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SURVIVAL MINDSET: Black Swan Moments

Are You Ready For a Black Swan Moment?

Wikipedia defines a Black Swan as an… ‘Unexpected event of large magnitude and consequence.’

Basically it’s an event that occurs outside the expectations most people hold and is low probability but high impact if it does occur.

I am a trained and experienced operator with years in the field dealing with asymmetric threats, the frictions and uncertainties that only a combat environment can offer, as well as the general malaise of interpersonal violence that spans the world just like many of you reading this article.

I would consider myself more aware, capable, and prepared than most. I have managed the stress and complications from fixing a flat tire to a firefight in the red zone and consider living conditions in blown out sections of Baghdad ‘normal.’

However, I am not prepared to handle everything, and sometimes all I’ve had working in my favor is a f**k-it drive on mentality.

Often, what has given me great leverage in accomplishing my missions outside the immediate skills I utilize on a daily basis has been a tested network of support systems run by my latest company of employment.

If that network was interrupted or unavailable for a lengthy period of time, my risks would increase ten-fold; for as bad-ass as I think I might be, I know in the end, I am still dependant on a plethora of systems I overlook or take for granted every day.

Enter the Black Swan moment.

Black Swans are so far on the outside chances of probability that you can’t or don’t plan for them, but when they happen they are life-altering.

For me, a Black Swan moment is more than just a show-stopper, it’s a killer.

Example – Look at the most recent Black Swan moment that occurred in Haiti. No one there was prepared for the epic destruction that occurred, and the outcome has been a violent and brutal de-evolution of civility into its more feral components.

If you want to know why I have a bug out bag prepped, carry a firearm daily, keep my vehicle maintained with a full tank of fuel look no further than the Black Swan.

Having a load of cash on hand, my comms gear operable, my rifle cleaned, my battle rattle organized, and my 72 hour sustainment pack available is the habit I’ve developed to help me manage the unforeseen just long enough to figure out my next move.

The end of the world may never come, and I’ve probably packed for nothing, but it does provide me some piece of mind.

Are you ‘ready’ to handle a Black Swan? If so:

(1.) What are you doing to manage the potentials for a Black swan in your AO?

(2.) How would you handle a scenario like the one in Haiti?


~Bubba G
Editor at Large

Bubba G. is an active protective professional presently performing contract duties in the Middle East and has well over 15 years of military, high risk contracting, international training and martial arts experience.


  1. (1) For me (I am overseas right now) I have an Expat BOB, a few months worth of food stored, a few ways to purify water and several means to defend myself and home. And several other things I don’t want to list publically.

    (2) If I was in Haiti during the quake I would have had a plan and the required materials (Expat BOB, cash, connections) to pop-smoke from the country for any event (natural disaster or political instability) already in place.

    Be Prepared is what the Boy Scouts say right…

    ~James G

  2. Good little post. I tend to focus more on mindset first, then on the gear. That way, if my BOB or whatever kit I normally depend upon is not there for whatever reason, then I can still do what I have to do in order to survive. Of course I still work on making sure everything is there and ready to go.

    There is a TV show that I have been a big fan of called Surviving Disaster. Cade Courtley is the host of the show and it is on the Spike TV channel. Cade is also a former security contractor and Navy SEAL.

    What I like about the show, is it discusses ways of dealing with disasters or ‘black swan’ events. You can definitely refine your BOB by looking at the various extreme events that Cade goes over, and also refine your mindset based on those events.

  3. Excellent piece – thought provoking and real. Rude awakenings do indeed happen and all of our TV hero fantasy scenarios go out the window.

    In my own mind, the natural disasters like Haiti are horrific enough but although the casualty rate there is much larger, the one that sticks in my memory vividly is Mumbai.

    A friend from Israel posted some pics ( which have since been taken down) of more blood and horror than anything the lame-stream media ever revealed, and I found myself asking the same questions that you pose….

    What would I do, how would I respond… and I thought about the fact that from Pol Pot and his Khmers up to the present day hell-holes like Burma and Sudan, when insanity and madness are the norm of the day, all reliance on outside support system vanishes.

    (So I’m studying old MacGyver episodes day and night….)

    Seriously – good stuff. Thanks!

