If you’ve been prepping for any length of time, chances are you’ve probably encountered someone who is a little bit too taken with the idea being a sort of secret agent.
I can certainly understand why: the roguish, completely self-reliant badass with a checkered past that stops at nothing in pursuit of his objective is an enthralling archetype.
These secret agents are kind of like superheroes that exist in the real world. For those of us who respect and idolize raw prowess, who wouldn’t want to be that guy or girl?!
Unfortunately some take that fantasy a little too far, and the result is almost always a little laughable, even cringe-worthy. But even so, the secret agents that we look up to in fiction and in real life can teach us some very real lessons about what skills are relevant for survival and high-pressure emergency situations.
You don’t have to be creeping around a foreign capital at 3 a.m. in the morning to make use of them, either. Plenty of them are just as useful and important if you’re dropping the kids off at school or trying to outrun a rampaging mob.
We’ll be skipping the fantasy and getting straight to the real stuff. In this article I’ll reveal to you secret agent skill sets that you can incorporate into your Personal Readiness Plan.
We Aren’t Pretending, Here
In all my years in the gun and personal security business, it never failed that when a new spy or secret agent movie hit theaters you would see a sharp uptick in the amount of people signing up for concealed weapons classes, for jiu-jitsu instruction and other “hard” skills classes.
Similarly we would see Oakleys fly off the shelf along with all sorts of other paraphernalia that was vaguely “agent” related.
while we certainly didn’t mind the sales, it was always a little chuckle-worthy and even a little sad when those people who started out so enthusiastically on the road to readiness and self-sufficiency invariably tapered off when the work got hard and the novelty wore off.
That’s a real shame since they were on the right track, even if their intention was merely to look cool and impress their girlfriends or boyfriends.
Being ready to deal with danger and death in real life is a dreadfully serious business. So, yes, the idea of getting inspiration from real-life or fictional secret agents when we’re all just civilians can come across as a little cringe-worthy. But the intent is noble!
There is nothing laughable, there is nothing stupid about wanting to be a better prepared, more capable, and a flat-out more useful human being. We all have people we care about, most of us have families.
Wouldn’t it be a great thing if you were the person that can save the day when the chips are down? When disaster strikes and everyone around you is losing their head and scared witless you can be the one that will lead everyone to safety or take care of the problem.
That is something that should be celebrated, not mocked! What is laughable, what is worthy of mockery are the people I alluded to above: the folks that want the prestige, that want the cool Factor, but they don’t want to do any work, and they don’t want to truly honor the path of being capable.
There’s an old saying that says you can’t cheat the mountain. You can look like a frontiersman, you can talk the talk, you can have all the gear and know all the lore but when the time comes to actually get out there on the mountain and survive, the mountain will show you who the fakers are.
It’s the same thing with the skills on this list: you don’t have to “wannabe” a secret agent, and you also don’t have to listen to the mockery of people who accuse you of being so.
What matters is what’s in your heart, and what you are capable of. Nothing else will do. And, God forbid, if the time should ever come that you have to prove to yourself and everyone counting on you that you’ve got what it takes an emergency, you will stand and deliver if you had the discipline to put in the work!
Secret Agent Skills for Everyday Readiness
In the section below I have identified 8 skills that absolutely any secret agent would know, either in real life or in fiction. Laugh all you want, but every single one of them is useful in everyday civilian life, and you’ll be better off- safer, more capable and more confident- by learning and practicing them.
But I’ll tell you right now: don’t even waste your time if all you’re doing is picking up some edgy hobby that will give you bragging rights or let you strut and swagger. We don’t need any more mall ninjas and liars misleading people.
But for those of you who are serious, those of you who truly carry the fire, we’re glad to have you, for you are the ones that will make the difference. all the skills below may not seem particularly exciting or spectacular but they are the skills that will avert the most potential harm, and the ones that will mitigate what harm does occur.
Don’t forget that! It might be really cool to learn sniping and be able to knock a flea off of a peach at a thousand yards, but how often will you really need to use that skill for real?
After you read the list below, I’m confident you’ll be able to think of hundreds of examples in everyday life where these skills may come in handy.
Run, Fight, Climb, Carry – Secret Agents are Physically Fit!
You’ll hardly ever find a secret agent who is out of shape, sporting a beer gut and gets winded racing up a flight of stairs. That’s because taking care of clandestine work in real life is often highly physically demanding.
I can assure you it gets plenty physically demanding if you get caught doing clandestine work in real life, if you know what I mean. A secret agent should be able to run like the wind, march like a mule and pull like a tractor. Secret agents need a combination of strength, speed and agility to do their jobs.
You will likely need the same attributes if you want to have a better-than-average chance of surviving any kind of emergency, to say nothing of a major disaster.
