Skilled Survival: Interview with Engineer and Survival Expert “Just in Case” Jack

Introducing “Just in Case” Jack of Skilled Survival

skilled survivalJack runs Skilled Survival, a survival and prepping website he created to share his knowledge with the prepper community. A trained engineering manager, Jack has honed his leadership and technical skills over the years. Jack is an outdoorsman who has developed a survival skillset while backpacking in the North Georgia and Rocky Mountains. To complement his expertise developed in the manufacturing plant and outdoors, Jack is an avid reader of historical nonfiction. I was lucky to get to speak with Jack about prepping, Skilled Survival, and the importance of history. Below is the transcript:

From Farmland to the Mountains

Bob: I think that learning how to become self-sufficient is essential to truly becoming prepared for the worst. You learned early on the value of self-sufficiency while working on an Iowa farm growing crops and raising livestock. How have these early lessons in the importance of hard work and sustainable living influenced who you are today?

Jack: I’m a firm believer that to have success in anything in life, you need both hard work and dedication. But too many nowadays are looking for the easy button or a short cut to success…

I love the quote by Thomas Edison, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Fortunately, those traits were drilled into me early and often growing up on a farm.

For example, if you don’t wake up at 6am to feed the hogs, chicken, or cattle, they’re going to go hungry. So, skipping those chores is not option and you quickly realize, no matter what, the works got to get done – no excuses!

Don’t feel like it? Too bad. Tired? Suck it up…

I also feel like it’s important to be humble and to never allow success to go to your head. And it’s impossible to have a BIG Ego when you’re knee deep in hog manure.

My dad also taught me that no matter what the job is, do it right and take pride in your work. And shoveling sh*t every week from the hog house is about as low a job you can have. But it still felt good when the work was done, the fresh straw was laid down, and the hogs were happy.

These are all traits that have helped guide me on my own journey of living a more resilient life. And traits that I used to teach others how to prepare for an uncertain future.

Bob: The Great Recession served as a wakeup call for many people across the globe. I understand that it inspired you to prepare for future SHTF events. While stationed in Georgia, how’d you get started prepping? At what point did you decide to create Skilled Survival?

Jack: I recalled the exact moment when I decided to start living a resilient life (a.k.a. prepare). It was after Hurricane Harvey took out much of the gas supply in the South. People were lining out for several hours to get some gas. Fights were breaking out across the city; my truck was on E.

At that moment, I knew I was in a helpless position. I could not drive to work or the grocery store.

And while that crisis was averted without too much turmoil, I felt that helpless feeling in my core. That’s when I decided to never be a victim again. I knew I could do something about that if I made it a focus in my life.

Bob: Now that you’re based in Colorado, I have no doubt that you’re able to continue developing your survival skills. Having moved from a low altitude and warm climate to a high altitude and more frigid climate, did you encounter a learning curve you had to flatten over time? How transferrable have you found your skills to be and what new skills were you forced to develop?

Jack: Most of the skills I learned in Georgia transferred to Colorado just fine.

I learned most of my survival skills while backpacking in the North Georgia Mountains. While backpacking you quickly learn how to pack a bug out bag, start fires with all sorts of tools, filter water from streams and lakes, cook food over a small stove, etc.

In my opinion, backpacking is the best way to learn survival skills in a fun, challenging (and relatively safe) environment. Plus, the escape from other humans and the epic views are soul filling!

As far as altitude, I recall being out of breath often when I first moved here, but it didn’t take long to adapt. And as far as the frigid temps – I think Iowa winters are worse than Colorado winters…

And honestly, in Georgia, I was just getting started. Preparing is not something you accomplish in a single year. I believe it’s a lifelong journey and the bulk of my preps have been since I’ve moved to Colorado.

Because soon after arriving in Colorado, my wife and I had two kids and that’s only motivated me more to get my preps together, such as:

  • Storing More Food
  • Storing More Water
  • Installing Solar Panels
  • Stocking Up on Firearms/Ammo

A Student of History

Bob: I believe that the most important lessons we can learn are found in history books. The Spanish Flu and Great Depression of the early 20th century seem to be repeating themselves. What historical takeaways do you think are particularly relevant today? Is there a historical figure you’re looking to for guidance today?

Jack: If you don’t understand history, you’re destined to repeat it.

Being well-read about LOTS of past tragedies is a good place to start. To study and fully understand what human suffering looks like during past wars, famines, floods, pandemics, etc.

Here are two books I recommend:

Unfortunately, all this wisdom from humans of our past is being mostly wasted in modern society.

Our culture is distracted by the foolishness you see on Facebook and TikTok – most of which is garbage. Not all, but most.

All those hours spent “messing around online” is not being spent learning or on self-improvement.

One area of history I’ve been into lately is Stoicism. It’s an ancient philosophy that aligns very well with preparedness and living a resilient life. You can learn about Stoicism from the ancient Greeks such as Marcus Aurelius or Seneca.

Basically, it’s a philosophy that focuses on maintaining your tranquility by doing hard or uncomfortable things on purpose. You never want to become too comfortable or too used to luxuries. You also want to focus on only the things you can control and not worry about things that are outside of your control.

Anyways, I feel like our society needs this wisdom now more than ever…

Here are a few recommendations for anyone interested in this:

Bob: On Skilled Survival, you posted a great quote from Benjamin Franklin:

“Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed sheep that can contest the vote.”

Democracy is being tested in the US, China, Russia, and many other countries around the globe. Do you think that authoritarian regimes will continue to gain power, or are you confident democratic countries will prevail? What are you doing to prepare for the continued threat to our democratic institutions?

