Continuing our focus on solutions, this week we're joined on the podcast by Jack Spirko. His daily podcast focuses on practical, actionable steps each of us can take to "live a better life, if times get tough or even if they don't" — a mission nicely aligned with the one we pursue here at Peak Prosperity.
In this wide-ranging discussion, Jack and Chris discuss the need for spreading awareness of the Three Es, the professional challenges in doing so, and how individuals can go about pursuing both security and prosperity in the face of the likely disruptive changes to come:
We've had these people predicting: This is the Big One! for 25 years. These people are hucksters who just want to make money. "End of America", "The world is going to end!", "In six months the dollar is going to collapse!" — people have been marketed these messages. Here's my concern: it's going to become Chicken Little. And when we really are at a point where you and I are going "Uh, guys…", no one's going to listen.
So as it relates to preparedness: being prepared for the grid to go down for a couple of months — great goal. Wonderful. But I look at preparedness this way: if you and I are in a car together and we're going to drive from Miami, Florida to Portland, Maine, we're going to go to Georgia before we go to Virginia unless we're really dumb people without a map.
So when somebody asks me about preparedness, my first question is: Do you have 30 days worth of food stored up in your home? No? Then stop worrying about the grid going down. Do you have enough money to go 90 days without income and be okay? Not happy, but at least okay at the end of those 90 days? No. Then let’s not worry about total Armageddon yet. Do you have a basic blackout kit, so if your grid goes down for 24 hours you can find your stuff and be comfortable? No? Then your first steps in preparedness should be focused on getting all of these most basic things done.
The way I look at this is: an emergency that affects just you or just you and your immediate family is the most likely emergency you'll experience in your lifetime. You'll probably experience a number of them. If you widen that out to be your neighborhood, it's a little less likely that you, as an individual, will be impacted by it. And as we go to a national level disaster, your odds of having it happen to you on any given individual day – I think in this generation we're going to see it, eventually — but on any given day the risk is relatively low. So we have to take this methodical approach. We prepare first for the disasters that only affect us and our families. Then we prepare at the neighborhood level. Then at the regional level. And by the time you get there, you're so close to being able to at least be somewhat resilient on these wide-scale disasters and so far ahead of where you would be otherwise, that it's doable now. However, if you start out with no preparedness and you start pumping money into solar panels and back-up batteries and stuff to the tune of thousands and thousands of dollars and you can’t handle being laid off for a month, then sooner or later you're going to end up hurt and you're never going to get where you're trying to go. These are the people who get in the car and end up going from Florida to Virginia back to Georgia while trying to get to Maine. Sooner or later, you're going to get lost because clearly you have no map.
This is why for developing preparedness we have to start out with a methodical list. Be prepared to be without services for a day. Now let’s get prepared for a week. Now let’s get prepared for a month. It's actually easy to do it that way. And then you add in a common sense lifestyle. I know you garden and you plant fruit trees and stuff like that — and you talk about a home being a liability to a degree due to taxes etc — but if you take a home with a certain size piece of land and you turn that land into a producer, you create an asset. These are the steps you should take first in your pursuit of preparedness, because most people don’t have the time, the budget or the resources to get prepared for the apocalypse by Wednesday.
And another thing: some people think that if a collapse comes, it will be easier in some ways. I think some people actually have romantic fantasies about collapse — I'll just have my gun and I’ll be able to defend what's mine and no one will be able to take it from me. I won’t worry about paying my debts off because everybody's going to be broke anyways. They can’t repossess my stuff — that's not how collapses work. Look at Argentina. The government gets stronger. The government gets bigger. The Powers That Be want more. And they’ll take it, too. Which is why it's so important to take a phased approach towards developing resilience.
Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Jack Spirko (81m:34s)
Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson. Well, we all knew it was going to happen sooner or later, right? The debt pile was going to morph into a deflationary monster that was going to put the hurt on the global economy and financial system—or systems. More and more it seems like 2016 is going to be the year that things will get, shall we say, interesting. But our predicaments extend well beyond some ill conceived debt habits and include many other self inflicted wounds, such as destroying our soils while feeding ourselves toxic food; miseducating our youths and delivering poison water to Flint, Michigan. There are a thousand self inflicted wounds to discuss – unfortunately, more every day.
Well, what can a person do in light of all this? What should a person do? Is there anything a person can do? Fortunately, there are a few voices of reason out there helping to band together those of us inflicted with common sense and the ability to draw our own conclusions. Yes, there are things that can be done, and the first is to educate yourself to know what is going on. The second is to close the gap between what you know to be true and your daily actions. You need to increase your resilience along a variety of dimensions and not wait for things to get any worse before you decide to leap to action.
To talk with us today, very special guest—a man who began his efforts to reach out, inform and offer solutions around the same time I did. With us today is Jack Spirko, the host and owner of The Survival Podcast – the motto of which is: "Helping you live a better life if times get tough or even if they don’t." Welcome, Jack.
Jack Spirko: Hey, Chris. Nice to be on your show. We turned things around for a change instead of me interviewing you.
Chris Martenson: I’m really happy to, of course, because you are a fascinating guy. I’ve always enjoyed our interviews, but let’s introduce you to people. Tell us about your background.
Jack Spirko: Well, great. I come from a sales and marketing background really. That was the primary component of I guess you would say my professional career. I did that for about 20 years, eventually moving into a position where I was the owner of one company outright and had several other companies I had partners in and was living the “American Dream” which meant I was overweight and headed for a heart attack by 40 – completely miserable and really didn’t want to do that anymore. And I had a client that wanted a website set up, which is what one of the companies did, and they wanted a podcast and a blog and all this other stuff. This was all the way back in 2008 when it was a little bit new, at least the podcast thing was, as far as being mainstream like it is today. And so I bid the job and we got the job and I took it back to my lead developer and I said "here, do this." He said "I can do all of this except this podcast feed stuff. I’ve never done that before." I’m like "just build the site, do the comps and everything and I’ll figure out how the podcast works." I was really familiar with Word Press. I found out it was like install a plug-in and put a link in and you’re good. So I said let me make sure this works and understand getting them in iTunes and the feeds and all that. And so I decided, well, I’ll do a podcast.
I took an $18 Sony digital recorder and a $20 beat up taped together Plantronics headset that I had lying around and I started doing my show and that was in June of 2008. I did that for about a year and a half and after a year and a half I built it to the point where I went, you know what, I can take this full time and I can walk away from all of this other stuff. So I went to my partners and sold out my interest for a fraction of what it was worth and they all thought I was crazy. And I took the show full time. I have been doing that now about seven years since I did that. I have gone into every aspect of self reliance and self sufficient living, whether it is the homesteading stuff, whether it is financial education, you name it I have gone into it. A lot of it from my personal background. I kind of grew up a country boy where they still close school on the first day of dear season. And I had a lot of exposure to people that were a little more affluent than me so their financial advisors were not the financial advisors everybody else gets, if you know what I mean? People that you have to be a – what is the word I am looking for?
Chris Martenson: Accredited.
Jack Spirko: Accredited investor to even work with. They know about things and they talk about things that the guy from Edward Jones will never do. And that had a lot of insight for me. And by the time I went full time, then I was able to bring on guests, I was able to do call ins and broaden that. We have done 1,714 episodes as of today. And if you want to know about something in this world we probably have content on it.
Chris Martenson: And did you not start this in your car?
Jack Spirko: Yes. I left that out, right? Obviously – I was working like 60 or 70 hours a week. So obviously you can’t do that and have a recording studio set up and all. So yeah, that headset and that Sony recorder—I laid that on my lap in my car. I would get up about 3:30 in the morning, put my outline together for the show that day – put a couple of 5x7 index cards, throw them on the console of the car and drove 55 miles to my office every day. I would record the show in the morning, I would upload it once I got there. All the notes and all were already done so it was like 10 minutes of work. And it was my company, so if anybody didn’t like it I didn’t care. When I drove home I would actually listen to my own show. My wife thought I was arrogant. It was absolutely the opposite of arrogance. I was the most critical person of myself for that year that anybody ever was. I did it like – I don’t know if you played like sports in high school or whatever. I played football. We had the old reel to reel videos of some of our games and we would watch them. You never watched it to see what you did right, you watched it to see what you did wrong. And I think that made me pretty good at what I do because I had that year of like – I can’t really be blamed for sucking because I am doing this in a car while weaving in and out of traffic. But yet being hard on myself. I think there is a lesson there in just about anything you want to do.
