Posts Tagged With: Self-reliance skills

Build a Culture of Grit and Deliberate Practice to Master Self-Reliance Skills

by Todd Walker

Build a Culture of Grit and Deliberate Practice to Master Self-Reliance Skills -

Every craft has pinnacle performers. What separates people who master a skill from the rest of us?

They appear to have innate self-reliance super-powers. But here’s the thing…

It’s not that they were born with copious amounts of talent. Their skill wasn’t genetically transmitted. The truth is that there is not a friction fire gene, or an ax-manship gene, or a gardening gene… no matter how effortless they make it look. Talent, in and of itself, is overrated!

Whatever skill you practice, these two traits will determine your level of mastery…

Grit and Deliberate Practice.


Besides being abrasive particles in your swim trunks, as a personality trait, grit is a “positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective.” ~ source.

Angela Duckworth condensed the meaning of grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. ~ source.

As an educator, I see all manner intellectual measures. I.Q. has little to do with overall success. Perseverance and passion trumps smarts and talent. Over the years I’ve seen students with lower I.Q. scores outperform students with higher intelligence levels. That’s not suppose to happen.

Grittier people’s secret to lasting success is lasting. In real-world performance, with talent and skill being equal, my money is on the person with the most grit. But there’s a catch to the personality trait of grit. Simply showing up for a long time is not enough to master a skill, as we shall discover later in this article – if you have the grit to read it through.

Grit Check

Duckworth developed a scale aimed at measuring levels of grit. Find out how gritty you are by answering the 10 questions here. How gritty are you?

Grit fuels the second trait needed for mastery…

Deliberate Practice

The secret of all top performers is not a result of, as we are lead to believe, innate talent. The little known secret is the result of intense, not particularly enjoyable, practice for a minimum of 10 years. Actually, it’s no secret at all. We all know what it takes but few are willing, or in most cases, unable to pay the price.

Your goal, like mine, may not be to reach exceptional performance levels. Let’s face it, skills are perishable and there are so many self-reliant skills that no one person could ever hope to master them all. Our community is the land of “jack of all trades, master of none.”  And this is not a slam. Any progress towards breaking dependence on others and our fragile system is the step by step action needed.

Becoming proficient in the skills which captivate your interest, which is the key to getting started, is very doable by working in the “purposeful practice” stage mentioned below.

Anders Ericsson, a Swedish psychologist, has spent his entire career studying how people learn. He studied world-class performers in several fields and found these stages common in all…

  1. Naive practice
  2. Purposeful practice
  3. Deliberate practice – the Gold Standard of all three

Naive Practice

Every new skill that sparks our interest begins at this stage. We decide to trade theory for action. We practice until we’ve mastered the easy stuff. Once we reach our acceptable level of proficiency, the easy stuff becomes automatic. It’s totally okay to be fair to middling or average. However, Ericsson’s research shows that we stop improving once we reach the stage of acceptable performance – even if we continue “practicing” the skill. In fact, more years of practice on easy stuff can actually cause a decline in the skill level you’re practicing.

8 Unorthodox Fire Resources Hidden in Your 10 Piece Kit |

My instructor, Brian Manning, Snow Walker Outdoors, explaining details on my Alpine Compass

To improve performance, you must practice at the next level.

Purposeful Practice

We’ve already learned that years of repeatedly practicing the easy stuff causes our skill to deteriorate. Nothing you probably didn’t already know, right? In purposeful practice, specific, measurable goals take you step-by-step toward achieving longer-term goals. This takes focus.

Let’s take the bow and drill friction fire method as an example. You may have watched a video, read a blog post, or seen someone demonstrate this method which sparked an interest in learning. After several attempts, you find success. You make a few more hit-and-miss fires to amaze your friends. You’re still the FNG (effing new guy) but want to improve your newfound skill.

At this point of skill progression, you break down your desired outcome into baby steps to help you get there. You spend hours of  spinning sticks together hoping to improve performance. But something is missing… feedback from someone with more experience than you in the art of fire by friction.

