Mike's Gray Zone Roadmap


The Gray Zone Roadmap should focus your "Second Layer" preparedness efforts.

First Layer preparedness is all about sustainment. Do you have enough stored water, food, and supplies, and the ability to produce or procure more?

Second Layer preparedness is about developing strategic advantages:

- mental strength
- physical strength
- personal authority and the ability to lead
- a local team/tribe
- a local intelligence network
- political, social, and economic power
- your ability to influence local conditions and events

Read on to learn why Mike thinks this is a critical next step for preparedness, and then sign up for the Gray Zone Dispatch newsletter at the bottom of the page.


My bone to pick with individual sustainment -- what we call "preparedness" -- is that it's a tactical solution to a strategic problem. Tactical solutions don't solve strategic problems.

Here's a hard truth for the prepper community: that year's worth of freeze dried food in the basement, those bug out bags, and the rest of your prepper "stuff" isn't going to win a low intensity conflict. It doesn't reduce threats, nor does it make you stronger. It does little more than keep you fed into the next day, which is a vital first step, but it solves very few problems beyond that.

The man who wins in the gray zone isn't the one with the most food, guns, or ammo, but the one who can bring the most people to the fight.

This is why as soon as you've achieved a basic level of household sustainment, you need to transition to developing power at the operational and strategic levels.

Mental Strength & Fortitude: We start here. Your metal strength determines just about everything else for your survival and ability to "thrive" in the gray zone. This includes literacy -- you should be reading and expanding your frame of reference. Improve your sociability and knowledge of basic psychology. Finally, improve your mental resilience and fortitude by doing difficult things. The more hard things you force yourself to do, the mentally stronger you will become. GO FURTHER: Extreme Ownership by Jocko Wilink is the best starting point.

Physical Fitness: Your ability to think improves with physical activity. Physical fitness is not only part of the solution for physical health problems, but mental ones, too. Physical fitness includes speed, strength, and endurance. And being physically fit improves your ability to lead because it shows others that you're willing to do difficult things. To be frank, no one wants to follow a fat ass. And I need to hear this as much as anyone else. GO FURTHER: If you're just starting out, I've found Couch to 5K is a great resource for cardiovascular improvement. Getting in the gym and lifting weights with a knowledgeable friend or personal trainer is the next step, and there are thousands of people/guides who can help you become stronger.

Skills, Knowledge, and Personal Authority: As you're gaining mental and physical strength, the next step is to build your skills inventory, knowledge bank, and personal authority. There are hard skills, such as shooting, tactical medicine and trauma care, mechanical work, etc., and soft skills, which mainly deal with how you work with others. Both skills are crucial in the gray zone. If your next goal is to build a tribe, then it doesn't matter how good a shooter or how much of a survival expert you are if you can't attract and lead other people. If you're not what they call a "people person" and you can't build those soft skills, then find someone who can. Otherwise, having mental and physical strength, an array of useful skills, and knowledge of conflict and security concepts will help you achieve the personal authority required to lead a tribe. GO FURTHER: Pastor Joe Fox from Viking Preparedness and T.J. "Bear" Morris from Bear Independent are two great resources for general and advanced preparedness concepts.

Build Your Tribe & Local Network: "Tribe" is an age old concept of being surrounded by friends, family, and other people dedicated to each other's well-being and survival. It's become popular parlance in the preparedness community for good reason. Every tribe is also a de facto intelligence network, which you should be prioritizing. I'm here writing this because an intelligence network is one of those mission-critical strategic advantages. The wider and deeper your network, the more useful information you'll come across. And when it comes to community security, your intelligence network can provide you with information to generate early warning and threat analysis -- two key components of tactical intelligence. GO FURTHER: Sign up for the Gray Zone Dispatch at the bottom of the page because I'll be showing you how an intelligence network is built, among other things.

Develop Political, Social, and Economic Power: Hard power -- violence, coercion, and the use of force -- is required to make you a credible actor. On the geopolitical stage, no one is afraid of the country lacking the ability to project force, whether through a conventional military, terrorism, or nuclear weapons. Countries that have those capabilities are taken seriously. We live in that world as a country and as individuals. But not all power involves violence. "Soft power" is not only a more common form, but in most cases a more useful one. Some problems can't be solved with violence, and other problems become bigger through the application of force. Soft power, on the other hand, includes the ability to influence, motivate, negotiate, and apply moral authority. This soft power includes political, social, and economic power, each of which needs to be developed for use in the gray zone. You can't flex muscles you don't have. And developing soft power helps you exercise hard power. Some problems can only be solved by a stick -- all others require a carrot. GO FURTHER: Sign up for the Gray Zone Dispatch below because I'll be diving deeper into tactics to develop political, social, and economic power at the individual and community level.

Influence Community Outcomes & Your Future: The entire purpose of the Gray Zone Roadmap is to develop a path starting from individual weakness and ignominy to personal power and authority to group power and authority. Coming out on top of a low intensity conflict and winning in the gray zone requires people. In addition to being passive or active intelligence collectors, people bring their own skills, knowledge, and abilities, most of which you don't have. These people fill in your personal critical skills gaps. These people mean power, including the power to influence and shape local events and conditions to our favor. If you can do this, then you have a fighting chance of winning in the future. If you can't do this, then you will lose against a foe who can. There are no other options. GO FURTHER: You guessed it -- sign up for the Dispatch below.

I hope this explanation helps put you in the correct mindset. If you enjoyed it, there's a lot more on the way. Sign up for the Dispatch and follow me on social media (@grayzonewarlord) for more. - M.S.

Gray Zone Dispatch

  • Intelligence Gathering
  • Area Studies
  • ​Winning Low Intensity Conflict
  • ​Security in the Gray Zone