Chris Martenson: We have such parallel stories in that because it was almost identical timing. I guess it was May of 2008. I first started to put the Crash Course down and this was a time I had investigated all of these different technologies, it was very frustrating. I had all these big ideas. It was this monster PowerPoint show that I could do live, but how was I going to put it on the web. I had to learn flash animation. Long story short: I had the same Plantronics headset. And it was me reading off of a script and dialing through the slides in real time trying to capture all that doing minimal audio editing. I would just listen ruthlessly. If I had a mouth click, something was wrong, the dog barks, whatever, I would have to do the whole thing over again because I didn’t have the right editing capabilities. And some of these chapters are 20 minutes long. So to start it over again was just like oh god just pain.
Jack Spirko: Especially at 19 minutes 37 seconds in, you are like "ohhh!"
Chris Martenson: [Laughter] I had several of those, right? Of course my home office was in my home and every so often at 19 minutes and 30 seconds the wife, bless her heart, would open the door and say "I am going to the store, what do you want?" I had all of these moments, right?
Jack Spirko: "I wanted you to go to the store 20 minutes ago."
Chris Martenson: It is just part of life. But that was actually—I still look back in that and go how did – what was the inspiration, where did that come from? I am wondering – where did your inspiration come from? What drove you to say "I got to do this?"
Jack Spirko: Well, the subject of the podcast was driven by the fact, as I mentioned, I really knew that market correction, recession, depression, misery whatever you want to call it was coming. I don’t mean I thought it was coming. I don’t mean that I felt that it might come. I meant that I absolutely in my bones knew what was going to happen. I had employees and a couple of my own employees with 401K plans that I helped them set up – "please move your money to the cash value fund or the bond fund or something because you are going to get punched in the face." They had like this vapor lock in their head like "oh, the guy that was here, the financial guy, he said..." Oh okay whatever man. And I realized there had to be countless Americans that were in that same kind of static vapor lock.
So I wanted to talk about the financial uncertainty, but I also had kind of come back to the world of being what people call a prepper but we always just called being smart when I grew up. Right after 9/11—and we can get into that in a second, but it had nothing to do with fear over 9/11. It had to do with – I was away from my family and I couldn’t get home and my wife is crying and my kid is scared and I am like "I got to change my life." And that got me off the road, so to say. I had been in that world ever since. I wanted to merge those two.
Then I was like, can I really do a daily podcast on this? Then when I started to think of how many things can fit under this—sure we can talk about storing some extra food or growing some extra food, but we can talk about buying silver, buying gold, when to, when not to, how to and how not to. We can go into all of these things people get misled by, like "let’s get a physical metal IRA." Yeah, great, let’s take the most private wealth on planet earth and make it as public as possible and as subject to government regulation as possible; that’s a great idea.
I just started kind of peeling back those layers of the onions. I had realized this 20-25 year history of my life that seemed so disjointed because I had gone from any job that took me up or gave me new experience, I took it. I was not the good employee. I was great at what I did but I was in it for me. It seemed very selfish and it was because well, they were in it for them. And all of that vast experience from stuff in telecommunications and marketing, sales, being able to communicate well had led me up to a point, like, this makes sense. This is what I can do.
The other thing was I had this little garden at the time. We had a conventional—the "success house" which is surrounded by other success houses you can reach out and touch. But I had my little garden in the back and I would get home at the end of the night and I would come in from work and I would walk in the door and grab a beer out of the refrigerator and go out the back door and my wife just wouldn’t say a word. And I would go out there and water my garden, I would become human again, and then I would come in and say, “Hey, honey. How are you doing?” We had a normal life after that. But I needed decompression just from a 55 mile drive on the road, even listening to me talk, I wanted to like just explode when I got home. I realized there was something about producing your own food that actually connected you with your humanity to the point where you could actually be human again. And I realized that could be a big part of what I could do and I could give that to other people. With all of that, that made it worth getting up at 3:00 in the morning, 3:30 in the morning to get that stuff done.
Chris Martenson: Great story. I totally resonate with lots of that. This idea though that you knew that it was coming in 2008. You knew it was coming. I did too. I had a lot of – and a variety of people did. Of course, after the fact, everybody saw it coming. But it has been kind of a dry spell for a while, and there have been just outrageous heroic efforts, heroic—golf claps for the plutocrats, they have been amazing in dumping money in and patching this over and lying, cheating, swindling, stealing, propagandizing, whatever they need to do. I feel like – my assessment—we are in the chewing gum and duct tape portion of the story, right? Where everything that can be done has been done to keep this thing floating along. What is your sense of where we are right now?
Jack Spirko: Well, I had people freaking out two years ago and I am like, it is probably the election year all of this is going to happen. I have to be kind of careful that I am not letting confirmation bias influence my take on what is going on. It matches up "I have told you it; now, I see it," right? But when I look at it here is kind of how I saw this coming – I really believe that when we get the fourth quarter numbers from 2015, which you get in like the first quarter of 2016, they are not going to be good. They are going to be worse than expected and that we are going to be in a negative growth or almost no growth situation. In this quarter, it is definitely – so I am thinking by the middle of this year we are – I think we are in a recession now, but I think we are in an official recession. And you know the psychological impact of that. And I think there is a big unwinding to come at the end of this one.
My gut is never underestimate the ability of these people to kick a can. And I don’t see this as like our final financial oblivion, though long ago I kind of felt this is when it would be. So when was I right and when was I wrong? Well, I guess we will find out. But what I see has happened now is they took so much money and they pumped so much liquidity into all these markets. In large what we are seeing now is the consequences of creating an expansion boom without the necessary expansion to go along with it. We built things that no one is going to used. We have mined product that nobody is going to want for another five years. It is sitting there. We have built buildings that nobody wants to occupy. You see this in strip mall creation in America, right? You can drive up and down streets right outside of nice neighborhoods where you have all of these old strip malls for convenience sake and all. You see all of these random strip malls put in with 50% occupancy. You have to ask how did that thing get there? It is brand new.
It got there because it was so cheap to build – employment wasn’t doing really well. The construction workers were laid off. They would take anything they can get so you could get cheaper than normal cheap labor, and you can get financing for cheap. So everybody took advantage of this from the small time strip mall to the giant city expansions made in China. All of this stuff was built and everybody geared up to meet the demand. You can’t just shut that back down. You can’t go out and spend $20 million on a single piece of mining equipment, get $5 million worth of production out of it and then just shut the key off and expect that that is going to work. And that has happened all over the world right now. In some ways it is a little less toxic than the housing meltdown. In some ways it is larger. It is less toxic because on the surface the numbers are smaller. I saw numbers come out today with people freaking out on Zero Hedge and all that there is a few hundred billion dollars of exposure to bad loans in the oil sector. I am not saying that is sunshine and roses, but compare that to what $14 trillion of exposure in the housing market in 2008, 2009? So on the surface these numbers are smaller. But when you start tracing how far they run and how many places they intersect and how many sectors, it is bigger. So the question is: How long will it unravel before they figure out how to pump it back up again with something else? I don’t think I know the answer to that, but I have been – like you – amazed. Amazed at the ability of these people to perpetuate an unperpetuatable system.
Chris Martenson: Or sustain the unsustainable as I say. So yes, this is a faith based system and we need a lot of faith, but you have touched on an important point here for me which is that one of the reasons I am really keen on the oil sector, besides the fact it is something I focus on a lot professionally, is that a wipeout in the oil sector is not the same as a wipe out in the housing sector. The simple reason is – I know I am going to offend a few people when I say this – a house is not an asset. A house is a liability. An asset is something that generates cash flow, is fundamentally productive. A house is fundamentally unproductive. As soon as you buy it, that thing is depreciating. It is a money pit. You can see the movie. They have made movies about it. You can read the story. Get the book.
A house doesn’t do anything except you get to live in it, and the government plays numbers with statistics and stuff like that to try to explain why it is more important than it is, but it is not. It is a depreciating asset. But oil. Oil is this magic substance that we pull out of the ground and we can use it to perform all sorts of downstream work for us, and who can predict what that would be? But it comes out of the ground. So this is really astonishing that this oil downturn is now worse in severity, magnitude, duration than the one that we had in 1986. And so the thinking is that we are going to skate by this. There is a couple hundred billion on the hook, but it is not just that. It is what you hinted at: There is all sorts of associated value on the line here. It is not just the roustabout who is earning $48,000 a year, but the car that they are trying to pay off and the house that they bought and the waitresses that they support and whatever else they are doing.
To me this downturn is colossal not just even from the US perspective, but from a global flow of liquidity perspective. The Sovereign Wealth Fund of Norway has been a net accumulator to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars for 13 years running and this year that goes into reverse. Saudi Arabia? Slips into reverse. Venezuela? Nightmare. It is actually a pretty big story.