Direct feedback is critically important in this stage – and especially so in deliberate practice. Self-correction only happens when previous outputs are fed-back to adjust our future practice. Simply practicing for years won’t improve skills. Some educators work for 20 plus years and only have one year of teaching experience. They choose to stay in their first year comfort zone for twenty plus years – never attempting to engage students in new ways.

Moving past our comfort zone involves failing. But that’s how you got to this stage of practice… failing forward. You could spend 10 years of silently practicing the same easy steps and still be fair to middling (or worse) at primitive fire, blacksmithing, or any other self-reliance skill.

My Top 4 Most Useful Basecamp Builds ~

Camp comfort!

Try something you’ve never worked on before… like twirling up an ember in the rain. You’ll fail. But learn from the experience and keep Doing the Stuff until you get it right.

The journey from Naive to Purposeful practice will greatly increase your skill level. But even purposeful practice is not enough to master a skill.

Deliberate Practice

My research attributes the following quote to George W. Loomis as recorded in the “Michigan School Moderator” (1902) discussing the best way to teach students to spell properly…

Much of the time spent in hearing children recite—guess till they get it right—should be spent in a definite teaching process, until they can not get it wrong.

How long will it take until you can’t get a skill wrong? Studies suggest 10,000 hours or 10 years of intense, deliberate practice at a craft. It took 10 years of deliberate practice before Mozart produced a memorable work. This should be instructive for all the insta-experts popping up lately. I call it the “Shroomery Effect.” They pop up like mushrooms but don’t last long.

Ancient Atlatls: How to Make a Down-N-Dirty Spear-Thrower ~

Scott Jones firing the bamboo atlatl at a class this summer

This stage is very similar to purposeful practice except it involves direct instruction, teaching, and/or coaching to offer feedback and focused techniques to improve performance. Think of elite athletes. They all put in a crazy amount of hours training. But it’s not just the hours they put in but how they spend those hours. Instead of chasing the latest novelty, top performers focus on subtle nuances of their craft. Bottom line… they spend years re-working their work.

Here are a few constraints to consider about deliberate practice:

  • Resources – Time and energy, access to training material, professional instruction, and money to pay for transportation to training facilities.
  • Motivation – Having the grit to pursue long-term improvement for years of intense, boring practice without immediate reward. This stage is not inherently fun.
  • Effort – Deliberate practice can be sustained for limited amounts of time daily. Recovery time from each session is necessary to avoid exhaustion and/or injury. This why it takes a minimum of 10 years/10,000 hours to develop expertise in a skill.

Do your due diligence when choosing instructors. Seek out those who have a minimum of ten years of deliberate practice and field experience in the skill you wish to learn.

Re-Doing the Stuff

Pressing the publish button always scares me. Will people find value in my articles? Could I have improved the piece? Did I re-write enough? I don’t pump out blog posts like I did five years ago. I write almost daily but only publish about once a week. A few years ago I realized that to become a better writer, I needed to spend more time re-writing. I’m only halfway into my “10 years of writing” but I hit publish anyway. Some crash. Some fly. Some end up in the draft graveyard.

Revision is needed on my earlier line, “the key to lasting success is lasting.” Lasting is the gritty part. It’s learning to love the boring times of re-doing the fundamentals. Progressing through the stages of practice takes years of grit and intense, deliberate practice. There’s not enough time for us to master all the skills of self-reliance. But I’m committed to die trying to master a few.

Feedback time. What skill are you deliberately practicing to master? If mastery is not your goal, in which skills are you becoming proficient?

Keep Re-Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Categories: 180 Mind Set Training, Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

by Todd Walker

Doing the Stuff of self-reliance takes time, resources, tools, and want to. More important than any of these is ACTION! With only 24 hours in a day, you can’t always trek to your personal space in the woods to practice wilderness living skills. Hectic schedules and time constraints eat away at your availability.

You’re family needs quality time… and no, staring at the TV or computer screen doesn’t count. No better way to hang out with your loved ones, even the indoor-lover, than to introduce them to outdoor self-reliance skills in a controlled setting. Your adventures await one step over your door sill – no wilderness required!


