This is a guest post from Papa Foxtrot of Forge Your Wealth. Let me know if you would like to guest post on Reach Financial Independence.
Over ten years ago I took a wilderness survival training course. It was a rare opportunity to take. I may have learned mathematics and the three branches of the government from school, but wilderness survival taught me about self-confidence.
From this course I learned many of the basics such as lighting fires without matches nor lighters. There were many other lessons including identifying edible plants from poisonous plants, signals, etc. Hands down the best lesson I had during wilderness survival training was how to build a shelter from scratch.
Building A Shelter
Me and seven other students constructed shelters from scratch. A severe thunderstorm hit us during the test making it a true test to see if our shelters would hold. Mine was among the few still standing and mine was the only one that did not let any water through. I slept through the night without getting wet and out of all the shelters mine was voted the best built. To further prove I had done a good job setting up the shelter it was harder to tear down than we thought.
I had gone into something with little experience and it literally managed through hard weather with flying colors that even experts in wilderness survival were impressed. I would have never seen that I could built a shelter from sticks and leaves if I did not try. This individual project despite lasting only two days and one night did more for my confidence than most years of my life.
Building Confidence By Building A Shelter
You need confidence to survive in the wilderness. Decisions literally mean life or death. You cannot question every move you make to a point you freeze. Do I mean freeze like a deer in the headlights or literally freeze? Whichever kills you first, welcome to wilderness survival. You need to make decisions quick and commit to them.
Wilderness survival taught me that confidence is not a characteristic, but a skill. You cannot be born with confidence. It must be forged from your actions. If you want to be confident you must take a leap of faith to live with whatever the consequences are.
Confidence Is Required In The Financial World
Much of your financial life will involve taking leaps of faith. You will invest money which you WILL see decrease in value at least occasionally. If you want to make a business, you must embrace that it may be a waste of time and money. But the reason you do either of these is all because these methods have been proven tools to increase wealth and to ensure you will be able to have a thriving future much like building a fire and shelter to survive in the wilderness (although the financial world will probably not kill you).
You Do Not Need To Build From Scratch
In addition to confidence, building a shelter showed me that I could build something amazing and original off something else. This was the first time I had built a shelter and it thrived during a severe thunderstorm. How did I build such a stable shelter? Truth is there was not much I could use to make a shelter with supports and a ceiling. Instead I built the shelter off a fallen log so I only needed half the supports and a ceiling. Some of the other people taking the course thought I was being lazy, but at the end of the course I was the only one who was dry.
I had used a situation already present to use less work to make something better. Many people do not get the idea to build something from something already present and instead try to build it from the ground up whether it is because of the desire or the pride of independence.
Building your wealth or business is usually best with something already present. For instance, franchises generally have a higher rate of success than independent businesses because these are established from a proven business model. Another good example is investing in a quality mutual or index fund. Most quality funds have been proven though history and are excellent ways to start investing instead of trying to go out on your own and choose your own stocks. While you can try to build anything from scratch most of the time it is better to try build off something that has proven to be stable.
Look For Signs Of Danger
But how did my first shelter built from scratch survive the storm? Wind gusts were 40 km/hr that day and rainfall was heavy. Either of those two could damage a well-built home much less an impromptu shelter. I looked for what survivalists called the four Ws. Wind, water, wood, and wanimals (as in animals, whatever, my teacher cheated a little to make them the four Ws). Any one of these can damage the shelters you build, even well-built real estate. There are signs of where these cause damage. Debris and leaves show where heavy winds occur. You can find geological signatures of weathering by water from sudden streams caused by storms. You can see the pathways where the water flows. You can determine if the shelter is best away from trees with questionable branches or if there are some around with little risk of randomly dropping debris. If you look closely at nature you can see signs of animals from chipmunk to bear activity. To some people these signs may be obvious, but others require more training to recognize these dangers. Luckily I could recognize many signs of these dangers from both instinct and training.
Avoid The Dangers
While these details can make or break a shelter you can try to prevent ever worrying about the damages. The wind directions tend to be fixed from west to east so I placed my shelter on the east side of the log so the log would buffer the shelter from the wind. I also placed the shelter on a flat slope. Water tends to flow along steeper slopes. These are two general pieces of knowledge that are very effective to pick the best place for your shelter.
Investing and developing businesses works the same. There are many signs of danger in certain markets and individual investments. You can see these signs off instinct. For example, most people know that it is a bad sign if a company is facing multiple lawsuits. Some are more subtle. You must choose the right investments to make at the right time. However, there are other general choices to control risks that you cannot see clearly such as an upcoming correction or recession. For instance you can invest in mutual funds, low risk allocated investment funds, international industries, or you can start paying off debts during questionable times in the market so you have more income for the times when you feel more comfortable investing during less questionable times. By assessing trends in markets even if the worst was to happen you can weather through. Much like my planning allowed me and my shelter to weather through a thunderstorm.
The world of finance and the wilderness are two different worlds but with similar rules. You need confidence to be able to dive in either world and come out thriving. These worlds are not something to be frightened of. If you go in prepared it will be a fulfilling experience. I found that my experience learning wilderness survival helped prepare me on my path to forge my wealth.
Papa Foxtrot Biography
Most of my life I was careful with money and learned where I should invest it. I was very lucky to have parents who taught me financial literacy when I was young. Very lucky is the unfortunate yet accurate description because many people lack the financial literacy I have. The purpose of Forge Your Wealth is to teach people who are just starting out in life how to obtain their wealth or anyone who just realized they may need to learn more to handle their finances.
I currently have a PhD in biochemistry, just started a job in industry (will not disclose where exactly for personal and professional reasons), and am currently married to the love of my life. I am one of the lucky few people in America who graduated with no student debts, my wife was not. Over the series of a little over 3 years we paid for our wedding with no debt and paid off her federal student loans.