring to the resources and timing required for something to happen. It balances out the "likely" part of the equation, weighing things that are likely on paper, but require some alignment to happen. It should also help raise the value of things that are random, but you have to make sure to think of them. 

  • much I will be Screwed if the thing happens. This is also kind of vague, since the screwing can take many forms. I try to overvalue hits to the "foundation" and undervalue hits to things I should be caring less about. 

This mental model has been ingrained into me, through years of packing for trips thinking "What is going to end it early?" and "What will cause it to just Suck", and trying to plan against them. This automatic way of approaching it has led to it only really coming up when something in my system FAILS

When this Failure happens, it is immediately obvious. It stops me in my tracks, grabs my focus, and my mind immediately begins to work on it. Normally, the fix/hedge/redundancy is obvious, and it was the situation I missed. This happened tonight, and it finally connected a few dots that really upped the ratio for one particular scenario: short power outages. 

It's currently that very-nearly-storming kind of weather outside, not raining but the wind is starting to whip. I was working with The Office in the background, and then it happen: the power blipped for less than a second. However, in that sub-second outage, my entire aparement went down hard. I heard that slightly horrifying sound of everything shutting down, that split second of eerie silence of technology, and then everything spinning up at once. The outage was sub-second, but the total downtime and annoyance was at least 8 minutes, and then it got my mind working. The worst thing is that the fix is super simple: I need a UPS for the office and a UPS for the living room. An extra few hundred dollars during my last trip to MicroCenter would have prevented this, bridging the gap and keeping everything up. 

The UPSs also would prevent me from the thing currently scaring the shit out of me: hardware death due to lightening (and really terrible luck). This isn't referring to a surge down the power line - that is all surge protected as best as possible, although having a UPS in there would make it all the better. No, the thing scaring the shit out of me is the memory of a father and son duo I stood behind during a MicroCenter trip a few years ago (Yes, you are seeing a theme: I like immediate satification, and I like double-checking my plans with their employees to catch any oversights). They had 2 PC builds in their cart, identically arranged in the corners of the cart. They had 2 different sets of keyboards and mice. It was a decently long line, and I mentioned that it looked like they had a fun day ahead of them. They then told me how they got there: Lightening struck something near them, it got into the cable, and fried their PCs through the network. It was at this point I noticed the suber beefy surge protectors and UPSs on the bottom of the cart. 

I just moved, and am getting everything setup to a totally new power system. Combine this with the fact that I try to run everything on Ethernet leads to several thousand in damage, and untold hours of lost productivity, all due to something 100% out of my control, and could happen at random. Until tonight, the story had mostly slipped my mind. Now? Figuring out when this week I can get up to MicroCenter. This is the exact type of thing that I should ALWAYS BE PREPARED for.