But what I am reading in the media, Jack, pretty regularly is "don’t worry about it is kind of small."
Jack Spirko: You know what I have always said to that when somebody says "don’t worry about it" – worry. I had a friend named Mikey, we used to call him Ears because he had giant Ears and he was not the sharpest tool in the shed. And whenever we were involved with something even as stupid teenagers and this guy said don’t worry about it we all looked at each other with a great deal of fear and concern and Mikey went on his own from after that point. I think that when you start hearing the media telling you not to worry about something, you need to worry about it. The media told you not to worry about this in 2008 when you and I were telling people "hey, worry about this." Then you have mouthpieces like Suze Orman coming on, going "it will be fine don’t worry about it," like Mickey Mouse she sounds. Two years later she is going “You are going to be working until you are 70 now. That’s just the way it is.” It is like oh my god how does anybody listen to these dolts? I didn’t mean to cut you off there, but when somebody says "do not worry about it," that is exactly the time that you need to worry. And I think what people cannot understand is people like you and I can say "listen – get out of your mutual funds, your stocks, etc. right now." If you are holding stocks you better be holding stocks for a specific reason, you know why you are holding them, you have an extra strategy. Don’t be in general funds right now. I told people that back in August of last year. I said the reason to get out of the market right now is not because it is going to crash, but because there is no upside to the market for the rest of the year. So there is no reason to be at risk.
We can say that. Can you see what would happen if someone like another one of my favorite mouthpieces, Jim Cramer, or a guy that I actually like a lot more which is named Dave Ramsey, went on the radio to millions of Americans on FOX news and whatever and said "right now you should get completely out of the stock market." You tell me what the result of that would be.
Chris Martenson: Well, they would be fired. They would never be invited back.
Jack Spirko: Yeah, but I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about what would be the results on the street when somebody with that reach and that clout tells America "BAIL OUT." You bail, right? You would have a massive triggered sell off. You and I have the freedom to say that for two reasons: One, who is going to fire Chris Martenson or Jack Spirko? No one except our own listeners. But two, because we are not going to create an exodus of 5 or 6 million stockholders in a day; these people can. They are literally traped. No matter how honest they want to be, they can’t tell you what they know. I will bet you that Dave Ramsey did not sit through the stock downfall of 2008/2009 like he told his listeners to.
Chris Martenson: You touched on for me what is an important point, and this is personal – I was at this wealth conference recently and I had an opportunity to speak. There were hundreds of billions of dollars under management. There were pension fund managers, hedge fund dudes and dudettes, all this. Big place. First thing I did when I stood up in front of them, Jack, I said, “Hey. I am standing up in front of you as an outsider, and I am not trying to become an insider. The luxury that comes with being an outsider is I get to say whatever I want, so let me tell you this story," right? It is really important to have outsiders in this story because what you are talking about— the center mass, here is the number one rule of manias and panics right? The number one job of a bear market is to take the most money from the most people at all times. Here is my complaint with the media as I understand it, the lap dogs that they are of the system, is that they are encouraging people to stay fully invested at exactly the wrong moment. I will know personally it is time to get back into and start considering buying equities when the media is telling me it is over, never invest in stocks again. That is of course when their Wall Street handlers will be telling them "say that kind of stuff." This sounds a little conspiratorial but I have seen this happen over and over again where the media is routinely telling people exactly the wrong stuff, either on purpose or because they are idiots. Where do you draw the line on that? What do you think?
Jack Spirko: I think it is exactly what is going on. I also think it is almost impossible on these big dips that are short-term dips—like everybody talks about the crash of 87, but if you look at it, all the stocks you really wanted to own in 1987 that went down like a rock were down for a matter of seconds. And that was before high frequency trading and all this skimming and stuff that is going on now. I remember being a kid in high school and my old man explained this to me and not getting it. And then I just watched it happen again. We had a huge dip in the late part of 2015, a one day big, giant, dip like 500 points.
Chris Martenson: August 24th. It was awesome.
Jack Spirko: And there were big stocks that went down, and I covered this. The big stocks were down for less than a minute. Right? All of the regular rigmarole stuff that makes up the majority of your mutual fund, right? I am not saying all of the expensive stock, I am telling you all of the premium stocks – the ones you wanted to own this year – they were down [snaps] that fast. You could have been sitting on e-trade, you could have known the second that that was coming and you could have tried to buy that stock at that price and the private trader would have never bought that stock. But let me tell you something – somebody did or it would not have gone back up. Now, when you just consider – like you always talk about "I believe this because I can do math." If you do that math, it only points to one place. There is only a select group of people that can buy stock that quickly. And they bought the exact right ones at the exact right second perfectly.
Now either these are the smartest people in the world and they should be inventing free energy, okay? Or they are in on it. Those are your two choices. To me that is common sense.
Chris Martenson: What is astonishing about that is it clearly speaks to a broken market. So we have a broken market. Your father would not even recognize this after seeing 1987, right? Broken markets run by computers. So the NYSE thought about this and said "gee, we have these computers they are running like crazy. They are dipping these giant stocks just a minute at a time just wiping people out. What are we going to do?" As of February this year in 2016 the NYSE said "here is our response: ordinary traders, retail investors will no longer have either good 'til close or stop limit orders available to them." Meaning you couldn’t put a stop in there that says hey if IBM ever goes to a penny I’ll buy. They took that right away from you. But under the auspices of "oh we are going to protect the children. Think of the children. What we are going to do is prevent you from accidentally putting a stop loss in there that gets picked off by one of these high frequency computers." It is like oh look at that tasty stop loss order sitting 100 points below where we are currently sitting. I will go grab that. To protect – instead of fixing the market –
Jack Spirko: I just want to make sure I understand you because this is news to me. Are you saying that as of February I am not going to be able to run a basic stop loss or just these –
Chris Martenson: Not on the NYSE.
Jack Spirko: So you are telling me if I have a stock and – which I do now – if a stock goes up to a certain point and I’m not ready to take my profits on it yet I put a stop loss underneath it a couple bucks that preserves my profit and I collar it all the way up like that – you are telling me as a private trader I won’t be able to do that anymore?
Chris Martenson: That is correct.
Jack Spirko: Oh gee that fixes – what that actually does, that actually makes me far more concerned because don’t think that these high frequency people need that. That is not how they do it. If they don’t do – you pay more money right now for a box that is 20 feet closer to the exchange because of the time it takes for the signal to go through the wire. They are not doing this with stock losses. They are not doing this with collaring stocks. They are doing this with real time engagement, they don’t need that. It is the same as saying "we are not going to let rich people take their money out of the country," and that means you and me. The billionaires' money is already out of the country; you are not getting it back.
Chris Martenson: Right.
Jack Spirko: That makes me far more concerned about what is about to happen.
Chris Martenson: Correct. So it is February 26th. I am looking at it right now. "All existing good 'til close and stop orders on the NYSE book will be canceled at that time." You’re out. So yeah, that is no longer an option for you.
So, again, the markets are broken and they have now enshrined it in favor of the big players, the ones with the co-located servers with the slightly shorter fiber optic cable so they can shave that micro second off the transmission time – those people they have said now own the markets. You are no longer allowed to play in this. People were making the argument "you know, Chris, so what, you lose a fraction of a penny on a trade. It is more liquid—" all this and that. But now I can’t put stop orders in? I have to babysit my positions like live real time 24/7 like I am a computer? I’m out. I can’t do that. I’m done.
Jack Spirko: That changes everything for me. What that may actually result in is the return of the full service broker. I mean, there are times when – I am not a person that says "hold no stocks," though right now I am very limited in my exposure on equities. There is money to be made if you know what you are doing. But I also like to go away for two weeks at a time. I don’t spend my vacations with my smartphone checking my stock prices every five minutes. And I’m not a day trader. I’m a guy that sees trends – basically I get out of the way of trains. That is what 2008-2009 was – you and I get a lot of credit for telling people this is coming. But I honestly look back, dude—and I don’t mean to be disrespectful to what you said about it or anything because I said it too—but I am like "how did you not?" Right? So I don’t time the market daily but some of these things...
Like this, where we are heading into in 2016, this to me is as clear as daylight. And like I said, the piece of information you just gave me makes me a lot more concerned. I have to say this with a little sadness for other people: I don’t know as much stuff like that anymore because part of like my mental health regime is I have solidified my positions and I have exited a lot of the news and stuff and I rely on my audience to tell me things that are actually worthy of my attention, because the news and all of the media that is out there is some of the most misleading stuff. And I say that with some concern because I also include a lot of the hype behind what we call alternative media. I am on your show because I like what you do and you are a real grounded person. But a lot of the stuff I see come out of Zero Hedge and all, it is just as hyped up in the opposite direction. I try to look at the bigger trends. But when I see Caterpillar equipment that was sold for $2 million being auctioned off for $100,000 a year later, I know something bad is wrong.
