Doing the Stuff Challenge

by Todd Walker

My time in academia has been a total waste. Except for this one lesson: I learned how not to learn.

What little I retained from my ‘higher’ education came by doing. For instance, in Anatomy class, we dissected human cadavers. Hands-on stuff. Real education.

Everything I learned about learning came by paying attention to masters and apprentices, being curious, following my interests, and trial-and-error. This was the atmosphere of our ancestor’s classroom, before highly ‘educated’ academics hijacked knowledge to justify their protected positions and salaries – and textbook prices. The Harvard-tower-dwellers teach theory – but are short in practice.

I call it the Tyranny of Theorizing. It’s harsh, forced, and an oppressive way to learn. The more theory exists, the less productive we become. Knowledge weighs nothing – depending on the delivery system.

Of course, the prepping community is full of lovers of knowledge. Loads of ‘good-to-know’ stuff abound on preparedness sites. But there comes a time when doing the stuff is the only remedy to information overload.

Practice -> Theory


Theory -> Practice

Uninhibited doers of the stuff hunger for trial-and-error. What works. What doesn’t. No matter what Theory Tyrants say.

Doing the Stuff Challenge

The history of doing the stuff dates back to our earliest human ancestors. They weren’t afforded the luxury of ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Surviving in the Wild.’ Cave dwellers didn’t sit and discuss the 5 best ways to make a friction fire. They learned through trying and failure.

I’d like to know who figured out how to tan a hide with the animal’s brains. Or, who first dropped a rock and thought, hum, these sharp shards could be a useful tool with a little tinkering.

I have nothing against book knowledge. I love the smell of a good book in the morning. But in the end, doing the stuff does more than prove theories – it makes theories.

Here’s your assignment if you want to play along.

Pick one new skill to practice or something to tinker with this week. It needs to be somewhat measurable. I’ve chosen friction fire with no training wheels. You don’t have to master or complete the challenge in a week. But you do have to start.

  • Note: Don’t do stupid stuff. Controlled-stupid is okay. Just don’t risk blowing up your house playing mad scientist in your basement. If you pick wild food foraging as your new skill, please don’t go out and do trial and error testing on every plant you see. If you’re a complete newbie at it, get help and training. That’s controlled-stupid.
  • Document to the number of trials and the errors that caused failure or success. Journal the journey. Keep an account (pics, video, or paper and pencil).
  • Observe and respond to new information. Be flexible.
  • Report back to Doing the Stuff Challenge Headquarters by this time next week. Honest results only. We’ll laugh with you, not at you – maybe.
  • Depending on the response, I’ll post results in an upcoming blog.

Get busy doing the stuff,


Categories: Preparedness, Self-reliance | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Doing the Stuff Challenge

  1. This week I have been reading Mark Shepard’s book Restorative Agriculture. His take on permaculture is to have forest garden of trees that produce most of the human family’s needs for carbohydrate, protein and oil. (He doesn’t use the word fat.)

    So, I am looking at plant leaves in my garden in a new way. Of course, I have eaten many leaves from annual plants but what about perennials plants, in particular trees, shrubs or vines. I had run out of kale for kale chips and I wondered if grape leaves would work.

    I made up some grape leaf chips which are edible but I would consider more of a survival food. Nice and lemony but my girls thought they were gross. Using the grape leaves got me thinking about dolma. I had never made dolma before without rice so I needed to do some experimenting with nuts and meat. I did a stove top dolma which was a bit of a flop, so I moved on to an oven version. I know I have hit on something good when I leave something to cool and it’s almost gone when I get back to check it. (I’ll post the dolma recipe next week on

    Necessity — truly is — the mother of invention. By refusing to go to the store and buy something I have to go to the garden and find and prepare what is there. The GO BOX permaculture project has been a liberation. Good luck with your experimenting!


    • That’s the trial and error, or antifragile way.
      Yesterday while testing a new 32 oz nesting water bottle I just got, I had planned on making pine needle tea. A friend showed up and threw a wild ginger leaf in the mix and the tea turned out great.

      Remind me when you get your recipe up. I want to see it.

      If the stores were empty, we’d be forced to figure out a way to improvise and make do. Doing the stuff before and event, or in your case, refusing to go to the store, inspires creativity.



  2. Two things. This morning was the first time that I have ended the life of a chicken. It was a sad but necessary thing for me to do. Hubby has been the one to wield the knife since we started a backyard flock back in 2008 but I made the decision that I needed to do it this time. I didn’t cry but I was somber. The second thing is that I am fixin’ to make sauerkraut. I made it one time a few years back but your post on making sauerkraut inspired me and it really is not that hard. As we approach preservation season, I am really looking into really old-fashioned preservation techniques (not canning and not freezing) although I will do some canning and freezing. I’m really excited about all the fermentation books that I just picked up from the library yesterday. 🙂 I’ll report back about the sauerkraut in a few days 🙂


    • Harvesting an animal for the first time is humbling. I remember the first meat rabbit I harvested as a kid. But this will add to your appreciation of humane methods of raising and slaughtering animals.

      Cool beans on the kraut! I know y’all will enjoy some healthy, homemade fermented food. Can’t wait for the report.


  3. Here is a picture of the dolma and the grape leaf chips. By the way, the taste of the grape leaf chips are growing on me. I like the lemony flavor with just olive oil and sea salt:

    I will post the recipe on next week and send you a link.


  4. This is a fantastic idea. It only takes a few minutes and if you don’t learn something new every day, then what did you really gain? I’m going to have to think of a few things to try this summer. Thanks for the post.


  5. Pingback: “Doing the Stuff” vs Pretending | Survival Sherpa

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