Nature has a way of culling The Herd, and in this case you don’t want to be the slow, dumb or sick antelope. Plenty of writers have opined before me about the usefulness of fitness when it comes to survival. A fit person always has a better chance of surviving, all things being equal.
A person who is fitter is faster, stronger and better able to react to strenuous and changing circumstances. Consider this: any given emergency you may have to pick up someone who is injured, or even unconscious, and move them to safety.
Maybe it’s a stranger, maybe it’s one of your kids, or your partner. Even something as simple as a car accident, you might have to contort yourself in cramped quarters to get yourself and your passengers out of a wrecked car. You might have to manhandle open a door jammed in its bent frame.
And of course those are just accidents. How about dealing with a real-life threat from a bad guy? You really think you’re able to tangle with someone who will, statistically, be younger, stronger and meaner than you are? Someone who is far more comfortable with violence, both dishing it out and receiving it?
Ask anyone who is taking an intro Jiu-Jitsu class, or other serious fight training and let them regale you with a tale of just how quickly they lost their wind, and with it their will to fight. The difference between you and them is, if you have the misfortune to be tested “for real” on the street you won’t be able to tap out.
Make it a point to take physical fitness training as seriously as any other training you engage in. You want to develop speed, strength and flexibility both for injury-proofing and to improve your capability in a fight or in an emergency.
Dishing Out a Beating – Secret Agents Know How to Fight!
Notice I said fight, not just shoot. A secret agent may be set upon by foes in very close quarters that leave no room to draw weapon. Alternately he is likely operating in an environment that permits him to carry no weapons, not even a common pocket knife.
This means he has to be very comfortable with making do with fists, elbows, feet and knees. A secret agent knows that he’ll have many more opportunities to solve a problem using hand to hand combat than weaponry.
That being said, situation permitting a secret agent will carry weapons, because sometimes you need to “process” a lethal threat as quickly as possible in order to survive. Weapons make that possible.
If the situation calls for a weapon, but the agent is lacking one, you can make use of primitive improvised weapons and weapons of opportunity. All kinds of stabbing and slashing weapons can be created from common materials. Silverware can be shaped and sharpened into blades.
Pen barrels can be made into shanks or spikes. Ground glass and metal filaments can be turned into blinding powder. If you are crafty, you can create all kinds of weapons.
Of course none of the above takes into account things that are ready and able to be used as weapons in a pinch. Everything from heavy cookware to pieces of lumber to plain old boring rocks and even boiling soup.
If you think quickly enough you can make use of all kinds of things close at hand to inflict lethal or debilitating damage on attacker.
It goes without saying you should be skilled in all forms of combat, armed or not. Civilians, especially preppers, have a bad habit of working gun skills to the exclusion of all else.
That’s a failure of priorities if you ask me; a great many more defense problems even back here in civilized society will be solved with fisticuffs or less lethal weapons before guns and knives.
Becoming skilled in boxing and grappling and carrying pepper spray will get you out of more fights and negative consequences in the aftermath than any blade or any gun.
But if the situation calls for lethal force, you had better measure up. You should be proficient with a gun and at least passable with a knife.
Seeing where laws regarding use and ownership of weapons are heading in this country, don’t be surprised to see more and more public places and businesses debar citizens from carrying on the premises.
If you choose to go unarmed, or you have to, it will definitely pay to be handy with all kinds of improvised weapons you can create out of innocent looking materials and found weapons you can grab in a moment’s notice from the environment around you.
The world is a dangerous place. Make sure you’re ready to meet it head-on.
Drive It Like You Stole It – Secret Agents Can Handle a Vehicle
Whenever a secret agent is confronted with a problem he can’t outfight he might have to outrun it. He might be getting boxed in on all sides by enemy agents bent on stopping him, or just dodging hazards along the roadway.
The time has come to put the pedal to the metal, and it doesn’t matter why. No matter the vehicle, no matter the conditions, you can be assured that a secret agent knows how to push their vehicle to the limit, both offensively and defensively.
You might not be conducting any rolling gunfights from the front seat of a million-dollar supercar, but you’ll have just as many opportunities as any secret agent will to put your performance driving skills to the test.
You had better hope you can pass this test: tens of thousands of Americans die every year on the roadways, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of motor vehicle accidents, involving one car, two cars or more, along all the roadways that crisscross our massive nation.
Talking to someone who has not been in a motor vehicle accident is rare, and nearly everyone knows someone who has been involved in one.
But that does not underscore the importance of developing performance driving skills, I don’t know what will. Only advanced driving training will give you the skills, reflexes and confidence needed to apply that magical combination of steering, braking and acceleration to dodge or safely drive through or around an accident.