Our Self-Reliant Summer series is intended to keep us motivated with common sense ideas for Doing the Stuff. Stay with us to learn how to strike self-reliance gold in your backyard.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

It would be great if we all had a picturesque wilderness for a backyard. That’s not likely. Driving hours to reach one is not practical for busy people. The solution is to bloom where you’re planted.

Fire Pits and BBQ Grills!

Making fire is a critical skill many of us take for granted. In ideal conditions, fire may be easy. Just flick your Bic and, poof, you have flames. It’s wise to practice several ways to achieve a sustainable fire.


A BBQ grill is a good tool for practicing fire making!

Fire is simple. All that’s needed is…

  • Air
  • Heat
  • Fuel

These elements make up the fire triangle. Take away any one of these and you no longer have fire. Starve the fire of air and you’re making charred material for your next fire.

You can practice your fire making skills with the available resources out back. No wood? No problem. Dirt Road Girl and I are known to walk our neighborhood, wagon in tow, collecting dead wood conveniently stacked at the edge of neighbor’s yards. We get our walk in and employ our possum mentality for free resources.

Fire Project 1: Make char cloth and charred material.

Fire Project 2: Practice making fire using different methods: friction (bow drill or hand drill), heat (fresnel lens, lighter, matches, etc.), and sparks (ferro rod, flint and steel). You’ll need your homemade char material for the flint and steel.


Our son’s first friction fire on the back patio

Fire Project 3: Make a fire from one stick only.

If you’re neighborhood allows open fires in a fire pit, consider building or buying one. If not, practice inside a charcoal or gas grill. If grills aren’t allowed, call the moving van! Build fires directly on the grill grate or use a board or other flat object as a support.

Be curious. Try new tinder materials. I discovered an excellent coal extender growing on beech trees near my shelter. [That’s me – two photos up – at the Weber grill lighting dry sooty mold from a Beech tree with a ferro rod]

What’s for Dinner?

After building a fire, why not use it to practice cooking over an open flame. Since you’re in the backyard and conveyance is not an issue, break out that cast iron dutch oven granny passed down to you. Once your fire burns down a bit, suspend the pot over a bed of coals with a bushcraft tripod. Experiment with cooking methods other than stabbing a tube steak on the end of a stick.

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

Campfire chili!

Practice using twig stoves like the Emberlit. A handful of twigs can boil water for a pre-packaged meal in a stainless steel camp cup.

10 Survival Uses for Mullein Besides Cowboy Toilet Paper

‘Toby’ the pig helping me make some mullein tea with a backyard bushcraft setup

Tied in Knots

Do you remember how to tie that nifty knot you saw on YouTube? Probably not. Find two trees in the yard and practice tying out your tarp and hammock. Repetition is the mother of all learning.

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

Dirt Road Girl and Abby testing knots

Basic knots should become second-hand. You won’t need to know 41 knots to enjoy a camping trip. Knowing a few simple knots will save you time and cordage.

The knots I use most while bushcrafting are the timber hitch, trucker’s hitch, blood knot, bowline, clove hitch, and prussic loop. Learn knots with a specific purpose and tie them repeatedly until you’re able to do so even in the dark.

Sharp Skills

The cutting tool is fundamental for bushcraft. Safe use of knives, saws, and axes should be learned before heading to the big boy woods. The backyard is the perfect classroom.

Passing Down Self-Reliance Skills to a Seven Year Old

Teaching ax safety to my grandson

Wielding sharp tools has risks. You never really know your cutting tool personally until it bites you. Accidents happen to even the most skilled bushcrafter. Practicing in a controlled setting like your backyard builds confidence and skills for times when your life may one day depend upon sharp stuff. Plus, first aid is close by.

Sharp Skill 1: Make a feather stick for your backyard fire. Bracing your knife against your knee with the cutting edge facing away from your body, pull a piece of wood towards your body to curl shavings on the stick. You can also place the stick on another wooden surface (anvil) and slice curls using the full length of the blade.