Chris Martenson: Yeah. So this is really important. How do we actually pull the signal from the noise? There are lots of competing interests out there. Let’s start with your source of the signal. What are the most popular subject, or sets of subjects among your listeners right now?
Jack Spirko: Right now people seem to be far more concerned about providing for themselves than what is going to go wrong next. The majority of the questions I get revolve around things like producing your own food, producing your own energy, finding a place to live that is less obscured by restrictions and regulations of the government. But I do get a lot of concerns about – the biggest one right now is the economy. Ironically when no one is worried about the price of oil—right? Because the gas is going down and everybody is happy when it is cheaper to fill your car—it is usually one of the worst times for the economy. It kind of surprises me a lot of times my own listeners don’t seem to make the connection, like "it is good that gas is cheap," but it is like the reason gas is cheap is the "but". And so I get it from all walks of life.
I get a lot of questions right now—more and more questions about gun ownership, developing your skills for self defense and protection. What we don’t talk about, even though my show is called The Survival Podcast—we don’t talk a lot about bunkers. We don’t talk a lot about 20 years worth of MREs. We don’t really talk about stuff like that. That is probably because I laid the ground work from the beginning. What we talk about primarily is "lifestyle design" is what I call it. I think I picked that up from Tim Ferris. I’m not sure. I pick up a lot of things from a lot of places. I always try to give credit, but lifestyle design. And that has really been key for probably the last five years because what I tell people every day—and in fact just today on the show I said it again—if you don’t design your lifestyle, somebody else is going to.
I think the reason we are so concerned about all of these things like a recession or what have you is because we are so tied in to the success of the system that if the system hiccups, we get hurt. And what I have tried to teach people to do is divorce themselves in phases. You can’t do it overnight. When I do shows on starting your own business, usually I’ll say "this does not mean you go in and tell your boss you quit and burn the bridge on the way out the door. Yet. You have to phase these things in."
While it is running the gamut right now it is this stuff with the economy. My email is blowing up today with concerns over the banks’ exposure to the oil industry. It kind of runs the same flow, which is nice because it means I don’t have to pay attention. Like I have this incredible research staff, you probably do too, and all of this stuff shows up and I just kind of filter through it. I guess I have a cheat that way.
Chris Martenson: Yeah, well you know, it is – to me it is just a process of I never trust any one source any more. Everything has to be multi sourced. And I am pretty sure that I have no real clue what is going on and I am equally positive that if it comes out of the State Department or New York Times or Washington Post I have to double, triple, extra discount it.
This is the game for all the marbles. The way I have put this is: We are in the deep stages of a very ill advised debt expansion and this either blows up or it continues. And the powers that be are very interested in it continuing. I get it. I totally get it. You put me in their shoes and I am not making any different decisions; just get me through one more week. I get it. At the same, time for the people who are thinking that somehow they are going to open their newspaper above the fold, be told about stuff in a useful amount of time—I don’t hold that same view. That is most of my work is like no, we are going to have to get our information from somewhere else.
What I am tracking this last couple of weeks – we are watching the headline stock indexes are sort of gyrating, giving people a lot of gas pains, but it is like 2008, Jack. Please pay attention to the banking index and the insurers and the other financially sensitive stocks. They are not tip toeing out the back door. They are tripping over each other to get out of a burning night club. It is just astonishing. So we see it again. Here we are again. But most people I think got lulled back into thinking that the system was going to work, that they all have it under control and somehow they would be told in advance. I don’t think that is how it works anymore. I think they are very good at obfuscating and hiding what is actually happening for most people. Even though if you scratch at it, it is completely obvious.
Jack Spirko: I think that one of the things that is tripping people up right now is there is like—when we had the last couple of big down turns, there were clear, obvious things that people could get their head around as to being the problem. When people can’t pay their mortgage and you have millions of people in default, people get that is going to be a problem. When you have a massive terrorist attack, people get that there is going to be a problem with the economy. When you have a sector like going all the way back to ’99, the dotcom sector, it would explode and then as you kind of saw the bubble bust coming for that, you could just look at it and go, "you have all these companies that have made all this money and not made a dime of profit except for a handful of them" – by the way, that handful is still around. Just saying. You could kind of see the reasoning for that. The Enron implosion. It was a big enough company that people – and it was all kind of merged together.
So people look at this now and if there is anything people really don’t understand, it is the oil market. They don’t get it. I’m no friend of Exxon and BP or whatever, but they don’t understand how much work, risk, effort, etc. it is to extract a single barrel of oil for the first time out of a hole in the ground and actually make that into gasoline and put it into a car. And it is easy to attack the oil companies when oil is over $100 a barrel and you are paying too much and you are angry and the airline is using it as an excuse to raise prices and all. But when you start to see a barrel of oil trading around $30 that somebody had to drill a hole miles into the ground on a horizontal system at the bottom of the ocean, pump out of the ground, ship back to the land then refine into gasoline, sell for that price – and you start to realize that we pay $2.00 for a cup of coffee, you start to realize that something has to be bad wrong on the consumption side. It has to be.
And then you have to ask yourself: Why is there something wrong? I am not saying consuming less is a bad thing of itself, but if we are expecting things to be the way that they are, like the way that they are just generally accepted as being, as the way all of the people that don’t pay attention like you and I and our listeners do and for it to be that way, and that consumption plummets? Not because of green energy, not because of new initiatives but because it is just not there; why isn’t that energy being used? Why is it sitting there? Why is the oil company not willing to take—and I have heard projections as low as getting down into the teens per barrel of oil. Why are we willing to do that? Why are they willing to do that? Because they have got to get something for it and that is all that they can get.
What I think people don’t understand about energy is a 1 to 2% shortage can create a skyrocket in price, but a 1 to 2% surplus can create a plummeting price. And the oil companies can’t just produce less. They are in this catch 22. This runs really deep if you start thinking about it that way. And yeah you are talking about the insurers and all trying to run out of the door and leave the check on the table for you and me, and then you couple that with circumventing the causal trader's option to determine when they can exit and it seems like a recipe for real pain. But – see this is where – I am sure you struggle with this too, Chris. I don’t know how to explain this to people. Whenever I say "this is not the final crash of the market. We are not going down into oblivion into the end of the world." It is like I said "this is going to be sunshine and roses." Do you ever deal with that where you are like "hey, this is going to be bad, but it is not the end of the world," and then people start thinking you are saying this is all going to be okay?
Chris Martenson: You know, it is a fantastic question and it is one on my list here because what we are really talking about is the various scenarios. I will admit to you – I will admit to everybody listening that I have certain scenarios that I have planned for and I have prepped for that are not unthinkable things that can maybe, I don’t know, make the electricity grid go dark for a few months or things like that. In terms of most likely, no, listen, it is never a one way trip to the bottom. It is always a process. Collapse isn't an event; it is a process. These processes take an amount of time that is similar to the magnitude of what you are talking about. It is like the Titanic, right? My dingy can sink pretty god damn quick, but the Titanic—that is a process. It might take an hour or two or more or however long it takes.
So I think that yes, I have no question about the trajectory of this. I am already convinced, Jack, in 20 years people will look back and go "man, we had easier lives then," right? But between here and there, a lot of territory, local mileage will vary, nobody can predict exactly how this is going to unfold. So what is the best strategy? Well, you have to be ready for a lot of different things. That is taxing, and so that is why I think most people kind of get chucked off to the side. Some people want the certainty. It is so much easier to say "tell me it is all going to fall apart next Wednesday; I can prep for that," right?
Jack Spirko: But they can’t. See that is the thing, they think they can. And what it is, is we have had these people predicting "this is the big one, this is the big one, this is the big one" for 25 years. And these are people that are hucksters that just want to make money. EndofAmerica3.com and this crap with Porter Stansberry and the world is going to end. "In six months the dollar is going to collapse." And people have been marketed that. And here is my concern – that eventually what is going to happen is it is going to become Chicken Little. And when we really are at a point where you and I are going "oh, guys..." no one is going to listen until it is above the fold, but there won’t be a newspaper anymore by then and it will be careening into oblivion.