  4. I know this post is a little older just wanted to say this post spurred me to action and came in useful recently.

    I’m a commo soldier at Camp Liberty, yep a POG, so my shits not usually redcon1. After reading this last week I got my kit in order so if I needed it I could get to it real quick.

    Well a few nights ago the Iraqi’s decided to have a machine gun celebration right outside the wire. It set off our incoming alarms. I was in my chu and from my point of view I thought possibly the gate had been stormed and bad guys were running around shooting anyone within los.

    I mean it sounded like the gunfire was from INSIDE the wire. So I kitted up. Anyway it turned out to be nothing and all the other soldiers were just standing around in pt’s lolly gagging. I felt a little silly but fuck that. If something HAD happened they would have all been machine gun fodder. I may be a POG but I’m a preparedness minded POG.

    Anyway great post and I love this blog!

  5. Yep – just because you work inside the wire doesn’t mean you are immune to a Black Swan Moment

    Actually far too many FOB guys think they are “safe” and act and train accordantly

    Glad you like the Mag

    ~James G

  6. As always another solid from the guys at DVM!

    I read and follow all the contributors to gain knowledge and insight. I am a former LEO and am slowly getting my “full” kit ready. I carry a get home bag daily with food shelter and other necessities. I also work at a gun range, and we were told recently that if shit went bad in a hurry, we were required to grab what we can carry and seek safer ground. A comforting thought considering I can grab full auto and more that my share of ammo.

    Stay sharp, stay alive!

  7. I think that this is a real eye opener for a large group of people who don\’t have a cohesive understanding of how the hum drum can go from shit to git at the drop of a hat. Like mentioned above, I prefer to focus on mindset and skill-sets that don\’t require gross thought. If it goes bad, and for whatever reason I don\’t have my shit, I don\’t get to call a time out, while I run to the conex to get my good stuff. What I do have is me, skill and mindset.

  8. Slightly smaller scale. I was sitting down to have dinner with my family stateside. When an explosion rocked our house. 25 miles away the West,Tx fertilizer plant had blown up. My father in law and I grabbed our gear and headed that direction. My father in law was able to help establish a CCP due to his medical backround while I assisted in search and rescue. Of course in my gear was a pistol. I really didn\’t see a need for it when I first arrived reaching past it towards the tourniquet and gauze. Very shortly after the explosion I found myself putting on my pistol and badge taking action against looters. Literally hours after the explosion while fires were still burning…… This entire thing helped re-affirm that a well prepared go bag is essential and you never know when you may need it.

  9. I work Corrections at a Level 4 Max Security Facility, as well as a 1st Responder for DHS. The amount of gear I have to carry is insane. I\’m totally self sufficient out of my truck for 2 weeks. Have a truck vault in the bed with a Leer cap over that. Medical/Trauma kit, Plate Carrier & Plates, ammo, Mt House meals, Several ways to purify water and a whole bunch of other shit. As well as a wad of cash stashed in the rig as well. Granted, I may never need the shit, but I drive a truck anyways, and already live the lifestyle.
    And as far as Haiti, cash is king, hunker down, help the injured as much as I could and catch the first damn flight back to CONUS

  10. Maybe everybody knows this, if so sorry.
    A “black swan” is such a perfect comparison for the subjects discussed on this site.
    Originally it meant something that couldn’t be/exist/happen because all swans were by definition white…if it’s a swan it’s white….
    Then explorers found black swans in Australia. After that the expression refererred to the danger of saying that something can’t/won’t happen or be, with so much certainty that it must be impossible.
    So many of the things that I’ve appreciated reading and learning on this site are related to black swans.

    Never say never?
    Be prepared.
    Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
    Whichever motto you choose….

      CM(Quote This Comment)

    • Black Swans were also a notorious Serbian Spec-Ops team that were on the hook for more than a few attrocities during the Bosnian Serbian war in the Former Yugoslavia.

  11. I love this “Black Swan” concept.
    In a disaster of any kind, our ego is our enemy. Be honest about your limitations and don’t take unnecessary chances. I believe there are things we can change and things we cannot; situations we can prepare for and situations we can’t expect. There are just some situations we can’t possibly foresee.
    Your greatest survival weapons will be your adaptability and how fast you can react.
    You can start training your mind now by replacing the words “How can I?” whenever you want to say “I can’t.”

  12. Outstanding article!
    As an expat I have to get creative with some of my gear, but the mindset is there.

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