Principles of Everyday Survival - Watch Your Back: How to Avoid the Most Dangerous Moments in Daily Life (2016)

Watch Your Back: How to Avoid the Most Dangerous Moments in Daily Life (2016)

Appendix B Principles of Everyday Survival

Principle 1

There is no freedom without safety.

Principle 2

The one who waits sees more.

Always take time to scan. This is a form of waiting.

Principle 3

Patience equals waiting.

Waiting equals spare time to be used to make a plan.

Principle 4

The five second rule:

One second devoted to scanning each of four corners from the inside of the car or the available field of vision.

The additional or fifth second is for composure.

Principle 5

Strangers are strangers no matter how much they remind you of someone you know.

Strangers are unpredictable.

Humans tend to seek bonding. (More so non-predatory humans.)

The ability to empathize is a key characteristic of healthy human beings.

The ability to reserve empathy for those that are proven to be worthy of it is key to not falling prey.

Principle 6

Head on a swivel:

Keep scanning your field of vision.

Enhance your peripheral vision by turning your head and swiveling at the hip.

Know what you are seeing but don’t stare.

Principle 7

Preemptive Behavior and Internal Security Protocol:

Habitually perform routine actions, such as locking your car door and putting on a seat belt, until they become automatic. Building such habits is commonly referred to as preemptive behaviors, which becomes part of your Internal Security Protocol. Think of your Internal Security Protocol as a wall around a castle. The more preemptive behaviors you have in place, the higher and less impenetrable the wall becomes.

Principle 8

Pacing or Punctuation:

Pacing is a method of balancing out moments of distraction or intense concentration with moments of surveillance. For every period of distraction or moment in which you are devoting complete concentration on the chore at hand, there should also be a corresponding period of looking around resulting in genuine recognition of what is before you.

The outward appearance of someone who is punctuating or pacing themselves with moments of surveillance should project an attitude bordering on arrogance, thus offering a higher state of awareness to onlookers as a warning.

Principle 9


Recognition could be finding exactly what you are looking for or not finding what you are looking for. As in, if no one is immediately visible, focus in on positions where someone would hide.

Principle 10

Behind the curve:

Behind the curve means one person has begun their plan of action first. For example, in drag racing it’s not unusual for two cars to have the same elapsed time from start to finish. But the first car to leave the starting line will be the winner simply because they moved off the starting line first.

Principle 11

Action beats reaction:

Action beats reaction is closely related to behind the curve. Let’s say some loudmouth has already cursed you out and announced he is going to harm you. You have weapons of your own concealed on your person but so far it’s just words and there is no imminent danger. Suddenly, the bad guy draws a knife and start towards you. Even though you were informed of the threat and ready to act, your opponent already has his weapon in hand and put his plan into motion. Even if your weapon acquisition takes exactly the same amount of time as your opponent, you are clearly in more danger. If someone starts towards you with a weapon before you even realized there was a threat, that’s being behind the curve.

Principle 12

Preventive maintenance of preemptive behaviors and your Internal Security Protocol:

The only way to make sure that a preemptive behavior remains automatic is to be consistent. Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs, such as wearing a seat belt can only be relied upon to protect if you use them habitually. For example, it might seem unnecessary to buckle your seat belt when just driving down the block to get the mail. But every time you do not use the seat belt you are untraining yourself and degrading an important safety device.

Principle 13

Split objectivity and the internal referee:

One side of the mind is free to be creative, imagining only positive results. The other side of the mind should remain skeptical and vigilant. This mirrors the child/adult mindset of total freedom without regard to consequences versus the responsibility of dealing with negative results. Split objectivity requires an internal referee with the instinct for survival.

Principle 14

Color-coded threat levels:

Grading of threat levels to describe awareness, state of mind, and how it relates to readiness and the will to act. The white state of mind remains unaware and uncaring of any threat or possibility of threat. The yellow state of mind recognizes the constant possibility of threat and is open to taking action when necessary. The orange state of mind recognizes imminent threat and acts to avoid or makes ready for the fight. The red state of mind takes aggressive action in the midst of battle to end the fight.

Instruct friends and family members to refer to color-coded warnings for instant communication. Working a color code into a conversation can be useful in relaying information when the wrong person (i.e., the threat) is listening.

Principle 15

Don’t get trapped in the cocoon:

Any chore being performed requires a certain level of concentration. For example, if you are reading a book, your attention can block out anything happening outside of the space between your eyes and the page you are reading. In a store, there are many things happening around you beyond the shelves you are searching. Periodically break out of the cocoon formed by your sightline as you work.

Principle 16


Somewhat specific to property sales or walking into confined spaces. When showing property for sale or otherwise walking with strangers you need not always lead. Let them enter the room but remain by the doorway as they spread out into the space. Tether yourself nearest to a path of escape.

Principle 17

Composure Maintenance Drills:

Any time you come face to face with a frustration, even something so simple as waiting on line, consciously use it as an opportunity to develop your capacity for patience.

Patience is like a muscle you can develop.

Patience allows you to analyze and develop a plan:

Before a confrontation.

During actual combat.

Principle 18

Combat breathing:

The body can be calmed and the mind refocused by practicing a pattern of breathing outlined by US Army Ranger Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman’s book On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace. The method consists of a repetition of breath in the following manner. Intake through the nose, hold for four seconds, release through the lips to the count of four seconds, and repeat.

Principle 19

Chored focus:

Chored focus is putting aside the enormity and fear of not reaching a complex goal in order to complete a simple technique that is necessary for success. In the most benign circumstance, this could mean a musician playing through pages of boring exercises every day in order to master the instrument. In terms of personal defense, chored focus serves to distract your mind from whatever quantity of fear is in danger of rendering you inactive. For example, to prevent an active shooter from entering your room, the first chore is to barricade the door. To barricade the door you must move a filing cabinet but it’s too heavy to lift. Sitting on the floor with your back against the cabinet you discover it will slide when pressure is applied below its centerline. You forget about everything else but the chore of pushing off with your legs until the cabinet stops against the door.