But as far as like the preparedness – so being prepared for the grid to go down for a couple of months. Great goal. Wonderful. But I look at preparedness this way: If you and I are in a car together and we are going to drive from Miami, Florida to Portland, Maine – we are going to go to Georgia before we go to Virginia, unless we are really dumb people without a map. Okay? So when somebody asks me that question, my first question is: Do you have 30 days worth of food stored up in your home? No? Stop worrying about the grid going down. Do you have enough money to go 90 days without income and be okay? Not happy, but at least okay at the end of those 90 days? No? Let’s not worry about—Do you have a basic blackout so if your grid goes down for 24 hours you can find your stuff and be comfortable? No? So we got to get, in preparedness, all of these most basic things done.
What I came up with very early on is what you call an impact scale and disaster probability, with an inverse relationship. The way I look at this is a disaster that affects just you or just you and your immediate family is the most likely disaster that you will ever experience in your lifetime. You will probably experience many of them. If you widen that out to be your neighborhood, it is a little less likely you as an individual will be impacted by it. And as we go up to a national level disaster, your odds of having it happen to you on any given individual day – I think this generation we are going to see it, right? Eventually. But on any given day is relatively low. So we have to take this methodical approach. We prepare first for the disasters that only affects us and our family. Then we prepare at the neighborhood level. Then we kind of prepare at the regional level. And by the time you get there, you are so close to being able to at least be somewhat resilient on these wide scale disasters and so far ahead of where you would be otherwise that it is doable now.
However, if you start out with no preparedness and you start pumping money into solar panels and backup batteries and stuff to the tune of thousands and thousands of dollars and you can’t handle being laid off for a month, then sooner or later you are going to end up hurt and you are going to never get where you are going to go. These are the people that get in the car and figure out how to get to—end up going from Virginia back to Georgia before they get to Maine. Sooner or later you are going to get lost because clearly you have no map.
With preparedness we have to start out with this methodical — lets prepare to be without services for a day. Now let’s get prepared for a week. Now let’s get prepared for a month. And it is actually so easy to do that way. And then if you add in common sense lifestyle—I know you garden and you plant fruit trees and stuff like that. And you talked about a home being a liability—the home is always going to be a liability to a degree because they tax it or etc. but if you take a home with a certain size piece of land and you start to turn that land into a producer, you create an asset within that liability, if that makes sense. And these are the steps you have to take to get where you are going prepared-wise because most people don’t have the time, the budget or the resources to get prepared for the apocalypse by Wednesday. They might feel like they do because well if it is all over...
And this is the other thing: People think that like when this collapse comes that it will be easier in some ways. I think some people actually have these romantic fantasies about collapse. "I will just have my gun and I’ll be able to defend what is mine and no one will be able to take it from me. I won’t worry about paying my debts off because everything is going to be broke anyway. They can’t repossess it..." That is not how collapses work, man. Look at Argentina, right? The government gets stronger. The government gets bigger. The powers that be want more. And they’ll take it too. So you have to set that resiliency up in a phased-in approach.
Chris Martenson: Very well said. Very well said. That brings me to the motto on your site which is: Helping You Live a Better Life if Times Get Tough or Even If They Don’t. This is really a motto that Adam and I have as well in slightly different format but is essentially the same, which is, look, I am not living for some future that might or might not arrive. What I am doing is structuring my life in such a way that I have a very high quality of life today, but if ABC or D happens, all of these things that I am doing today also play into that workout very, very well.
I am not into this to wear a hair shirt and I think the people you are mentioning who think that somehow things get easier when the collapse comes – I am highly ambivalent. I am cheering the collapse on and desperately afraid of it happening. I will be completely honest about that. I am cheering it on because we need to have some hard conversations and it looks like my country is unwilling to go there and have the appropriate conversations until forced too, right? I want to have those conversations. We have to have them. At the same time, I am really not looking forward to this coming because I know it is going to be really hard for a lot of people, myself included, no matter how well I prepared.
Jack Spirko: And it is. There is nobody that is going to come through the eventual reality of this that is going to feel better off while it is going on. But we don’t know when it is going to happen. Again, you said it. I have said it. I have been astounded at the ability to kick this can. We don’t know what developments will come. A lot of this is psychological. The American dollar has value because people believe that it has value. I personally believe that most people don’t even know what money really is. Most people have woken up to like the scam of the dollar, fractional reserve banking, all this stuff you have in the Crash Course will then turn around and say "gold is money." No, gold is a commodity. Gold is a thing. Gold can be exchanged for things. It has a lot of things going for it. I am a big fan of gold, but in the end you can’t eat it. If you eat enough of it, it is toxic; it will kill you. It really doesn’t do anything that any other substance can’t do. In fact, silver, industrial-wise does a lot more than gold does; it is just another thing. Money is an agreement. Money is a psychological agreement for a symbol that represents energy to be exchanged in lieu of direct barter. That is what it is. It is nothing more than that.
That is why something like Bitcoin can even work. Because people don’t understand that they are the value in the economy. They are the value, along with the natural resources and the value-add that human beings apply to those to create value. So money is just a representation. If there is enough confidence in a currency, even if it is completely illogical, like the dollar—the dollar is the most illogical thing. If you had actually before that ever existed explained it to someone who fully understood what you were saying before anybody had ever done it and said" do you think we should do this?" They probably would have burned you at the stake. Right? I mean it is a completely irrational way. But since people – this is what people don’t get. "It is all fake. It is all phony." Give me all of your money then. I’ll take it. Right? I’ll take it tomorrow if you think it is all fake.
It is real because we believe it is real. The vulnerability there – the second the psychology changes, the value can change either up or drastically down. And there is a point where people are going to start asking more and more questions about what the hell we are doing here. I think there is a point where we – everybody is worried about the debt – I mentioned it the last time we spoke – unfunded liabilities. I think there is a point where people are going to look at that and realize how hopeless this is. And as confidence begins to degrade in a currency, to me, that is when you are going to get the biggest part of this crisis. And I think it might actually preceed a fall off in energy production or many of the other things that you pointed out. Sooner or later people are going to realize it just doesn’t work. In some ways, that could be the better crisis because it would give us time – we can fix that. We can fix that with a change to the way we do things. But I don’t know that we have the wherewithal to do it. You say your country is not interested in it. I think the problem in your country—as bad as the policy makers are and as bad as the elite are—I think the problem in this country is people are more concerned about how big Kim Kardashian's ass is than how the money system works. This country has been lulled to sleep.
We have kids going around in college today filling out what I call "butt hurt reports" on micro aggressions because they don’t feel safe because somebody said something they found off color. A society that starts to think this way cannot have the will to fix these problems. And it doesn’t mean there isn’t millions of us that do. But for right now I fear that we are outnumbered. I think the percentage of people in each age group is going down. I think a lot of people look to the young guys, the millennials, etc. and think these are the ones that are really concerned with saving the world and saving the whales and everything else. Yeah, they buy into a lot of things about we need solar and wind and everything, but they have no comprehension whatsoever about what that means or how hard it really is.
I was at a workshop recently where a guy cut down a single tree. It was kind of a junk tree and we were using it for firewood after it was cut down. It was to teach people how to use a chainsaw. These young kids – very, very honorable young people in their like early 20s, far more concerned than I was at 20. I was concerned with chasing girls at 20 and drinking beer. Just being honest here. These kids care. So that is like, what, a quarter of a cord? That’s kindling. That is one tall junk red pine. That is kindling. That is nothing. The concept that what it actually – all these kids were talking about was how you can heat a whole house with a few cords of wood with a rocket stove. They don’t even know what a cord of wood is. They don’t know what a cord – they have no idea. What is the embodied energy in 4x2x8 of solid wood? What is the embodiment of energy there? How long does it take to produce that? Right? How sustainable is that really, unless you are doing things like coppicing and you are growing firewood crops that way—which is a very old technology that can be done, but no one near the level I think – "we're going to put solar panels on the house." A guy that wrote into me, "I am going to put solar panels on the house." It was going to take him 37 years financially to pay back those panels. It wasn’t like an off grid system with battery backup; it is a grid-tied system. It doesn’t even run the power if the grid goes down.
These things... we have a population so uneducated to the – it is not that we can’t adapt to these technologies but you are not going to adapt to these technologies, walk into your living room, turn the thermostat down to 68 degrees in the middle of the summer and just have it hum. The box that the aliens brought with free energy in it that is being hidden by Exxon does not exist. It just doesn’t exist. You know what I am saying but I don’t know that everybody that hears my voice does.