This is not something you can read about and master on the internet; you need to get in your car, go to a school, get training and practice regularly. With enough practice, your evasive maneuvers will just happen, you won’t even have to think about it…
Something you probably haven’t considered on the subject of so-called tactical driving is using your car as a tool or even as a weapon when you are threatened. Carjackings are real, and on the rise.
Kidnappings happen every day. If you own a TV or have an internet connection I’ll say the chances are pretty much zero that you have not seen the massive riots and mobs that crop up in major urban areas for one reason or another. Have you thought about what you would do if you were caught in your car in the middle of a mob that was turning violent?
If you know your vehicle, and know what to do, you can use it as a bulldozer or a ram. You can push other cars out of the way, gently nudge people out of the way (lest they get run over), plow through road blocks and more in a major emergency.
Compared to going about on foot, a vehicle is much harder to immobilize than a person.
It always makes me laugh a little bit when I see these protesters blocking intersections playing chicken with vehicles that are trying to slow roll through them; you see them leaning and pushing on the vehicle like they actually have a chance of stopping it; they don’t.
Remember that if you are ever beset by a mob.
Find a Way or Blaze a Trail – Secret Agents Know Where They Are Going
You ever see someone out in public who is obviously and visibly lost? Of course you have. The darting eyes, looking to and fro and frantic consultation of their smartphone, GPS or map.
It’s obvious once you know what to look for. Do you know what else that looks says to onlookers? True certain kind of onlooker it says “vulnerable.” Beyond looking vulnerable, you are vulnerable if you are lost or disoriented.
Taking a simple wrong turn has probably led to more disasters and bad outcomes than any other innocent mistake in history.
Secret agents rarely suffer from that problem. That’s because they take the time to do their advance work. They know the lay of the land. They know all the landmarks, all the major routes in and out of a place.
Five will get you ten they know several secret routes in and out as well. In urban centers and the remote Wilderness, they will know where they are going and how they’re going to get there.
They aren’t homing pigeons. They don’t have some innate sense of direction like birds. it takes practice, discipline and paying attention to where you are and a certain amount of creativity to come up with alternate routes on the fly if your primary route is blocked or no longer viable for some reason. This is a skill you can develop! It isn’t anything special or innate.
You can start refining this skill by thoroughly learning the area you live and work in, inside and out. What are the major routes that run north south, and east west?
Are there any major landscape features that you can rely on from a distance to orient yourself if you get lost? How about any major installations like airports and railways?
Knowing is one thing, having the tools to navigate is another, especially when entering unfamiliar territory. Every secret agent will make use of a map and a compass, even tiny “hold-out” versions they conceal inside the sole of a shoe or sewn into the lining of a jacket.
Because you don’t have to worry about hiding your survival gear you should make it a point to carry a small compass with you everywhere.
before you raise your hand in protest that you’ve lived your whole life in your hometown and you know it like your own beating heart, consider that all kinds of major disasters can completely obliterate the landscape you have grown up in.
Will you have an easy time navigating without street signs, without the majority of buildings and without even the forests? Trust me, a compass and a map will make the going much easier when times get tough. Get them, learn how to navigate off them and keep them handy.
Keep Your Business Your Business – Secret Agents Don’t Compromise Themselves
If there’s one thing secret agents are known for it is leading a double life. with a slick cover story to cover any eventuality and any probing question, secret agents are some of the most evasive and mysterious characters of the world.
That’s with good reason. It’s not just to cultivate a debonair air of mystery, either. When the wrong people learn the wrong things about you, that’s when your life can get a whole lot harder.
In case of a secret agent, it means “kidnapped, interrogated and executed” kind of harder. For citizen who is just trying to get ready for a bad turn or the s*** hitting the fan, it can mean “hold up, home invasion and murder” harder.
One thing I’ve noticed about preppers of all stripes is it they really like to talk about their prepping. It’s understandable: people who are enthusiastic and interested in something like to talk about it and share it with others
Finding someone who shares your interest is one of life’s great pleasures. But, it is easy to forget that not everyone has your best interest at heart. Someone may not be against you, but that doesn’t mean that they might not wind up betraying you, even if it is by accident.
A person you meet for lunch and blab to about your prepping and training might not think anything of it. But they might mention it to a friend of theirs who has, let’s say, a checkered past and is not completely reformed.
That scummy friend might press them for details. That scummy friend might make notes. That scummy friend might even decide to pay you an unannounced visit at 2 a.m. with two of his friends in tow. Surprise! They all have guns.
Go against the oversharing culture of the day: keep your serious business your business and absolutely no one else’s. Don’t tell anyone outside your circle of trust, and I mean your real circle trust, about what you have going on in material acquisitions, training and similar topics.
Don’t tell people about your bug-out location. Don’t tell them about all the food you’re stashing. Just shut up about it. If you have to talk about something with them, talk about something truly harmless.
