Step 2: Living Capital
The guidance provided in this section presumes you have already read the chapter on Living Capital in our book, Prosper!: How to Prepare for the Future and Create a World Worth Inheriting. If you have not, we strongly recommend doing so first.
Assuming you’ve assembled the emergency first aid supplies detailed in Step 0 of this guide, it’s time to focus on improving the resilience of the living systems you depend on. And that starts with your own health.
If aren’t alive when the future you’re preparing for arrives, or are too debilitated by infirmity, then none of what’s contained in this guide really matters. That’s why we place such a huge emphasis on maintaining your health and wellness. Without it, you can’t enjoy the returns from the other Forms of Capital.
Given the poor education, dangerous messages and unhealthy customs our society suffers from, when it comes to health, the key is to combine good knowledge with good behavior.
If you do, positive results will ensure.
We know, because we’ve gone through our own health transformations as our awareness of ‘what health is’ has improved. Each of us lost over 30 pounds and have spent the past few years in the best shape of our lives (click here for Chris’ story and here for Adam’s). This is not some academic topic for us; we’ve learned with our own bodies how it works in practice.
So here we offer links to some of the best information and services we know of. But the application of this information — the discipline to commit to changing your lifestyle — can only come from you.
What we put into our bodies has more impact on our general health and our physical shape than anything else. Therefore, put your greatest focus here.
Whether you’re looking to lose weight, feel better, or boost your performance, nutrition is going to be easily 80% (at least) of the solution.
So much of what we in the West have been conditioned to eat is terrible for us. And just as with other machines, bad fuel = bad performance. A bad diet not only makes us feel crappy, but it leads to inflammation which accelerates the aging process on our bodies, as well as makes us vulnerable to all sorts of disease.
The good news is, there has been a recent revolution in understanding what type of food is best for our bodies (hint: as close to nature as you can get) and how diet affects health and performance. Putting it into a nutshell, strive to eat whole foods: meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruits, little starch and no sugar.
The literature on nutrition these days is vast, and can be a little overwhelming for the uninitiated. Good starting resources are our diet-related podcasts with Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson and David Seaman. Nutritional programs worth investigating are the Paleo, Primal and Zone diets. It sure won’t hurt to consult with a professional nutritionist to discuss your personal health situation and goals.
If you read our personal stories above, you’ll understand why we believe strongly that anyone can reap huge benefits from a fitness regime focused on constantly varied functional movement at relatively high intensity. Especially when coupled with a performance nutrition plan and a solid support community. Why do we believe this so strongly? Because we’ve seen it work. With ourselves, and with many people we’ve witnessed go through their own transformation while following this program. People of all levels of physical ability and all ages.
Good next steps for those interested in learning more about this type of fitness training are reading Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint, visiting your nearest CrossFit box, or searching for gyms in your area that offer ‘Boot Camp’ style classes.
As discussed in our interview with neuropsychology expert John Arden, sleep quality is one of the greatest — as well as one of the most over-looked and under-appreciated — factors for good health.
The benefits of sufficient sleep are many, and the cost of too little can range from chronic fatigue and lack of focus, to weight gain, to greater risk of diabetes and heart attack. Sadly, over 75% of Americans experience some form of chronic sleep disorder. Our frenetic pace of life often cuts into sleep quantity, and the impact of digital devices messes with its quality.
Many of us are quick to sacrifice hours of sleep to accommodate other priorities. We figure we’ll sleep enough when we’re dead. And our addiction to digital devices wreaks havoc with our sleep quality as we don’t appreciate how badly the bright glare messes with our body’s ability to recognize time of day and shut itself down properly for the night.
Commit to making a concerted effort to avoid entering sleep deficit. Shift your average bedtime an hour or two earlier and enforce a hard “bed before midnight” limit if you’re a night owl. Log off from phones/tablets/laptops/etc at least an hour before bedtime. And to help further, downloaded software (like f.lux) that removes the blue light from your digital screens after the sun goes down, so as to minimize your electronics’ impact on your ability to sleep soundly.
This is an easy win for those looking to boost their health. Give yourself a sleep curfew. Ditch the devices an hour beforehand. You’ll notice a big difference in just a few days.
Even without the science telling us the toll stress takes on our health, I think we all pretty much intuitively agree that chronic stress is not good for us. But how to reduce it?
We get into this topic a bit more in our section on Emotional Capital, but our key message is to find those areas of greatest misalignment and tension in your life, and then identify the steps you need to take to bring them into harmony. These may be small steps, or ones as big as those we took when we left our corporate jobs to start Peak Prosperity. You’ll need to figure out for yourself what’s needed given your specific situation. For those looking for help, the steps provided in Stage One of our book Finding Your Way To Your Authentic Career are focused on guiding you through this process.
Vision & Dental
If you have vision or dental issues, they could pose a real vulnerability should the future ever contain periods for me where medical services may be hard to come by.
Both of us have selected to undergo laser surgery to correct our vision. We both feel his was hands-down one of the top best decisions we’ve ever made.
The procedures we underwant (PRK surgery for Adam, LASIK for Chris) were the closest to magic we’ve ever experienced in our adult lives. We both quickly went from being fully dependent on our glasses to having 20/20 vision (Adam even got 20/10 vision in his right eye). And years later, our vision is still excellent.