Chris Martenson: Well said. Very well said. And to back up a bit in that, one of the things that I have been working hard on is to differentiate this whole idea between money and wealth. It has been conflated and people think they are the same thing and it has been marketed to us that money is real. And, of course, all you have to do is peel back the covers and discover that yeah, it is real for you. You have got to work for it; if you don’t have it, you are under a bridge. But they don’t. "They" being – "oh I had a trillion dollar accident. Here it is. Very sorry for your losses." But money is not wealth, right?
So what you are talking about is the kind of wealth, that knowledge wealth. That is a form of capital people can have – really understand not just the book learning of what is in a 4x2x8 chunk of wood, but the experience that says "oh and here is how much it takes to get that." "Oh and by the way red oak has to dry for two years, especially after splitting. Red pine totally different substance. Not just wood." There is a lot that goes with that. Still a lot of people I think make the mistake of thinking "I have money, I have wealth." Well you do as long as the social agreement exists that you can exchange that for something that is useful to you. But when push comes to shove, history says money is a commodity. It goes up in value. It goes down in value. Sometimes it goes to zero. Who knows, right? But what doesn’t change is wealth.
People always want to be entertained, we need products, we want food, we want shelter, warmth. Those are the things that are true forms of wealth. I have been really encouraging people that if all you have is money wealth, I don’t care how big your portfolio is, you have got to start transitioning that over into the real world, which includes all these other forms of wealth we talked about in your last podcast – that great line of thinking that came from those permaculture guys. These other forms of capital, which is just what you get when you open your eyes and you look out into the real world and you say "oh, the real world doesn’t operate just by money or any concept abstract like that." It operates according to: Do you have water? Nutrients? Shelter? Safety? Those sorts of things. Feels like there is some really old sort of primal concepts that are going to have to come back into favor. I guess what I am saying is I feel like this last 150-200 years of oil has just been a departure into lala land. There are some basic realities that have to come back.
Jack Spirko: I think in some ways what we did is we grew up technologically faster than we grew up intellectually. I think that if we had the capacity for knowledge that does exist today and despite pointing out how uneducated a lot of people are – there are a lot of extremely smart, extremely educated people in the world today. And I think if we had the knowledge that we have today and we discovered this resource today for the first time, I think we would treat it a bit differently. I think that we discovered it and our capacity to use it exceeded our capacity to comprehend it, and therefore we became dependent on it way too quick. And the reason that people don’t want to make the adjustment now is they can’t see a way out of it. Where if you had told somebody that was living where they had to burn wood to keep their house warm, "hey you can have enough of this stuff that it will do all of these things for you" and it did 25% of what it did for us today, you know what they would have said? "That’s great!" But if you tell somebody today to give up 25% of what it is doing for them now, they are not willing to do it. They are not even willing to invest in the technologies that would make you have to give up less of it.
What I mean by that is we can’t take solar panels and run central air conditioning in 3,000 square foot stick and wood houses. We can’t do it. But we can build houses that can be kept cool with that level of energy. But we don’t want to do that because we have all this embodied investment in building stick and wood houses, right? The financial system is stacked toward doing the most destructive behavior we could right now. We have building codes—entire cities have entire departments of people that exist solely for the purpose to make sure that we build things that way, when it is the worst... No one that came here without any attachment to what we are doing—like let’s say an alien did show up without a free energy box, but just said "hey, guys I am here –" like you at the conference, right? I am an outsider. "I am an outsider looking in and I am evaluating this." That person would never say "you know what, keep building houses that way. Keep building subdivisions the way that you are doing. That makes sense. That is a good idea. Keep using these toxic materials in your homes that your children are growing up in. That's a good idea." It is so preposterous if you extract yourself from it. I am sure even for you and I that there are things that you look at and go "I don’t want to give that up." Then there are things that you look at and go "I’d be happy to do this a different way, but I’m actually inhibited and prevented from doing it a different way."
If I wanted to tear my house down right now where I live and build an earth contact structure, where I live I probably could. But I would also need a couple of tons of dynamite because I am sitting on top of a limestone slab to be able to do that. But most people, it is not a limestone slab that prevents it from being financially viable. What do you think would happen in the average suburban neighborhood, Chris, if a guy brought in a track hoe and said "screw it, I am going to fix this," ripped the house down, salvaged everything useable and tried to put in something akin to an earth ship?
Chris Martenson: And injunction would be administered almost instantly.
Jack Spirko: The track hoe would never make it there, right? I mean it never would happen. So the things that actually can work, the system actively is prohibiting. So that puts you in a point where you either have to adapt within the confines of society—and I live kind of at the urban/rural edge, which is actually a really great place for taking advantage of what is here and being able to get the hell out if you have to. And that works for now. But if you really want to live and use the appropriate technology for adaptation, you have to go out in the sticks. And they are making that difficult now. So you can see why people are like, "I get it, but it is not feasible for me to do." And not everybody is going to be a hippy living in a tiny house. I am not going to. My office is bigger than most tiny houses. And I’m not going to change that. I have a job to do and it is comfortable to be able to do it in there. But I could have this kind of office using a different building technology and be far more adapted to Texas summers than this home is that was built in 1979. You know what interest rates were in '79, right? My house was built when you cut every corner when you built a house. And I have adapted as much as I can with that but we all have those limits.
Chris Martenson: Absolutely. And you are raising a great point which is that look, we could be doing things a lot differently. I know that you have a strong orientation towards permaculture, which I am a huge fan of as well, and I watch things that people are doing now – they seem worthy, right? They are complex. You have to really know your subject as well as any maestro of any musical instrument or a master of any particular craft. Really subtle, important stuff. And it turns out that we can be these incredible agents of abundance and creation. And that is what the human experience can be. We can be creators. Extraordinary creators. That is the potential. The downside is we can also be knuckleheads and do really dumb things. And that is the human experience. My concern at this particular juncture of human history is that the knuckleheads seem to be in charge. I threw a couple of them out there. What kind of a knucklehead did it take to take corrosive water and feed it through the Flint, Michigan water system when they have lead pipes and lead gets eroded by corrosion. It goes into the water system. What kind of a knucklehead does that take? It takes a special kind.
Jack Spirko: It saved a million dollars. What do you want? So you poisoned the whole town. I mean stuff happens. And by the way, we poisoned it in a way that we don’t think we can ever fix it again.
Chris Martenson: It is a special kind of – my favorite tweet came out this morning, somebody said if Al Qaeda had done this we would already be bombing the wrong country by now.
Jack Spirko: It is a special kind of stupid. If you have seen the meme with Sam Elliot in it, "you are a special kind of stupid now aren’t you?" And you are going, these are the people in charge. I think that what we have is—I think people mistake what being in charge is. These politicians and stuff, these are like if you go back to the colonial days and they would install a governor in South Carolina. The king is still in charge. And the king ain’t Barack Obama and it wasn’t George Bush before him. It is these banking interests. It is these oil interests. That is another thing you have to look at, right? These oil companies are the same companies—in the end, the same people own them as own the banks. Are they really this bad off or is there an advantage for them eventually looking this bad off? I don’t know. I really don’t at this point. Like, I am with you, there are certain things I just don’t know anymore.
Chris Martenson: I know I vacillate, like, "oh these are evil, evil individuals." "No, they’re idiots." I don't know. Yes, no. Both. I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter because the outcome is the same. So this is why I do what I do. I think it is why you do what you do. Listen, I am not going to change what is going on in that larger setting. I can’t influence what kind of knuckleheads are in charge. But I can influence people who see what is coming, who understand that they can be in charge of maybe not everything but certainly more important subsets of things than they used to be. Taking that responsibility back and saying "I am in charge. I am responsible. Fundamentally, however this turns out in my life, I am responsible for that." You know on some spiritual existential level, more tactically, but I am in charge. So pulling that back – you know what I love Jack about doing that I do is that I get to hang out with people who are curious. They are actually doing stuff. They are willing to admit when they are wrong or what they have got right. You know, that is just part of the curious sort of mindset. But this is a really extraordinary time to be alive and I think that, if anything, life is to be – you should be fully connected to self and other, and you should be filled with the feeling of aliveness. I am convinced that a lot of the people that are living through life right now are neither of those things. They are neither connected and or alive, right? Neither of those.
Last question here – we get this one a lot—I am sure this conversation comes up in your people. How do you deal with friends, loved ones, colleagues, neighbors who are not yet ready to hear about anything that is unpositive?
