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The key to individual preparedness and survival is thinking. If you don't think often or well, you will never be prepared, and your survival will be dependent upon the efforts and good will of others. Therefore, always endeavor to improve your ability to think, and to think clearly. Mental exercise is important--and mental exercise that is useful consists primarily of three mental activities:

1) Read. Read a lot. Read everything you can--both nonfiction and fiction.

2) Engage in real conversation. That is, don't merely engage in small talk, saying something inconsequential, and then waiting until the other person finishes speaking so that you can speak again. Rather, engage in discussion of substantive matters with intelligent people. Have your say, then sit and listen patiently and closely until they've had theirs. Don't spend the time thinking about what you are going to say next--there is plenty of time to do that after you've finished listening to them. If the discussion is going to strengthen your ability to think, you must pay attention to what the other person says before deciding how you will respond. This will also have the effect of making the conversation more fun and interesting, as well as improving and strengthening your relationship with the person with whom you are conversing.

3) Run scenarios in your head, when you aren't otherwise occupying your brain. That is, when you are busy on some manual task that doesn't require much attention, or while you are waiting in reception areas, or for some bureaucrat to give you some other form to fill out, or while you're waiting in line, use your imagination: What would you do if the person in front of you did X? What if the person behind you did Y? What could you do if a gunman burst into the room through the door on your left? What if aliens appeared and announced their desire to conduct peaceful trade with the people of Earth? I know many of these scenarios sound silly, but it's okay for the scenarios to be silly. You're exercising your brain, preparing for situations that probably will never occur--but if they do, you now have a plan of action. Furthermore, you are exercising your observation skills--and observations are always helpful in an emergency situation. Research the "OODA Loop" for more on this topic.

An additional item that is of paramount importance to the survival and preparedness of the individual is Karma. I'm not talking about the mystical new age concept--I'm talking about the simple universal fact that "what goes around, comes around." The concept is useful, and it doesn't matter if you're a kind and compassionate person doing things from high moral principles; or if you're a cynical opportunist: building good karma and having friends is very useful. When you have the time, make friends--as many as you can. Help them as much and as often as possible. Build an interlocking web of favors granted and owed. Be everything from the extra strong back to the shoulder to cry on; I promise you, it will pay off better than winning the lottery. Because no matter what scenarios you've trained and prepared and laid in supplies for, there's something you forgot, didn't consider, or just plain can't do for yourself. So the most important thing you can do to prepare for anything is to make as many really good friends as possible.

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