Jack: Honestly, I have NO idea. I hope democracy prevails, but history as proven that over long periods of time – no empire has survived…

The only thing that we can stay with absolute truth is: “This too shall pass” – ancient proverb.

So, I’m very hesitant to predict any future events…

Humans are terrible at predicting future events, especially major disasters (a.k.a. Black Swans). We sometimes “think” we correctly predicted events AFTER they happened – but that’s mostly rationalizing and using hindsight bias.

For example, how many families and businesses predicted the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020?

But it “feels” good to try and predict so we all take a shot. But predicting is more of a hobby than a serious way to live.

Instead, on my membership site, The Resilient Life, I avoid getting into the weeds about any specific disaster.

I much prefer to focus and measure something I like to call your “Readiness Score.” You CAN 100% track and measure HOW resilient you are to ANY and ALL future upset conditions.

You know how much food and water you have. You know which skills you have mastered! And over time, you CAN track how these areas of preparedness are improving. It’s a REAL way to measure how resilient you are!

So instead of getting so hung up on trying to guess what may come, just focus your time energy and efforts on becoming more resilient. That way, you’ll be more prepared and won’t have to worry as much about predicting the future.

And if you want to learn more about why prediction is a fool’s strategy and other amazing lessons about risk mitigation, read this masterpiece: Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Applying an Engineering Mindset to Prepping

Bob: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many in the prepper community have engineering backgrounds. In fact, Rusty of TruePrepper has a degree in engineering as well. Do you find yourself applying engineering principles to your preps? If so, which ones? Have you found yourself needing to use your engineering background when out backpacking or hunting?

Jack: The heart of engineering is just “solving problems using logic.”

So yes, of course I use my Engineering Degree and mindset when preparing.

It all starts with the biggest preparedness problem of them all. “How can I survive during a disaster or a societal collapse?” Answer: Get Prepared.

But once you go there, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has their own solutions, etc.

So, if you’re new to this, who should you trust, who should you follow? What do you do first, second, third?

Is it better to get a big water stockpile in place and then food? Or should you get a Ham Radio and license now or wait? Is it better to have a backup warmth solution or backup power?

That’s why I used my Engineering mindset to create something called, “The 10 Steps to Basic Preparedness.” In this video, I break down the 10 steps anyone new to preparedness should take.

It’s both achievable within a reasonable amount of time AND meaningful!

So that’s me using my Engineering mindset to figure out how to help people. To break down an overwhelming problem into easier, smaller bite sized chunks.

Then from there, I also help the community dive into each action item. For example, all the different ways you can store water, and the pros and cons of each.

Getting prepared is all about breaking down information and using data and science to find the best solutions.

Bob: Risk is embedded in every engineering project. Risk mitigation, therefore, is a skill every engineer must learn. Have you found yourself leveraging risk analysis frameworks and skills you’ve learned as an engineer while prepping? Do you use them to analyze the most likely threats you should prepare for?

Jack: Again, I try awfully hard to avoid focusing my efforts on “the most likely” threats. Why? Because what makes a threat “more likely” than others?

ALL major disasters are by nature a surprise to most… They are rare and nearly impossible to predict with any accuracy.

Instead, I try to be more resilient to ANY and ALL threats.

I think raising your “Readiness Score” and becoming part of what I like to call “The Resilient Few” you are basically performing risk mitigation on your life.

Jack’s Influences and Collaborators

Bob: After the Great Recession, you had started to learn prepping and survival skills from some of your knowledgable work colleagues. Nearly every prepper I know has had some early mentors or influences. Have you met others in the community that have helped you on your prepping journey? Have your readers taught you lessons over the years?

Jack: Absolutely.

Every month I hold a Q/A call with members of The Resilient Life and each and every month I learn something new.

Honestly, it’s one of my favorite parts of the membership because I get to learn! I love learning from others.

Just the other day, we were discussing EMPs and how to best protect against them. I started off by sharing my thoughts on the subject, but another member quickly chimed in and taught us all a thing or 2.

You see, I am not afraid to be wrong. I welcome anyone who has more knowledge about a topic to correct me. As long as we’re all learning, we’re all growing!

I feel like the day I “think” I know it all, is the day that I stop learning and growing.

Sometime, newer members think I’m some sort of guru or know-it-all but that’s not true. Sure, along the way I’ve learned quite a few tactics and practiced many new skills. But there is always more to learn…

So, members who are brave enough to share their solutions and their thoughts are precious to me.

Following Jack

Bob: Aside from Skilled Survival, how can people keep up to date with you? Do you have social media accounts our readers can follow?

Jack: I’m pretty bad at social media… I don’t post often and go days without logging on. 

Honestly, the best way to follow me is to join our membership – The Resilient Life. That’s where I make myself available on a video call to all members once per month.

But that membership won’t be for everyone. So, if you’d like to keep up on my thoughts and recommendations outside the membership, the best way to do that is to keep an eye out on the blog over at Skilled Survival and

Bob: Jack, I really enjoyed our conversation. You’re the real deal and it was my pleasure getting the opportunity to speak with you and learn more about you and Skilled Survival. Thank you for your time.

Jack: You bet Bob! It’s been a pleasure getting to know you as well. Thanks for reaching out and suggesting this interview. You’ve asked excellent questions and I’m excited to stay in touch in the future. Stay safe!

Want to learn more about Jack and Skilled Survival? Leave a comment below or contact me directly.

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