The procedure isn’t cheap — on average laser eye surgery costs about $2k per eye these days — but it is COMPLETELY worth it. What’s the value of clear vision and independence from glasses and contacts? A lot higher than the cost of this procedure, in our book. And when amortized over the several decades of benefits you receive, it’s a screaming deal.
Similar to vision, dental issues compound the older we get, and get more extensive and expensive to correct the longer they go unaddressed. Reading When There Is No Dentist really re-inforces the wisdom of fixing the structural issues in your mouth while the dental system is still working dependably.
To fix alignment issues, Adam got his first pair of braces at the age of 39. He figures he saved himself a boatload of future pain and money over the course of the rest of his life. As with eyes, what’s the price of decades of trouble-free teeth?
For these reasons, if like he had, you have a dental condition that may lead to bigger problems down the road, we highly advise making the investment now to take care of it.
Apart from your health, there are living systems that you — and we all — depend on.
We should treat these systems with the same care and nurturing our own bodies deserve.
Increasing Your Local Food Sources
The next step after getting some food stored away is to increase our local sources of food. Our collective local demand translates into more local food—a worthy outcome by itself, but we also happen to get superior food as part of the bargain.
Supporting CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture – where you purchase a share of a farm’s seasonal harvest) results in getting tastier and healthier food, increasing demand for local food, and supporting our local communities, all in one fell swoop. If you do not yet belong to a CSA and have the opportunity, it’s well worth pursuing. And if a CSA is not available or affordable to you, then at the very least, make connections with local farmers and food producers and purchase food from them directly whenever possible.
You can find CSAs in your local area within seconds at LocalHarvest.org. It can also help you find nearby farmer’s’ markets, farms, and grocery co-ops.
But nothing beats supplying some of your own food calories yourself. And if hardship ever arises such that you need to depend on your ability to produce your own food, the difference between have “some” experience and “none” will be night and day.
You can get most everything you need, as well as hand-held guidance if you want it, from your local garden store. We advise buying your tools and initial seeds locally, but we also recommend that you consider obtaining a backup supply of seeds for a complete vegetable garden as an insurance policy.
There are many good books and various approaches to home gardening. Peak Prosperity readers have compiled a pretty exhaustive list of the best gardening books here. One method that is particularly popular among urban/suburban PeakProsperity.com members with limited space for growing is Square Foot Gardening. Taking the time to read up and discuss tips with more experienced gardeners will save you a lot of time by avoiding the most common rookie mistakes.
Most backyard gardeners will benefit from growing their plants in raised beds. Adam wrote a step-by-step primer for constructing a raised-bed garden that any beginner can easily follow.
So much about gardening is trial-and-error and learning how to respond to what Mother Nature throws at you. You can save yourself years of frustration and rookie mistakes by reading our Growing Your Own Fruits & Vegetables Wiki, as well as joining our Agriculture & Permaculture Group, where experienced gardeners are happy to answer your questions and provide seasoned guidance.
Preparing & Storing Food
Whether the food is grown by us or by our CSA, our family has developed a practical plan for food storage. We have fashioned a workable root-storage cellar out of our basement bulkhead for use over the late fall and winter months. All of our various root crops (potatoes, beets, turnips, carrots, etc.) are stored there until we use them. Effective storage in a root cellar requires a bit of learning and experimenting, with the variables being the method of storage, varieties being stored, temperature and humidity control, and culling to ensure minimal spoilage.
We keep chickens (link to forum discussion), which handily convert our kitchen waste into eggs and fertilizer. We also raise a few turkeys for the freezer every year. Over the years, we have gained increasing experience with butchering and processing our own birds, and now people come to us to learn this skill. This, too, has become a point of community for us.
After several years of practice, Becca has become a master canner (link to forum discussion) and works throughout the fall to can many different kinds of fruits and vegetables. As with our informal food-storage and butchering outreach, I often find her sharing the kitchen with friends as they work side by side. This kind of sharing has the benefit of nurturing relationships within our community. It also introduces local friends to new skills that may be useful to them on their own path toward personal preparation and increased food independence.
In addition to canning our food (which has a sizable learning curve), we also dehydrate a fair portion of it (which does not). Dehydrating preserves more of the nutrients in your food, and dried food requires substantially less space to store. Dried food keeps for an exceptionally long time, as most bacteria die or become completely inactive when dried.
For dehydrating food, we highly recommend the Excalibur 3900B Deluxe Series 9 Food Tray Dehydrator
- Dries all fruits, vegetables, and meats
- Handles heavy volumes and around-the-clock use
- 10-year warranty
Setting a Goal
Each of these areas represents a more direct relationship with our food, and each requires a different set of skills and knowledge. We wish we could tell you that a smart and dedicated person could pick these skills up more rapidly than others, should the need arise, but it turns out that there really isn’t any shortcut to becoming a gardener, or a canner, or a butcher, or a food preservationist. The vagaries of each growing season and the environmental variations of each year ensure that your food-production education will be anything but dull.
Wherever you live, do what you can to learn about the specific growing conditions and the varieties of food plants that particularly thrive in your area. You may want to start by adjusting your eating habits and expectations to match what is easy to grow and obtain locally.
A good goal to set is to produce as much food as you can where you live using the least amount of your personal energy. If everybody did this, think how much more resilient we’d be, and healthier, too.
Whether you can begin to grow your own food or not, we highly recommend that you figure out how to obtain as much of your food locally as you can while it’s in season, and then learn how to store it so that it lasts as long as possible.
Set a goal.
How about ten percent?