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

Fatwood feather stick and shavings

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

Fatwood shavings lit with a ferro rod

Sharp Skill 2: To baton your knife is a personal choice. This skill is useful when a camp ax is not available. This method can produce pencil lead size, pencil size, thumb size, and larger fuel from logs. I prefer batoning for the one stick challenge and when creating bow drill sets. More precision in woodcraft can be achieved by practicing your preferred method.

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

Processing the round via the baton method

Sharp Skill 3: Notches add stability when joining and lashing woodcraft items. They’re also essential for the hearth board on your bow drill fire set. Carving pot hooks is another way to learn knife skills while making functional tools for the backyard fire pit.

Got Cover?

There may not be enough resources to build a debris hut out by the kids swing set, but you can practice tarp and tent set up.

Backyard Bushcraft Skills: No Wilderness Required

Tarp and hammock set up

Shelter options can be an affordable tarp or poncho. Start with the resources you have. Practice different cover configurations to find out what works for different situations.

Sticks and Strings (Archery)

Archery has been given a huge boost by the recent Hunger Games books and movies. Capitalize on the interest with your children or grandchildren.


Killing spuds in our backyard

Archery has been practiced for thousands of years by hunter-gatherers, indigenous groups, and self-reliant folk. This tool can be used for harvesting game quietly and an effective addition to your arsenal. The place to hone this skill is in the backyard. Once hooked on stick and string, you and your entire family can enjoy this as a family sport while building outdoor self-reliance skills.

Make Your Own Stuff

Simple machines in bushcraft can be used to build stuff to aid in self-reliance. Here are three projects that are doable in the backyard.

Project 1: Build a simple cooking tripod for your backyard kitchen.

Project 2: Torches. Gotta have torches. Kid’s love them and they’re fun to build!

  • How to make a fatwood torch
  • Miner’s torch (pictured below) made of a dried mullein stalk and soy wax (pine sap or tallow can also be used) – Warning: burning close the base of the seed head will burn through the stalk quickly

Mullein torch

Project 3: Make a bow drill set from one piece of poplar or other suitable wood


A bow drill set crafted from one piece of tulip poplar

Eat the Yard

Every backyard lawn has weeds. Learning to safely identify wild edibles for nutrition and medicine is smart. Like every other skill mentioned above, wildcrafting can be done close to home. We place value on what we name. Before I knew the name of Mullein, it was just a weed growing along the fence row of our pasture. Now it’s a valued item with many uses.

There are many resources available to help you identify wild edibles. One that I’ve found most helpful is The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer. Thayer didn’t just regurgitate what other authors wrote about, he spent years of actually Doing the Stuff in the field of wild edibles.

You can check out our Foraging Feral Food page and Herbal Medicine Kit series if you’d like to dig deeper into wildcrafting.

Doing the Stuff of self-reliance should start in your backyard. 17th and 18th century woodsmen forged their skills close to home. Owning these essential skills was necessary to survive the wilderness treks with minimal gear. That’s the essence of bushcraft – dependence on skills more so than the latest shiny object and technological gadget.

What happens when technology fails? Hopefully your skills will get you through. Your journey to self-reliance starts in your own backyard!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Categories: Bushcraft, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance, Survival | Tags: , , , | 31 Comments

5 Tips for Epic Self-Reliance Skills

by Todd Walker

Part of our Self-Reliant Summer series

Our grandson is about to start walking with only 10 months of practice. From the moment he graced our family with his beautiful presence, independence was his goal. As much as we love the baby talk days, babies grow up. Cooing and crawling suddenly turns to walking and talking. And we dance around like crazed hippies celebrating each stage of his independence!

5 Tips for Epic Self-Reliant Skills

Like our grandson, your desire for self-reliance is innate. Our modern entitlement culture may not reflect this fact – but all humans are hardwired for survival. However, the stumbling block that trips us all is overlooking the small steps on our journey to doing epic survival stuff.