Jack Spirko: What I do with most of the people that observe what we are doing is allow them to do that. I will allow them to observe what we are doing. I will occasionally plant seeds. I told my sister—and you would think by now, right? This is eight or nine years I have been doing this. They have seen the results of our lifestyle and the results of their own lifestyle. I told her at a recent birthday party for my grandson, if you have – and I know she does because she is a teacher. She probably has a 4013B; that is like a 401k for those that don’t know. If you have one of those—and I know Mark, her husband, does too. Him too. "Just go in there, right now, and take all the mutual funds that you are holding and you are either going to have like a cash value fund or at worst case you are going to have like a government bond fund, and move your money into that." And I saw her roll her eyes. Okay. Done. I’m done.
I think that is where people get frustrated and they have a lot of angst—"It is so important that I convinced them of this." No. I’ve done the honorable thing. I have information. I believe that it can help you. I have given you the information and now I’m done. And I actually think that is more effective in convincing people than continuing to push. No one wants to be convinced against their will. Nobody wants you to go evangelize this stuff to them. I don’t know what your religious beliefs and all are, but I am pretty much of the belief that there is a God. I don’t have all the answers, but I don’t follow any organized religion. One of the surest ways to make sure that you never see me in your church is to continuously tell me I need to be saved. The more you push, the more resistant I am going to be. And every human being is the same way when it comes to any subject like that. If you over push, then what that person does is entrench themselves. And every time they open their mouth to defend their position, they make it harder for themselves to change and you think you are helping but you are not.
So what I try to do is simply live the best life that we can. We have our little three acre place. We have our ducks. We have our quail. We have our dogs. We have no debt. We live a wonderful lifestyle. When people want to do something we always can go. If they want to go out and do something that requires a little bit of money we can always go. It doesn’t mean we always do, but it isn’t like "I have to wait 'til I get paid before I can do that next week." We don’t flaunt it, but we don’t hide our success either. I think that actually attracts more people than just telling them how wrong we are. I think what happens is a lot of people go out and do that before they correct their own shit and then basically to the person when their house is on fire and they are telling their neighbor to put in fire extinguishers, right? And the neighbor is looking at the person going "I am not going to take advice from you on this."
This goes back to – my father was a pretty smart man. He was a Pennsylvania bootleg coal miner. That is about as blue collar – he didn’t have a collar, right? You are saying "blue collar? I didn’t have a collar. I had a hard hat." But he told me a couple of things that I will always remember. One was: Never take advice from somebody on something unless they are more successful than you are at doing it. So I had an uncle named Stephan, my great uncle Stephan, and he said "Your uncle Stephan understands money. If your Uncle Stephan tells you something about money—he is a multi millionaire and he did it as a blue collar factory worker. If he tells you something about money, you can probably take it to your bank. Your Uncle Stephan would be far more of a multi millionaire if he hadn’t been married five times. So don’t take your Uncle Stephan’s advice about women. He doesn’t know what he is talking about." I have tried to live that ethos in my life. When somebody starts telling me how to do a better podcast, if they have a podcast and they are doing really well with it I am interested. If they have never done a podcast in their life I will take simple suggestions like "I can’t hear you at the end because the music is too loud." Okay, yeah. But if you start trying to rewrite my entire program I have been doing for eight years, it is not that I don’t value you as a person, but you are not qualified to advise me on that.
And I think the reason that a lot of people get frustrated trying to switch on their friends and family to this line of thinking is they haven’t traveled enough down the path themselves yet to be taken seriously by the person they are talking to. Like, listening to me or listening to you in itself is not a qualification to lecture somebody on a preparedness and resilient lifestyle. What have you done? I think what happens is—so the most resistant people, when they come over to the house, I built this system in the toolbox of my truck. So I have a great big truck with a big toolbox in the back of it and in it sit two GC2 batteries with a couple of inverters. And I don’t drive that truck much anymore because I don't have to go anywhere, but it drives enough to keep it charged up. So everywhere I go, every time I use that, that residual energy that otherwise just is going to spin my alternator anyway is dumping into those batteries. When the power went off here a couple of weeks ago, instead of dragging the generator out and everything, I backed the truck up to the door, plugged into it and ran the basics that we needed to because there were some really bad storms that were going on. The tornados that hit Dallas the day after Christmas is what I am talking about.
We were able to run the TV and make sure we stayed weather aware using that. Now when my friends and family come over and I show them that, they think that’s cool. They like that. Or when they come over and I show them like "this is a peach tree we planted three years ago; there was five buckets of peaches that came off of it this year. Here is a bucket to take home." They think that is cool. If you focus more on your results than what they should be doing— I think this is part of the salesman in me, right? If I want to get you to buy from me, the second you start asking me questions about how to buy, you are going to sign the contract, right? If I am pushing, then you are not going to – then we are not going to get anywhere. But if I give you the information and back off and you start saying "how about this? How does that work?" I am going to close the deal. In this case, "closing the deal" is "here's a peach. Tastes better than the one at the store, right?" "Yup." "We grow them in our backyard." "How do you do that?" Bam. "Let me show you."
Chris Martenson: Of course the unfortunate part to the story too is no matter what we just have to be open to the idea that we may not be somebody’s trusted source. We may not be that person.
Jack Spirko: It might be worse. It might be that you are too close. So Dave Ramsey calls it powdered butt syndrome. Kids can’t give their parents advice about money. Anybody that has ever powdered your butt will not take your monetary advice. Well there is also—like I say I am not a biblical person or anything, but I do know scripture here and there, and there is an old proverb—I think it is actually from the gospel—"a prophet has no honor in his own country." And I think there is a lot of truth to that. I can probably reach your brother-in-law before you can because I am this third party guy—it doesn’t matter that I am some redneck in Texas with a duck farm that started a show in a Volkswagen Jetta TDI in 2008, right? It doesn’t matter. To him I got this show and I am not connected to him. Your brother doesn’t want to listen to you unless he asked you. Now if he asked you, he will listen. If he doesn’t ask you, he is not wanting to listen to you unless you are telling him what he wants to hear. It is just a fundamental reality there.
And I would like to say something real quick if I could—because I know we are at the end here—about something you said about quality of life, leading up to this. We have to do the best we can with what we have. I was in the military and I remember I had a captain I served under who left to go to another unit and did a change of command ceremony where the new company commander comes in and he turns the company over. He gets a chance to say something to the company that he is leaving behind. And he said "Men, one day you will die. You could die in service to your country, you could die an old man 80 years from now. But when you die they will put you in the ground somewhere, put this stone over your head. They might put a saying there. But they will put two numbers on it. The day you were born and the day you died. In the middle they put a dash. That dash is you. Be careful how you spend your dash."
I was 18 years old when I heard that and I remember it verbatim. I think that is what is missing in people’s lives. They are living for tomorrow. They are living for the next day. They are not realizing that every second you waste is gone and it will never come back. I think the most valuable thing you can give people if you can give them the illusion of this to see for a day is a big, giant tub in their bedroom with a bunch of little glowing marbles in it and that is the number of days you have left on life. And when you wake up in the morning you put that little marble in your pocket. At the end of the day you throw it away and it disappears forever.
That is the reality we all live with and we don’t know how many of those marbles there are there for us. We just don’t know. But inside each one is the potential for that individual day. How much we can do for ourselves, our families, our communities for our individual liberty— how much we can for society, ourselves, everything that we have the potential to do. And whatever you don’t use is wasted. It is like a battery that you left the power on and you drained it to zero without getting anything out of it and you have to throw it away at the end of the day. If you don’t get that, it is going to be very hard for you to separate yourself between those two circles we learned about from Steven Covey – concern and influence.
Most people are spending 90% or more of their energy on things they are concerned about and 10% or less of their energy on things they can actually influence. And if you will flip that around—yes I am concerned about what the stupid people said in the democratic debate last night a little bit, but I can’t do anything about that. But I can go feed my ducks and I can produce a product that I can feed to a customer that becomes part of that social capital, not just that financial capital you were talking about. And that might not do it for you, some of your people like, "I don’t want to grow a duck, I don’t want to put a solar panel on my house." Figure out what works for you and build a better life.
Chris Martenson: Very well said. Here it is, 2008—you said you were in sales and marketing, you were overweight, unhappy. How are you today?
Jack Spirko: Well, I was at least 300 pounds back then. I don’t know how much I actually weighed back then. I hit about 290 and I was embarrassed to get on the scale even if no one was looking. Today I am 210 pounds. I played football in high school at 190 pounds. I don’t consider myself GQ material, but overall I think that is probably better than the average American. My diet primarily is what you would call paleo or primal. I eat a lot of vegetables, very little starches and a lot of meat, eggs. Everything I eat is either—I wouldn’t say everything, but the majority of what I eat I either produce on my little farm or I buy locally. My scale is if I can produce it, I produce it. If I can’t produce it, I buy it locally. If I can’t get it locally, I buy it organic. And if I still can’t get it but I need it, I will go ahead and buy it on the mass product market.