Talk about things going on around town. Talk about the weather. Talk about your favorite show, or your favorite book.
The more info “leaks” you can dam up in your life, the better off you’ll be in times of trouble. Pay attention to what you project: what you say, what you put on your car, what you wear, and what you display on social media.
Make Holes, and Fix Them – Secret Agents Know How to Treat Injuries
Everybody knows the cool part about being a secret agent is shooting and stabbing people, and looking stylish while you do it. It seems like preppers follow this methodology, also.
Everybody wants to learn how to kick ass, everybody wants to learn how to deal with people that threaten them; with guns, with knives, with fists and feet.
But curiously nobody wants to learn how to heal; no one wants to learn how to fix injuries that have been doled out to other people or to themselves. It won’t take much for them to learn how big of a mistake this is.
Secret agents learn intricate medical skills for dealing with all kinds of injuries great and small. From minor ailments to major trauma, a secret agent won’t be able to just turn himself into a hospital and get treatment for a wound suffered in a fight since doing so may compromise his mission.
He is just as likely to hole up someplace quiet and tend to himself as best he can. Now, chances are you won’t be running from security forces armed with attack dogs on your next outing, but you may very well find yourself in an austere environment with no medical help on the backside of a major disaster that is regionally disruptive.
If you were in a place, or in a situation, where there is no doctor you had better be a halfway decent field doctor or you could be in serious trouble. You don’t have to go to medical school to learn medical skills that can save lives, even if your methods are a little rough and ugly compared to a real doc.
The progression is a logical one: Start by learning how to care for and treat minor injuries, small cuts, burns, illnesses, sprains, strains and so forth. Definitely learn CPR. Learn the Heimlich maneuver.
Learn how to treat shock and dehydration. After you have that well and truly under your belt, move on to treating trauma.
You might think of these as wounds typically suffered during fights and major accidents, things like lacerating and penetrating injuries; the kinds typically suffered from application of blade or bullet.
Learn how to deal with broken bones, how to splint them and how to sling them.
Once you have the training, make sure you carry the gear with you. Even if you enjoy peace for all of your days, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to make use of your medical skills from accident, mishap and misadventure alone.
On Guard and On Your Toes – A Secret Agent is Always Aware of His Surroundings
Do you ever notice in the media how secret agents are never, ever caught off guard? It always seems like when the bad guys are closing in, when they’re just about to spring their trap the agent turns things around in the blink of an eye and blasts through the snares that have been set for him.
It’s not because they are superhuman, it’s just because they are super aware. Our secret agent saw the trap, he saw the bad guys closing in; he was simply two steps ahead and thinking accordingly.
This hyper-awareness isn’t some comic book superpower. It is a very real, entirely practical and completely learnable skill. By paying attention the environment around you, you’ll see hazards coming before you get to them.
Some of them you might just want to stay away from. Others you’ll want to turn around, about face, and leave at once. I can tell you with certainty you won’t see them in time if you are daydreaming, or have your nose down in your smartphone. Practically, there isn’t much difference.
To be unaware is to be an easy target, and even if you weren’t targeted it seems like Lady Luck always frowns on the people that don’t pay attention.
Don’t be one of those poor sods who are always blundering into trouble of their own making or seeing trouble come to them because you’re too busy staring off into space to pay attention to what, and more importantly who, is around you.
There are always signs. Maybe it’s the two shady looking guys who don’t have a reason for being where they are right this second, the ones paying a little too much attention to you and your partner while you’re out in public.
It could be the simultaneous bloom of a couple of dozen sets of brake lights a few hundred yards down the road. I can also be just that feeling, that wrongness you feel sometimes in your guts to let you know things isn’t right. That feeling is legitimate; you should listen to it.
You can start developing this ability by paying attention to what is going on around you in the room: every sight, sound and smell means something. What does it mean? What does it mean in the context of normal for a place?
Start applying this mentality to places you visit routinely. What is your morning coffee shop stop like, typically? How do people move, how loud is the conversation?
If you look in the windows and noticed people behaving peculiarly, it might mean something is going on, perhaps a hold-up or an altercation. Maybe you walk in and notice all the conversations are hushed. Is that a tip-off?
The more you work on refining your perceptions and analyzing them- what does it mean? – The more you’ll notice it happening seemingly all on its own. With enough practice and enough discipline, you’ll develop a sort of sixth sense for danger just like any secret agent.
You shouldn’t dream about being a secret agent if you’re not, and you shouldn’t pretend to be one. But what you should do is learn and apply some secret agent skills in your own life.
The greater capability, competency and heightened state of awareness that secret agents live in daily can teach an average person an awful lot about self-sufficiency and personal readiness.