I mean, who doesn’t want to have epic self-reliance skills?

No one aspires to be non-Epic. Here are 5 tips to help you build those Epic skills…


I admit it. I’m way behind the eight ball in more than a few Doing the Stuff skills. According to Robert A. Heinlein, I need to up my game…

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Got about 15 off his list under my belt. Still, self-reliance is a long journey that takes time and intentional living.

We’ve had the honor of meeting and being motivated by members of the Doing the Stuff Network. These are people from around the world who have traded theory for ACTION on their journey to self-reliance and  preparedness. They’re normal, everyday folk at different stages of skill development. Gotta say though, many of our DTS Networkers are Epic!

Even then, you won’t be able to master all the skills on an Epic level. But you may become good enough. If not, you’ll need this next one…

Voluntary Trade 

Without government interventionists, a true free market economy would exist. This would enable people to exchange goods and services freely without the politicians on “your side” getting involved.

I generally don’t write or speak about the rigged game we call politics. However, when the weight of this house of cards we’ve built comes crashing down, it will be the producers that rise to rebuild. Epic self-reliance skills will lead the way.

In his book, “Starving the Monkeys”, Tom Baugh paints a picture of caveman capitalism. What do you have to offer when TSHTF and we experience TEOTWAWKI? Are you a producer or consumer?

These are questions I juggle in my mind. I’m a teacher by trade. There will be a need for educating people in a post-collapse world. But I’m not referring to the multi-generational government fiasco inflicted upon our nation. What will happen immediately is TEOSAWKI (The End of Schooling As We Know It). Learning will look like it did before government control infected education. Kids (and adults) will learn what’s important and of interest to them to survive and thrive.

Will your skills be marketable when it counts? That’s a great reason to start now to build skills.

Dirty Nails

The computer screen is a dangerous place from which to prepare for the S*!t Hitting The Fan!

Since the advent of the internet, the avalanche of information available to us is overwhelming! An unhealthy byproduct of information overload is paralysis. The antidote is simple – start Doing the Stuff.

Start with the smalls and progress to Epic. Fill in the blank of your most respected resource on self-reliance and preparedness. He/she has logged thousands of hours honing their skills with dirty finger nails and Epic fails. The key to their lasting success is lasting!

It’s not likely you’ll get excited about following a weight-loss guru who never struggled to maintain a healthy body weight. Nope. We like to follow and learn from people who produce results by failing forward. This only happens with dirt time.

Check out our Trusted Resources page full of people with dirty nails.

Get Local

Fear and hype prevails and sells in our growing preparedness/survival community. Common sense seems to have left the building with Elvis. The old paths have been forgotten and neglected.

Not long ago, your grandparents lived a self-reliant life because they understood the bigger picture. The knight in shinning armor riding a govt mule was not coming with life-saving supplies. They grew their own food and traded to make up what was lacking… locally. Community filled the gaps when needed. Here’s why neighboring matters.


Individual needs require individualized plans. What works for me may not work for you. Ignore “Epic” armchair survivalists and self-appointed prepping experts who bang out belittling remarks on their keyboard. You know your situation and abilities better than anyone on the planet.

Sadly, brow-beaters like to pull folks down to their level. You can’t win a wrestling match with a pig. All you get is dirty and the pig gets happy wallowing in the mud.

I recently witnessed a display of arrogance in an online group where I spent time. It seems that proper grammar is required for one to be considered valuable. Don’t slip into pompous grammar-nazi mode. Overlook the typos and poor grammatical skills to glean wisdom from people actually Doing the Stuff. They’ve probably forgotten more than most of us have learned.

So what if you flunked English. Don’t be afraid to put your ideas out there. Just find the right group of honest, like-minded people to hang with. We’re all in this together!

Small consistent steps end in Epic self-reliance. Gotta go, the boy is trying to walk!

Keep Doing the Small Stuff,


P.S. Time is running out for you to enter to win my handcrafted leather journal! Click this link for your chance to win ->> a Rafflecopter giveaway

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.


Categories: Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

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