My emotional—I think you can hear it in my voice—I am pretty passionate and excited about what I do now. My wife and I just celebrated our 19th anniversary. I’ve got a son who just recently was married. I actually got my credentials of ministry online, because anybody can do that, and I was actually the minister for my son’s wedding.
Chris Martenson: Fantastic.
Jack Spirko: I have got a grandson and we think by the sonogram I have got a granddaughter on the way. I am in my 40s. I've got a lot of life in front of me. I am excited. I am happy. My show reaches on average 150,000 people a day at this point. Again, it started out in a car. I do not have everything that I want, but I think I have everything I could ever possibly need in my life. I think that is all about living what I speak.
I think there is a lot of people out there in that motivational speaking world. I feel like if I had gone into that, put a suit on and made the circuit, I could have made a lot of money doing it. I think I would be miserable because I think most of those guys are doing that because they know they can make money doing it. I think when you live this way, the fundamental reality is you find your own truth and you find your own version of liberty.
My show's subject today was "finding what freedom is for you." I think what people really don’t understand is most people say they want freedom, but they don’t want freedom. If you want to be able to do what you want, but you want to be able to say that somebody across the street can’t do what they want at the point they are not doing anything that is infringing on your rights and liberty or freedom and not taking any aggression against you—you just don’t like it—then you don’t actually want freedom. Freedom is kind of messy. Freedom is kind of ugly. But what happens is you start to realize all those things you want to prohibit people from doing —they are going to do them anyway, legally or illegally. If they do them illegally without a victim all we do is create growth in our prison system, a burden for our future and a whole bunch of people with destroyed lives. And we are doing it through a proxy because it feels comfortable to do it that way. And when you let go of that and then you can only – see once you do that the only thing you can focus on is "well, gee, what I am going to get done today?"
I have a new group on Facebook called "Regenerative Agriculture". All little producers like me all over the country sharing what works and how to produce things. Our big kind of push statement is #getshitdone. I think if you are getting shit done every day, positive things for the world, positive things for yourself, you are going to be more healthy spiritually, emotionally, physically. I’ll put it to you another way too. I’m a guy that was 300 pounds in 2008. I haven’t been to the doctor in 10 years. I live an amazing life today because I live the way we are talking about. I believe that anybody can do it, it is just up to them if they want to.
Chris Martenson: And that is one of the things that makes you and Adam and I very similar – you got to walk the talk. But I don’t walk the talk as a marketing strategy, I do it because it is a matter of integrity. I don’t know how to be any other way.
Jack Spirko: Well you can’t because let’s say if you have handlers and you are on the radio and you have this isolated life, you can live a false image online and on the air. The way you are doing things, the way I am doing things, you can’t do it for as many years as we have been doing it because you are going to get burned. I have workshops where 50 people come to my house and stay here for a week. I can’t be bullshitting and get away with that in this way that we live. I know you live very publicly as well about what you are doing and about what your projects are and things like that. And there is an authenticity there that you can’t break. But there is also a fundamental reality that you can’t live that way in the public eye. What we do is actually—I admit on some levels it is difficult. A lot of times you are doing a project you want to document, you could be done, but you are still setting up ways to document it. Or you do something and you make one small error that doesn’t really matter and 400 people show up in 15 seconds to tell you what you have done wrong. But I’m like you, I couldn’t live any other way. There is too much joy in it.
Chris Martenson: Absolutely. Well said. And so we are at the end of our time. What a fantastic conversation. I knew this was going to be fantastic. Thank you, Jack. It is just—I can’t wait until we meet in person some day. It will happen. So tell our listeners where they are going to find out more about you, your work, the people you reach, your community. How do they find you?
Jack Spirko: Sure. My website is thesurvivalpodcast.com or thesurvivalpodcast.com depending on where you grew up and how you say the word "the". Shortcut to it—I have a short URL domain; it is really nice on phones: TSPC.CO. TSPC.CO will lead you there. That will lead you to my site with all my podcasts on it. Occasionally I do a blog entry and all. But most entries are podcasts. From there you can link off to my Facebook page, my Twitter account, all that stuff. We have a forum that has been running almost since the beginning of the show. About six months in I had a group of people from the audience say "You will give us a forum." I'm like, "I don’t have time." They said "We will run it." I set up a forum; it is one of the best and well run forums online today and I don’t really do it. They run it just like they promised to that many years ago. It is an incredibly great group of people.
We also have a Zello channel. I am not sure if you are familiar with Zello, Chris, but Zello is like you turn your smartphone into a little ham radio almost. Except you are not using ham bands, it is using the internet. And we have a Zello channel where people get together and talk to each other. I think it is the largest channel on Zello. It is big enough that the Zello board of directors had a conference call with our Zello users to ask how to make it better. The knowledge that is being shared on there... And I mentioned the new Regenerative Agriculture group, that is there as well. This is open to anything, from homesteaders to broad acre people doing cattle, as long as it is being done in a common sense, regenerative way. But those especially that are interested in making at least some level of an income off of producing food and in an environmentally friendly way, I think you would really enjoy this. I started that group 90 days ago and it is almost 8,000 people. So we have a lot going on over there. Please come join us.
As I mentioned I think it was 1714 or 1715 today that we did—so there is over 1700 episodes of The Survival Podcast. There is a search box. There is a tag cloud. If you want to know about something, we have probably covered it. I will tell your listeners this: If I have not pissed you off today, if you listen to my show long enough, I will. I will say something you don’t like, something you don’t agree with, I will upset you. Politically, I am an anarchist and if you listen to the whole thing—and some people do that—you can hear me turn from libertarian to anarchist over eight years. For those that are freaked out, anarchy is not what you think it is, and that is why it took me so long to change my philosophy. It is not really about political states, it is a philosophy. So I will upset you. I will say things you don’t like. But it is always done with the intent of challenging people to think for themselves.
What I will finish with is: I put together this modern survival philosophy, these 12 tenets that have guided my show since day one. And number 10 I think I should move to 12 because it is the most important. What you do matters. No matter who you are listening to, whether it is me, whether it is Chris, any of the other people doing great work out there, the examples you are following, pulling stuff on YouTube to learn how to make a rocket mass heater or whatever—in the end, you have to do the things that work in your life for you. If I give you a plan or Chris gives you a plan, it is like a paint by numbers plan, "You must do A, B, C, D," you will follow right up to the point where you don’t want to do it and you will quit and you will fall off the wagon right there and you will end up less prepared in the end. Where if you are given the freedom and the respect of being a fellow human being that can think for themselves—and people like Chris and I, we identify as people that want to give you knowledge to empower you, and then you take that knowledge and do with it is you please, then you are going to find a route to success. It might not find the same route as mine – it shouldn’t. You are a different person in a different world with different needs, desires and wants. And that is okay.
Chris Martenson: Very well said. Of course very inspiring as well. We have a lot of similarity. It just – god it comes down to I think you want the same thing I do, which is you don’t want to lead anybody. You want to give people the tools that they have and they can use, because who knows what they are going to do with them? This is just a giant creative process we are all involved in. I don’t know what anybody is going to need, specifically. But I do know if we have the right context and if we have the right attitude and we have—there is three things here: It is what you know, it is what you do with it, and it is also that state of being. How are you really present with it. That may get more into a spiritual side or religious side for some people, but those three things: Knowing, doing, being. Overlap those. Get to the sweet spot in the center and then you are living. Of course, you are right. This is the dash. We are all living the dash right now. So with that, thank you so much for your time today. I really hope we can do it again. I’m going to meet you in person some day.
Jack Spirko: Absolutely Chris. Maybe you can get out to Permaculture Voices in March. It would be awesome to have you out there. I can probably get Diego to throw you a free ticket and it would be a great place for you to learn more about that stuff. That will be in California, I think it is March... I’m going to be gone 1 through 9, so somewhere in that hole right there. I would love to meet you in person some day. If you ever want me to come back on the air with you, maybe to dive into a single topic, I’m happy to do it. Otherwise again thank you for the opportunity to reach your guests today. I really appreciate it. I appreciate the work you have done and I still remember—I was still working my full time job when I got that first DVD and you sent it to me to reach out to me, the Crash Course. It is one of the best pieces of work I had ever seen on the subject in my life. Now knowing how you did it makes it even more impressive. If nothing else – thank you for that. I know it woke up a lot of people.
Chris Martenson: Hey, it was a Plantronics headset and a lot of sweat and tears that’s all. [Laughter] Alright, well Jack thank you so much again.
Jack Spirko: Thank you as well.